Zygote Press’ Dresden Exchange, which is sponsored by the Ohio Arts Council, is the longest-running international artist exchange program in Ohio. Since 1995, Zygote Press and the Grafikwerkstatt in Dresden, Germany, have each traded two local artists to learn from and work with.
This year, Zygote sent its talented Ink House Manager Christi Birchfield, as well as Ron Abram of Granville.
"Our own Christi Birchfield, the Ink House production director, is traveling and in-residence with Ron Abram who is an associate professor at Denison University,” explains Zygote Press Executive Director Liz Maugans. “They have been exploring Dresden and other cities in Germany and working at the Grafikwerkstatt, a printmaking studio who Zygote has partnered with for almost 20 years."
In exchange, Tony Franz and Svenja Wichmann are currently in Cleveland. Zygote has an additional guest, Behrang Samadzadegan, its current Creative Fusion artist-in-residence, in collaboration with the Cleveland Foundation. Samadzadegan is an artist, writer, curator and a gust professor at Tehran University of Arts and Aria Art Institute. His work explores and challenges ritual and historical narratives through highly symbolic drawings, paintings and stuffed-toy sculptures. He also explores themes of identity, systems of authority, normative values, culture/society and more.
"It is like the United Nations around here,” Maugans says. “With Behrang Samadzadegan, here from Tehran, Iran, through the Cleveland Foundation's Creative Fusion Program and the two artists from Germany, here, via the longest Ohio Arts Council International Exchange Residency in this state, the whole mix of visitors from the other programs has been wonderful mixing and connecting to our larger artist community. Tony Franz is from Leipzig and Svenja Wichmann is from Dresden, and they have been so enjoyable and productive so far on what will be five weeks working at Zygote's shop!”
30-year-old artist Tony Franz was born in Zwickau, Germany. He earned an MFA from the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. His drawings are typically created using traditional graphite pencil on paper. However, these works don’t offer a clear message. His work explores and challenges the contemporary definition of a drawing through figurative, typographical and abstract subject matter.
“At Zygote, it is great that you can learn techniques that you know in a special new way, because the studio is now completely green,” Franz says. "So they use oil, vinegar, and Soysolve as cleaners replacing toxic cleaners, water-based relief and screen printing inks and they are hiring artists to teach eco-friendly approaches to printmaking. I created some ideas here that will definitely impact my work at home where I can expand them. Also, the feelings I get here and the photos I took will influence my work, I think.”
Wichmann has also been impacted by her month-long residency. She explains: "I have learned (and am still learning) lots of new ways to express myself in printmaking and I have definitely discovered that printmaking is an important artistic medium for me. I have also collected thousands of new Impressions and thoughts about the American culture and I think both will have a strong impact on my work as an artist in the future.“
Wichmann is interested in how culture and society manifest themselves in everyday life – houses, streets, road signs, public space, etc. Her work often references mainstream news media and advertisements, as well as the context in which the work is presented. To Wichmann, all these concepts represent ideals, wishes and cultural agreements.
Svenja Wichmann was born in Cologne, Germany. She earned a Diploma and a Meisterschülerdegree in Fine Arts from the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. Her work has been exhibited various venues in and around Dresden.
"I am deeply impressed by the enthusiastic commitment and active creativity of everybody here at Zygote Press," Wichmann says. “What Liz Maugans and everybody else brought into being with this space over the last almost 20 Years is absolutely striking! I am really glad that places like these exist and that I have the opportunity to experience this very inspiring Zygote vibe during my stay here!”
In celebration of their current residency, Zygote Press is hosting an opening reception from 1 to 3 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 17. The artists will discuss their work and experience in Cleveland in the gallery at 3 p.m.
(Zygote Press) 1410 E. 30th St., 216-621-2900, zygotepress.com