By Hayley Thomas
Central Coast locals have probably already taken note of Joseph Kalionzes’ graphic artwork emblazoned bottles of Chronic Cellars wine. The bright, Day of the Dead-inspired labels have sparked prints and posters – not to mention endless conversation within the Paso Robles tasting room.
Kalionzes is currently showing his head-turning artwork at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles through Nov. 9. The show, entitled, "Postcards from a Printmaker," features images of skulls, landscapes, and animals, all in Kalionzes’ signature black-and-white wood block style.
Kalionzes grew up in an artistic family, and has always been inspired by the vivid colors of Mexican folk art.
“Looking back at my school notes as a kid, half of them are drawings,” Kalionzes said. “Being in California, you are so close to Mexico. The Mexican print makers – what they did and what they are doing now – were my inspiration and a big influence on me.”
Even without color, the artist’s skilled prints harness a surprising range of emotion and movement.
“There is no shading involved, just black and white lines,” Kalionzes said. “For the most part, I will draw in light pencil directly onto the block, although I don’t really commit to any one line. I then use the gouges to take away parts of the block I don’t want.”
Hollowing out that negative space allows for black ink to flow into the holes. When the block is pressed onto paper, a print is made. Each is perfectly imperfect.
The artist works with both wood and linoleum blocks – although wood tends to hold a special place in his heart.
“With wood, there is an interaction; you have to work with the cut of the grain and work with the movement of the piece,” Kalionzes said. “It’s a bit of a give and take.”
The pieces currently hanging at Studios on the Park are dated from 2010 to 2014. His newest – images of cityscapes and townscapes – provided inspiration for the name of the show. Prints featuring the gondolas of Venice intermingle with cow-studded hillsides and Pueblo scenes.
“Just carving the images out made me feel like I was back in those places,” the artist said. “It’s a bit of a departure from what I normally do.”
Still, you won’t find Kalionzes reaching too far from his lifelong fascination with Mexican art.
“Mexico always seemed exotic, different, more colorful – different and more interesting,” he said. “It has always felt so close, yet so exotic.”
Studios on the Park is located at 1130 Pine St. in Paso Robles. For more information, call 238-9800 or visit studiosonthepark.org.