Pretensions are out the window when you meet Art Cislo in his studio at his quaint South Side home. Clad in suspender-hung khakis and his traditional blue cotton shirt and sandals, the 58-year-old, balding printmaker cuts a striking figure of humility and grace. Against a backdrop of dozens of wooden blocks and countless paper proofs Cislo exudes a sort of old country image that matches in some ways the directness and simplicity of the ancient art and craft of woodcutting and monoprinting.
A desk lamp and a small radio provide the only links to modernity in the small upstairs quarters of the 65-year-old house where he works. The slight aroma of cherry wood shavings and the tinge of printer’s ink season the atmosphere and trigger memories of bygone, more simple, less turbulent times.
Cislo (it’s Polish, could be rooted in “tree” and is not an uncommon name in Detroit where he grew up) is one of three award winners from Artlink’s 2002 Regional exhibition, and a generous collection of his recent work is currently being featured at the gallery through November 5.
After graduating from Wayne State University where he majored in drawing and sculpture, Cislo found work here at International Harvester (now Navistar International) in the industrial design division where he was initially a clay modeler before retiring as Service Publications Coordinator after 31 years.
A unique career you might think at first glance, until you learn that Cislo’s father also worked in the automotive industry as a designer for the venerable Ternstedt Company which produced those wonderful hood ornaments of days past. Remember those over-the-top rockets, flying ladies, tall ships, gazelles, greyhounds and swans? Eventually all that chrome and the brass moldings disappeared, as designers sought cleaner, sleeker styling, but it’s easy to connect the artist’s gifts for line, form and creativity with his dad’s vocation.
These days Cislo teaches drawing in the University of Saint Francis Art Department where he once earned a graduate degree in Business Administration. When not in the classroom Cislo busies himself in pursuit of his passion which he generously shares with other artists and printmakers. Since he doesn’t have a press at his studio, Cislo is happy for the added value of his job: access to the department presses
A familiar history perhaps, but one that can’t be overtold: woodblock printing originated in Egypt and China and didn’t hit the West until around the 12th century when, along with the oriental gift of paper-making, examples began to appear in Spain. The textile industry was first to make use of block printing, but it took the development of mass-produced paper in the early 14th century before the artistry of the woodcut surfaced.
Initially woodcuts emerged as a medium for mass consumption in connection with the production of religious icons, often as handbills sold to pilgrims visiting holy sites. Profits from these “bull’s eyes” and “evil eye” protectors were used to sustain the Crusades as well as to fund the early attempts by Gutenberg and others to develop the technology for moveable type.
For generations the form was employed primarily to illustrate religious and botanical texts, but by the late 15th century artists like the Italian Titian, the Germans Durer, Holbein and the Dutch master von Leyden began to explore the medium in new and exquisite ways. In their hands, so to speak, the art of the woodcut grew from Durer and others who employed artisans to proliferate their work to mass audiences, and the notion of facsimile was borne.
The artist would draw, scribe or pound their images on wood planks (walnut, pear wood and boxwood), then turn them over to skilled carvers, many already schooled in the arts of metalsmithing, who would render them over and over, not unlike a modern day Warhol and his “factory.” Somewhat later the woodcut as a means of artistic expression gave way to line engraving on metal or its opposite, copper intaglio, although it continued as the main medium for the expanding publishing industry largely because of its economy.
Some 500 years later, in the late 19th century, the art form again became of interest as a means of aesthetic expression. Gauguin produced works based on Japanese prints of the Edo period he saw in Paris, and the Norwegian Munch used the medium to great effect. About the same time the German Expressionist movement explored the form and helped to spur interest in it as a contemporary form. (There are tons of examples available through your favorite search engine, including the incredible Japanese work known as ukiyo-e.)
But it is to these German artists — Kirchner, Nolde, Heckel, Mueller and others known as the "Brucke Movement,” as well as Beckman, Kandinsky and Klee — that Cislo owes perhaps the most. The essence of their spare, primitive and highly personal works is evident in Cislo’s portfolio. The purity and exactness of the carved, gouged and chiseled surfaces and their resultant prints are amazing to behold in the woodcuts and are matched in the deftness of line in his monotypes.
Like his mentors, Cislo has remained selfish about his craft, and he has reserved the right to carve, expose, lift and reveal for himself with tools only slightly changed from the time they were first invented. A hand-full of u- and v-gouges, bull noses and Exacto knives — Dremels are unwelcome — give him the necessary utensils to create the negative space he’s after.
Nearly all the Post-Abstractionist painters — Dine, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Kleinholz, Stella among them — at one time or another explored the possibilities of printmaking, including woodblock, but Cislo holds them to be secularists in a sense, guilty of exploiting the medium rather than embracing it. Not that he doesn’t appreciate their work; it just rubs against the grain of tradition.
Dominant in the subject matter of what is on view at Artlink is a series depicting the last story in the New Testament of John the Baptist, a subject previously visited by the iconoclast Pop artist, Jim Dine in his opus The Apocalypse, The Revelation of Saint John the Divine in 1982. It is no doubt more a matter of coincidence than imitation.
“Maybe because I’m a parishioner of St. John’s it became an obvious choice for a theme,” explained Cislo, “but also it’s a great story. The manipulation of people propelled by self-interest, the psychology of humanity, it’s just all there. Like in Shakespeare and in other great literature, G.B. Shaw’s Joan of Arc and so on, there are lessons there, and in the telling of the tale I found a vehicle that moved me.”
There are other pieces, sans religious themes, like the soft, delicate portrait of a young poet and a table scene, more erasure than carved relief, entitled Fish Today, where Cislo shows off his gifts for subtlety in expressing mood.
