Jan Serr: Summer Dances - September 2014

Jan Serr’s ‘Summer Dances’

Movement in monotype at MOWA On The Lake

By Kat Murrell for the Shepherd Express, September 2014

Dance is inherently based in time and motion. Artist Jan Serr suspends moments of the dancers’ art through a brightly lyrical series of monotype prints in an exhibition of her new work, “Summer Dances,” at the Museum of Wisconsin Art On The Lake.

Serr is known as a painter but has explored printmaking for decades, particularly through the possibilities of the monotype process. Monotypes are differentiated from other forms of printmaking in that each finished piece is ultimately a singular, unique work. The foundational process involves the making of an image on a plate and then pressing paper to the plate’s surface to transfer the image. This may be repeated innumerable times and with variations in the form and density of color. Compositions may be complemented by additional drawing or other forms of mark-making in an artistic give-and-take that is conscientious yet improvisational.

The “Summer Dances” series was inspired by live performances, but rather than being portraits of individuals or connected to specific dance works, the images exist independently, with soloists and grouped figures suspended within broad areas of light and sparkling hues. The play between layers of translucent color is handled with delicacy and nuance. An image that appears effortless on first glance yields the discovery of multiple passages of color on closer inspection. Holistically, Serr’s handling of her process coalesces the varied, rich hues, with the resulting sum becoming greater than its parts.

Serr’s colors are airy and bright, brilliantly evocative of the tonalities of summer, but the subtle drama of her lines enlivens the works with a sense of suspended energy. The drawn figures are rarely solid but crafted from multiple passages of pressings that contribute to a flickering sense of motion.

While the making of a monotype may be a time-consuming and intense process, Serr’s deft work maintains a sense of balance that catches dancers’ actions, static yet in mid-motion, in pirouettes, complex partnerings and midair leaps. As the summer sun wanes, this exhibition offers a breath of warmth and light through the coming autumnal season.

“Summer Dances” continues through Oct. 8 at the Museum of Wisconsin Art On The Lake inside St. John’s On The Lake (1800 N. Prospect Ave.).