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2731 Prospect Taps into Simplicity in Art, Storytelling 

Back to basics

Most people's first experience with art as a child usually involves a sheet of paper: a piece of copy paper, construction paper, a coloring book or whatever the case may be. The latest exhibition at 2731 Prospect explores established local and regional artists who never stopped creating Works on Paper. The exhibition showcases the diverse possibilities of working with and on paper.

"Paper is one of the oldest materials used for communication and creativity, with each generation of artists continuing to reinvent new methods and strategies for the use of paper," 2731 Prospect owner and director Lauren Davies says. "This group exhibition focuses on the unique attributes of paper investigated within a variety of approaches that range from re-envisioning traditional techniques to experimental and hybrid processes."

The exhibition's roster boasts some of the region's most acclaimed artists. Participating artists include Christi Birchfield, Jerry Birchfield, Timothy Callaghan, Lane Cooper, Bruce Edwards, Elizabeth Emery, Prajakti Jayavant (based in San Francisco), Andrea Joki, Jason K. Milburn and Darius Steward. These artists have professional ties to local institutions such as the Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art, Spaces, Zygote Press and ArtHopper.org. A number of them were represented by William Busta before his retirement earlier this year; indeed, 2731 Prospect is in the former home of the William Busta Gallery.

"Works on Paper includes stark yet elegantly printed aquatints that are paired with works that explore the abstract and vibrant use of color," Davies says. "Personal narratives are examined through intimate visual story telling while other works employ monochromatic painted paper forms that give a nod to minimalist sculpture. Some works deftly utilize paint that is applied to paper with a delicate touch, while other works feature screen printed imagery sourced from the culture of contemporary pop entertainment."

These artists (and their similarities and differences) exemplify the limitless possibilities contained within a single sheet of paper. Timothy Callaghan's gouache studies of urban landscapes, Darius Steward's watercolor and gouache portraits and Jason K. Milburn's pencil and watercolor portraits (with elements of collage of found objects) contextualize and explore our daily lives. Callaghan teaches at Lake Ridge Academy and Steward teaches at St. Ignatius High School and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Siblings Jerry and Christi Birchfield use paper in vastly different ways. Jerry's works on paper are influenced by his background in photography and printmaking, while Christi utilizes various processes and techniques to transform paper into flowing, intricate, organic three-dimensional objects. Jerry teaches at CIA, and Christi runs Zygote Press' new Ink House satellite in Collinwood's Waterloo Arts District.

Lane Cooper is best known for her paintings, but these works on paper maintain the impressive nature of her larger paintings through the same creative process. Cooper teaches painting classes at Cleveland Institute of Art and writes for ArtHopper.org.

Andrea Joki is also better known for her paintings, but her works on paper can be quite different. Bruce Edwards utilizes traditional techniques from photography, printmaking and advertising to create his nontraditional imagery. Edwards is Spaces' residency coordinator.

Elizabeth Emery usually works in mixed media sculpture and ceramics. Her unique background (which includes professionally racing bicycles for 10 years) subtly impacts her unique work. Emery is Zygote Press' residency director and website manager.

Although Prajakti Jayavant is currently based in San Francisco, she earned her BFA in drawing and painting from the Ohio State University. Jayavant's work explores the three-dimensionality of a single sheet of paper by applying layers of paint and medium for varied pliability. She folds, bends, rips, cuts and binds the paper to create asymmetrical, seemingly simple forms.

2731 Prospect will take a brief winter break beginning on Dec. 23, and return to regular gallery hours on Jan. 13, 2016. The gallery will be open by appointment only during their winter break.

To launch the new year, 2731 Prospect will present two special programs in conjunction with Works on Paper. At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 16, representatives from the Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservancy and the Intermuseum Conservation Association will discuss archival preservation of paper and artwork created on and with paper. There will be time for questions following the presentation.

Works on Paper remains on view through Feb. 6. For the closing, Davies has organized a special roundtable discussion with the exhibition's artists at 2 p.m. The artists will discuss their various techniques, processes and approaches to the media, which range from traditional printing processes to digital and experimental tools. Following the roundtable discussion, the gallery will host a closing reception with the artists. All events are free.

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