Steve Cup: Breaking Point, at Waterloo Arts
There is no visual fluff here, Steve Cup’s linoleum block and digital prints read like somebody violently screaming into a pillow. Cup’s images are evocative and word, “Woah!” was often heard at the opening. Cup’s art boldly supports the trending #Enough Movement. Enough of racism, gun violence, social injustice, political chaos, global warming, and enough living in fear, each of print a different declaration. Whether you agree or disagree with his stance, Cup forces you to think about some difficult topics.
Like it or not, our nation has reached a breaking point, and no one can look away.
Cup said that much of his work begins with an emotional reaction to current events, “…there is always a new horrible thing to move onto in the news.” Be it gun violence, white supremacy, political lies, Presidential Tweets, natural disasters, Cup said he wishes things would get tired and slow down before he does. His work puts his reactions in front of you and says, “LOOK AT THIS!”
Cup prefers traditional woodblock method of printing as his medium. Everything begins with a sketch. When he is happy with the design, he transfers it to the block. Once the block has been carved, inked and printed, he has the option of going into the print by hand or scanning and digitally altering/ enhancing his prints. Some of his prints are entirely digital, and Cup likes the challenge of trompe l’oeil. There is at least one completely digital print in this show if you can find it.
His style evokes the feeling of German Expressionism in the 1930’s, used to give the people of Germany a voice during the Nazi invasion. Cup is trying to be a voice now for different people. Cup said he often wondered if this was helping anything or is it an act of futility. He spends 10 hours making a piece of art, he explained and wonders if he should be doing something different, something more. He also questions whether he is doing the right thing. His first edition print of “A Light Has Gone Out” was sold and raised $600 to support the ACLU. “There is that,” he said.
John Maria Farina and Adam Neil Tully, otherwise known as the Maria Neil Project, are co-curators of this show The couple met Cup at a Cleveland party years ago and began following his career. Farina, who hung the show, painted black strips on the white walls and clipped the unframed white prints uniformly within. The black frames behind the prints add depth and contrast to the white images. Too often unframed work reminds me of a college critique, but this is one of the most tasteful presentations of unframed art I have seen, and it truly enhances Cup’s work. The clean look of the gallery compliments Cup’s clean, crisp, uncomplicated prints.
On the back wall of the gallery hangs a series of prints taken from a visual storyboard that Cup created in 2014-2015 called, Heroine of Labor: He created 26 linocuts for his illustrated biography and homage to Fannie Sellins who was a little-known labor organizer of the early 1900’s. The prints have an aged, hard-working grittiness to them. They are different from the rest of the work in the gallery but, like the rest of the work, they force you to look at social injustice and the struggle for balance but from a historical perspective.
“We Are All Immigrants.” made me think about what it would be like to be an immigrant and reduce your worldly belongings to what you could carry while leaving your country, homeless. With the exception of Native Americans, we all immigrated to the U.S. at some point. “The Survivor” is a devastatingly, raw image of a man sitting cross-legged holding a child. This image gives voice to all people who have lived through a natural disaster. “Mobile Privacy” is a cell phone with a periscope coming out of the center and an eye looking at you. With each week and a new breach of our confidential information, we must redefine privacy. “America’s Children” is a black and white image of a terrified child. Fear is nature’s warning, and our children are afraid. Every piece in Cup’s show is provocative in some way.
Cup posted on Twitter following his opening,
“Woman at my gallery opening screaming “it’s slanderous! Slanderous! People should be arrested for this! Slander!” before storming out. So, mission accomplished I guess.”
There is a saying that good art comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comforted. With everything that is going on globally, how can anyone feel comfortable?
Steve Cup: Breaking Point
Curated by the Maria Neil Art Project
Through May 13, 2018, @ Waterloo Arts Gallery
15605 Waterloo Road, 216.692.9500