New York Reviews
by Deborah C. Phillips
Sam Glankoff (Graham): Glankoff has been making woodcuts since the 1920s. He was first drawn to the medium for its immediacy and directness of expression. Primarily a figurative painter, the now 87-year old artist was strongly influenced by the emotionally charged Abstract Expressionism of the 1940s. Woodcuts became his vehicle for unleashing the primitive force of his representational images.
Over the years, Glankoff's work has become progressively more abstract. In woodblock prints from the 1970s, which are the focus of this exhibition, imagery has been reduced to its simplest elements. Circles and marks are centered like ancient symbols in luminous fields of color. The work recalls the sensibility of Theodore Stamos and Adolph Gottlieb's early pictograph paintings.
This transition in Glankoff's subject matter parallels an important change in his printing technique. The artist no longer carves into the wood at all but paints right on it with water-soluble inks. The process enables him to do many printings with one block. The new "print paintings," as he calls them, are characterized by rich surfaces made up of successive layers of color. Sharp contrasts between carved and uncarved areas of the image are no longer the prominent feature of these later works. The inks, printed onto wet sheets of Japanese rice paper, mesh into the paper's fibers to create uninterrupted expanses of light-filled color. Sandy yellows, adobe pinks and tans are backgrounds for isolated markings or signs in green, blue and red.
Glankoff's adaptation of monotype, which traditionally involved painting with inks onto a glass or metal plate, has also led to larger scale. The technique lends itself to a freer handling. To accommodate the borader areas of color and image, the artist now combines four or more sheets of paper in one work. It is a great credit to Glankoff that after so many years of working with woodblock prints he remains so fresh and inventive in his approach. The changes in his art in general reveal a free spirit and an open mind. Glankoff has successfully avoided the traps of proven formulas and old ways.