You can’t help but notice Derek Cracco’s work when you enter the main gallery at the Wiregrass Museum of Art.
It covers a whole wall.
From a distance, it looks like a psychedelic constellation. A closer inspection reveals much more about the piece that touches on society’s images of men and women.
“It deals with romance and the perfect partner,” he said. “I’m using 1930s to 1950s pin-ups and men’s health magazines to act as archetypes for the perfect partner. These are the images that we as the normal layperson compare ourselves to and our partners to.”
Celestial imagery of suns and moons represents the “gravitational forces that attract or repel,” according to Cracco.
As an artist, Cracco has worked on smaller scales, but the large installations convey a very specific feeling.
“It looks like space,” he said. “It gives me the feeling like it’s a big expanse of open space. So, just like the cosmos, I’m staring up at the sky.”
Cracco’s work is part of a larger exhibit, “From Here to There: Printmaking in Alabama,” on display at the Wiregrass Museum of Art from April 21-June 24. The first half of the group exhibit’s name is a reference to Cracco’s installation, titled “From Here to There.” The printmaking exhibit features the work of five Alabama artists – Cracco, Sarah Marshall, Scott Stephens, Andrew Kozlowski and Amy LeePard.
Other exhibitions at the museum include “documentingBlues: Photography by Jenn Ocken” and the Helen Keller Art Show of Alabama. The exhibits can be seen Thursday evening at the museum’s Art After Hours event as well as during the museum’s regular business hours.
Cracco is an associate professor of printmaking with the UAB College of Arts and Sciences in Birmingham. Cracco started exhibiting wallpaper installations in 2011. The images he creates are printed on Photo Tex, a self-adhesive polyester fabric that can be removed from surfaces without damage. His work has been featured in both solo and group exhibitions around the country.
His installation, “From Here to There” at the Wiregrass Museum of Art is small compared some renditions of the piece. The largest installation he did measured 80 feet by 15 feet in the Usdan Gallery at Bennington College in Vermont. And for Project Row Houses in Houston, Texas, Cracco hung his wallpaper installation throughout the interior of an entire house.
So, the piece changes depending on where it is to be installed.
“Even though the concept and the idea and the base images are the same, the installation of it creates a new work out of the box,” Cracco said.
Printmaking can encompass a number of artistic mediums.
Amy LeePard is a Northport book artist who makes her own paper and has a background in photography and architecture. Sarah Marshall, an associate professor of art and printmaking at the University of Alabama, uses mixed media, screen-printing and lithography in her work. Scott Stephens, professor of art at the University of Montevallo, specializes in large-scale prints. And Andrew Kozlowski, an Auburn University printmaking professor, uses techniques such as intaglio, screen-printing, wood and laser cuts.
“Printmaking is still alive and well, and I think in today’s society it’s even more relevant because it’s a process that kind of encompasses a lot of different media,” Cracco said. “You can be a draftsman and come into printmaking. You can be a painter and have a painterly approach to printmaking.”
And with digital technology and 3-D printing, the art of printmaking covers a wide range technological advancements.
“I always say I teach from the height of 14th century technology to the height of 21st century technology,” Cracco said. “You’ve got to know a little bit of everything.”