Gallery: Risographic

Curated by Mylan Nguyen

May 4-June 8, 2024

Reception with the Artists: Saturday, May 4 (6-8 PM) • Free and open to the public

The Bath House Cultural Center showcases an exhibition dedicated to celebrating the art of risograph printing.  Featuring a selection of works by regional and international artists who have incorporated this medium into their artistic repertoire, the exhibition offers an exploration of the creative possibilities of risograph—or riso, as it is commonly known— printing.  The artists and Riso presses featured in the exhibition are Bestu Friendo, The Cauldron Press, Center for Imaginative Cartography and Research, Chi Leong, Mystic Multiples, Natalie Andrewson, Play Nice Press, Riso Riso, SARA (Sociedad Anónima Reproducción Autogestiva), S.M. Sanz, Strange Powers Press, We Are Out of Office, Ian Wortham, and Michaela Yarbrough.

Curated by Dallas-based artist Mylan Nguyen, the exhibition highlights how riso printing has transcended its origins as a digital duplicator developed by the Japanese company Riso Kagaku Corporation in the 1980s. Initially intended for high-volume photocopying and printing in commercial environments, riso machines quickly captured the imagination of the fine art, illustration, and design communities. Artists were drawn to its compactness, versatility, and relative affordability, as well as its resemblance to traditional printmaking techniques. Through this exhibition, visitors can experience how risograph has become a dynamic medium for artistic expression in contemporary practice.

In the creation of riso pieces, artists employ various methods, such as hand-drawing, collaging, or digital techniques, to design their images. These original designs are then converted into master stencils by the riso printer. Later, the master is attached to an ink drum, which rotates swiftly, propelling the ink through the stencil onto a paper substrate. This process bears resemblance to both a copy machine and traditional silk-screen printing.  The resulting images produced by the duplicator possess a distinctive aesthetic, yielding captivating patterns, textures, and vibrant color overlaps. Chromatic palettes often feature bold hues, occasionally taking on a fluorescent appearance, with shades of green, pink, yellow, and other intense colors gracing the prints. While Riso printing excels in rendering bold and vibrant colors, it also accommodates other aesthetics, enabling the creation of subdued or less saturated works that faithfully reflect the artists’ visions. 

Riso printing has steadily gained popularity among artists due to its adaptability, compactness, and integration of handmade elements. Even the occasional unpredictability inherent in this printing process, including flawed registration, smudging, and uneven coverage, can sometimes be welcomed and appreciated for its charming imperfections.  Additionally, this technique stands out as an environmentally conscious and sustainable print process.  Utilizing vegetable oil-based inks, this method eliminates the need for electric dryers as the inks are naturally absorbed by the uncoated fibers of the paper.

Many artists aspire to share their vision with a broader audience through publishing, yet the high cost of mass printing often poses a significant barrier. Riso printing offers a solution, providing artists with a tool to reproduce high volumes of prints, posters, art books, zines, and other creations. While some riso machines may come with a substantial price tag, this hurdle has been overcome by the formation of art collectives, which allow the artists to pool their financial resources and creative energies to purchase a machine collectively. This collaborative approach not only mitigates costs but also enables artists to collectively elevate their craft and achieve their artistic goals.

Riso printing, a relatively novel medium in visual art, has quickly gained traction among artists for its versatility and stunning creations. With dynamic colors, unique textures, and eco-friendly processes, it offers artists a fresh canvas to showcase their work in a distinct manner, attracting admiration from audiences worldwide.