Tayloe Piggott Gallery is pleased to present Papestries, an exhibition featuring the works of Roland Poska. A pioneer of handmade paper and printmaking, Poska elevated this craft to national renown in the tumult of the 1980s art world. Made of cotton fibers churned with pure powdered pigments, Poska’s paintings are accumulated works with sculptural attributes and referred to as “Papestries” by the artist. Poska also created sculptures from his handmade cotton paper called “Sentinels.” With the textures and appearance of vibrantly hued felts, these pieces are as idiosyncratic as the process, some featuring pastoral scenery of houses and sunsets, and others with abstractly radiating circles and organic shapes. Poska’s work at once presents whimsicality and imaginative novelty with the gravitas of artistic rigor.
At seventy-eight by ninety-one inches wide an untitled work dating from the 2000’s is a diptych among the larger pieces in the show. Though divided in the middle, the overall image resembles a landscape with a foreground of green where trees appear to be rooted with topographical elements behind, a golden pink skyscape, and a central accumulation of fibrous orange clumps that span both fields and give the affect of the sun.
Sentinel XVIII, an aptly named sculpture, carries the air of a human or some mystical tribal watchman. The piece is almost seven feet tall and two feet in width with blue dial-like discs that vary in color from a true French blue to purple, inky midnight, indigo and turquoise that fades from yellow. If indeed this piece is a sentinel, it is friendly but not without formidability. The organic textures and palpable accumulative quality lend Sentinel XVIII a softness only eclipsed by its scale.
In 1967 Poska purchased a beater in which to break down and blend cotton fibers with water and pigment. The same year he started Fishy Whale Press and Lithography studio in Rockford, Illinois where he printed lithographs for himself and others on one of the biggest presses in the United States at the time. In collaboration with artist John Doyle, Poska produced a series of prints called The Great Human Race, a project that lasted over thirty years. Many of The Great Human Race prints appear in the collections of American museums.
Roland Poska was born in Scotland in 1938 to Lithuanian parents who immigrated to the United States in 1948 and made a home in Rockford, Illinois. He attended Rockford College and Cranbrook Academy of Art. In 1963 Poska moved to Milwaukee where he taught at Layton School of Art and founded and taught at Milwaukee School of Art and Design when Layton closed. His works are included in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Poska was an activist for human rights and was frequently an outspoken attendee at Rockford town hall meetings. Poska passed away in 2017 at his home in Rockford, Illinois.