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Celebrating in Style

Yoshikatsu Tamekane's White Rain (1997) is among the most intriguing works at the Bock Gallery

Artist and gallery owner William Bock has reason to be happy. He's celebrating the Bock Gallery's third anniversary at its location in the Fountains Shoppes of Distinction in Plantation, where he moved after surviving a financially challenging stint as part of the revival of downtown Hollywood. The Fountains complex is going through a bit of a slump right now with many storefronts empty, but Bock has held on at his small gallery, which also includes his studio and framing business. He has even taken advantage of the mall's lull by arranging to have the works of local artists he represents -- including Osvaldo Araya, Kent Plank and Naomi Rosen, Cynthia Lechan-Goodman, and Flo Lowe -- displayed in the windows of unoccupied shops.

The gallery's third anniversary also coincides roughly with the third birthday of Eleanor, Bock and wife Christy's daughter, who is already showing signs that art is in the Bock blood. A small corner of the gallery is devoted to a few of her pieces, a couple of which are surprisingly striking. An acrylic on board titled That's Me! is essentially an exercise in finger painting with an emphasis on the color purple, but the childish delight inherent in this messy medium comes through loud and clear. For My Uncle Bri, the wee Bock tackles mixed media, affixing a strip of crumpled paper to the painted surface of the board.

What a press release calls the "3rd Anniversary Art Exhibit and Birthday Bash" isn't really an exhibit in the usual sense of the term, largely because Bock's space doesn't really lend itself to such a show: It's too tiny and too crammed with stuff. Everywhere you look are paintings, prints, drawings, jewelry, and a variety of other art objects.

But Bock has singled out a few artists, including himself, as he marks his third year in this space. A trio of unexciting oils by Maribel Cabrera Martin occupies one chunk of space, and there's a lovely acrylic titled Scape by Flo Lowe, a Bock favorite who figured prominently in last year's anniversary celebration. Here Lowe moves away from her usual tulip and funnel shapes into abstraction, with the top two-thirds or so of the canvas dominated by a field of dull purplish blue atop blocks of color.

Of the handful of oils by Eric Polise -- Bock tells me he's a South Florida dental student in his midtwenties -- one is especially strong. It's a large portrait titled Skinny, featuring an anorexic-looking girl with wild hair, awkwardly splayed legs, a black shoulderless dress, and a face straight out of Edvard Munch. The phantomlike hooded face of The Front, with its grimacing mouth, is almost as sinisterly compelling. (Some small Polise prints sit in plastic sleeves on a nearby rack.)

Bock has also included a small selection of his own work. Dania Beach is one of his ordinary acrylic landscapes transformed by the imposition of a grid that breaks it into panels -- here 56 of them that capture a simple seashore scene with a wooden boardwalk railing and some sea grape trees, further transformed by the application of metallic leaf.

The artist is still turning out marine and wildlife art with mixed results. Of two big cats in giclée on watercolor, Tiger and Cheetah Climbing, the latter is the more impressive work. A huge vertical acrylic titled Reef 3 also comes together beautifully: A sea turtle and a variety of fish, including a barracuda, a moray eel, and two hammerhead sharks, move among the folds of a crystal-clear reef, rendered in bright colors accented with shimmering patches of gold, silver, and copper leaf.

The two artists who still reign supreme over the Bock Gallery's holdings are extraordinary Japanese talents Bock has long championed. Both are printmakers, and both combine the austere beauty of traditional Japanese prints with bold, distinctly modern techniques.

Susumo Endo creates lithographs from digitally manipulated photographs. His stated subject matter is space and nature, though in a highly refined and stylized sense. The imagery isn't really abstract, and yet it's hardly realistic or even representational. It's all aura and atmosphere.

A typical Endo print might take a bright block of color surrounded by darker areas and then blanket the surface with countless tiny, reedy streaks. The lines are amazingly delicate and provide an energy that contrasts with the overall serenity of the piece. It's difficult to imagine art of this sort coming from a culture other than the one that gave us Zen -- this is art conducive to clarity and contemplation.

Yoshikatsu Tamekane achieves similar effects by very different means. His medium is woodblock printing, using handmade papers and water-based inks that allow him to manipulate light as deftly as any impressionist. In An Ancient Poem, the top half of the image is a stark, ethereal landscape with a mountain on the horizon beneath a sky with subtle gradations of color that work their way from a deep blue at the top down to near white above the pale lavender mountain. The bottom half is a complementary block of brown and green flecks to suggest earth and foliage.

Tamekane augments his highly expressive woodblock printing with a technique called collagraph, in which various materials are collaged onto the carved woodblock to provide texture on the surface of the print. Often a sort of irregularly shaped internal frame will be superimposed in gold or silver leaf onto the image, giving it an almost three-dimensional quality.

As Bock points out, Tamekane works in small editions, and his combination of printing techniques often yields dramatically different results among prints made from the same woodblock: A shape shifts ever so slightly from one print to another, or a layer of gold leaf is thicker on one print than on another. Bock delights in turning Tamekane prints over to show how the colors and textures sometimes bleed through to the back. (Tamekane also pencils in the English title of a piece on the back and adds a red ideogram signature.)

The Bock Gallery has a number of Endos and Tamekanes framed and on display on the walls, and the racks of plastic sleeves include others. But feel free to ask Bock to bring out his new stash of Tamekane prints, which he'll gladly do. It's a shame the gallery doesn't have room to devote more wall space to both Japanese artists, because their works have a cumulative power.

That force is hinted at in Works of Prints 1986-2000, a small book that features reproductions of 49 Tamekane prints. I say "hinted at" because no reproduction can convey the rich textures of a Tamekane, though the ones in this book do their best to approximate the artist's mastery of color and composition.

In his introduction to the book, which the gallery offers for sale, the artist writes about his lifelong fascination with travel and eloquently concludes: "I am now 40 years old, but part of my mind is still traveling. Whenever I draw a picture, the horizon spreads before my eyes. It is a message from a place where I am traveling that I carve in a woodcut. I hope you will see this book of woodcut prints just as if you have received picture postcards from your friend."

Better yet, see these "picture postcards" in person at the Bock Gallery.


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