Perhaps I’m guilty of hyperbole here, but I can’t escape the notion that, having seen the show and spent time looking at dozens of other pieces in his studio, I have been in the company of a master. I know my assignment here was to look at the Artlink show, but there’s a richer vein that is deserving of more public exposure.
In the late 1980’s Cislo designed the poster for the local Civic Theater production of a play based on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 which remains outstanding, as do some preliminary pieces on the same theme. A series of colored works done for a contest to illustrate one of James Joyce’s novels (Ulysses or The Dubliners, I can’t recall which) seem to me to be of the highest quality, along with his several studies of the female form.
No epigone here, Cislo is a prolific journeyman and genuine treasure.
by David Tanner
Friday, April 28
Click on the headings below for full calendars
Click header for complete Things To Do calendar
Concordia Comedy Festival — Concordia Lutheran High School presents a showing of comedy films from middle and high school students, 7 p.m. Friday, April 28, Room 101, Neff Hall, IPFW, Fort Wayne, free, 483-1102
Tapestry: A Day for You — Day of inspiration, renewal and education for women in all stages of life with keynote speaker Ann Curry, 7:30 a.m. Friday, April 28, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $75, 483-1111
Click header for complete On the Road calendar
Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
Blooze Faktor — Blues at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., cover, 483-1311
Chris Worth & Company — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 557-1563
Classic Voice — Variety at The Venice Restaurant, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, (260) 482-1618
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at The Venue, Angola, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 665-3922
Expanding Man — Variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
G-Money Band — Blues at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Hubie Ashcraft & Travis Gow — Country at Billy's Downtown Zulu, Monroeville, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 623-3583
The Illegals — Rock at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 483-5526
IPFW Bands & Choirs w/Fort Wayne Children's Choir — Classical at Auer Performance Hall, Rhinehart Music Center, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., $4-$7, 481-6555
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
John Curran & Renegade — Country at American Legion Post 241, Waynedale, 8:30-11:30 p.m., no cover, 747-7851
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
Rebecca Rego — Americana/country at Two-EE's Winery, Huntington, 7:30-9:30 p.m., no cover, 672-2000
Secret Mezzanine — Variety at Deer Park Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 432-8966
String Theory — Acoustic variety at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 260-745-3369
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 422-5896
Trichotomous Hippopotamus w/Trackless, John Fishell — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., cover, 267-5303
The Why Store — Rock at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, (260) 387-5063
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
Big Dawg Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Bucca Karaoke w/Ashley — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Dance Party w/DJ Rich — Variety at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., cover, 422-5055
DJ dance party — at Rum Runners, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., ,
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Variety at Tap Haus, New Haven, 9 p.m., no cover, 493-6622
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Jay — Variety at Coconutz @ Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Scott — Variety at JR's Pub, Leo, 9 p.m., no cover, 627-2500
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., ,
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke w/DJ Chuck — Variety at DW Bar & Grill, Churubusco, 10 p.m., no cover, 693-8172
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at Portside Pizza, Columbia City, 9 p.m., no cover, 691-3333
Karaoke — Variety at Coconutz @ Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 9-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Karaoke — Variety at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m., no cover, 488-3344
Karaoke — Variety at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Karaoke — Karaoke at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Rockstar Karaoke & DJ w/Scotty — Karaoke at Backway Lounge, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 665-5081
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at 4 Crowns, Auburn, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 925-9805
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ w/Kevin — Variety at Danny's Italian Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 484-4444
SureShot Karaoke w/David — Variety at The Green Frog Inn, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 426-1088
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Bottle and Bottega, Fort Wayne, 8:30-10:30 p.m., no cover, 494-1020
Click header for complete Stage & Dance calendar
Funny Little Thing Called Love — Romantic comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Home and Jamie Wooten, 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Friday-Saturday, April 28-29 and May 5-6 and May 12-13, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
The Little Mermaid — Fort Wayne Civic Theatre musical based on the Disney movie, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Friday, May 5; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday, May 6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $17-$29, 424-5220
Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
Next to Normal — Tony Award- and Pulitzer-winning musical about coping with mental illness, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 4-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Three Rivers Music Theatre, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 498-2270
The Taming of the Shrew — William Shakespeare’s now somewhat controversial comedy about the battle between the sexes, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29 and Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 12-13, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
A Wrinkle in Time — all for One productions’ adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s young adult science fiction novel, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, PPG ArtsLab, Auer Center for Arts & Culture, Fort Wayne, $11-20, 422-4226
Click header for complete Movie times
Click header for complete Art calendar
37th National Print Exhibition — Juried exhibition featuring contemporary printmakers from around the nation, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Jan Krist-Finkbeiner — Exhibition of ceramic reliefs, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Juxtapoz Magazine: 25 Years Under the Influence — A chronicle of the iconic magazine’s evolution into one of the most influential magazines of art of the counterculture, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Kathy Funderburg & Diane Schafer-King — Acrylic paintings (Funderburg) and works in marbled paper and fabric (Schaefer-King), Monday-Saturday thru April 29, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Norman Bradley and Friends — Exhibition of works by friends and colleagues of the late Fort Wayne artist, Tuesday-Saturday thru May 20 , Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Perspectives Live Butterfly Display — Up close and personal perspectives of the Conservatory’s newest collection of live butterflies, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 25, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Robert Williams: SLANG Aesthetics! — An exhibition of new work by the artist considered the godfather of the lowbrow, pop surrealist and colloquial realism art movements, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 23, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Graduate Program: Student Highlights — Juried exhibition of works by students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts graduate program, Monday-Friday thru April 30, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3, Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring Palette — New original works by more than 50 nationally recognized artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru May 20 (Cinco de Mayo Fiesta featuring mariachi music by Mark Meussling 6-10 p.m. Friday, May 5), Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568