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Dave Lefner Reduction Linocut exhibition on view at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Dave Lefner, The Los Angeles II, 2009. Reduction linocut in eight colors, edition of 10, 13 x 36 inches. Collection of Ric and Jen Serena.

PASADENA, CA.- For the last 25 years native Angeleno and one of the country’s foremost reduction linocut artists Dave Lefner (b. 1969) has explored and recorded the historic and vintage characteristics of Los Angeles, from the sleek lines of mid-century American automobiles, to roadside signage for motels and mom and pop diners, to dilapidated neon theater marquees. A self-professed “old soul,” Lefner preserves the icons of America’s Golden Age in the exacting, time-consuming, and relatively lost art of reduction linocuts. The artist’s prints depict a nostalgia for the glamour of old Los Angeles with both a playfulness and masterful precision that belies their complex creation. LA Redux: Reduction Linocuts by Dave Lefner, an exhibition on view at the Pasadena Museum of California Art from August 20, 2017–January 7, 2018, explores Lefner’s prints and practice, presenting a vivid picture of Los Angeles’s past and present as well as the ingenuity and creative processes the city continues to inspire.

While studying art at California State University, Northridge and experimenting with different media, Lefner discovered the reduction linocut printmaking technique. This painstaking process, greatly innovated by Pablo Picasso in the 1950s, requires the skills of an artisan and the vision and forethought of an artist. The combination of art and craft was particularly appealing to Lefner, who sought an art form that would challenge him as an artist and felt authentic amidst the disarray and cynicism that continued to engulf the postmodern art world in the 1990s.

Armed with his newfound form of expression, Lefner focused on subject. Inspired by Picasso, Stuart Davis’s abstracted paintings of New York City, LA architecture and car culture, typefaces and fonts, and the Ferus Gallery Pop artists, the urban landscape of Los Angeles became his principal muse. The artist’s linocuts quickly began to reflect the sunny West Coast optimism of the post-war period. “My work is nostalgic, but I’m also very much a realist,” says Lefner. “I love to imagine the history of this city, all shiny and new, with nighttime neon glowing bright. But most of the time, I’m drawn into the daylight details, when peeling paint, busted tubing, and lengthening shadows are cast like haunting specters of the past. ”

Very few artists today work in reduction linocuts, which are sometimes called “suicide prints” because of the potential for irreversible mistakes made during the carving and printmaking process. Working from his own photographs for reference, Lefner creates a charcoal drawing that is conversely transferred to a single block of linoleum. He then carves the block in stages, each stage creating a layer of color and part of the print’s composition. A single, irreproducible edition takes weeks or even months to complete, usually totaling no more than seven prints. Despite the fastidious nature of reduction linocuts, Lefner remains unfazed and faithful to the city and craft he loves.

On view in the PMCA’s Project Room, the exhibition celebrates the artist’s significance as part of the Los Angeles and PMCA community. Not only does Lefner live and work at The Brewery, the world’s largest artist colony, he also regularly leads printmaking workshops at the PMCA and is one of the honorees at the Museum’s ¡Fiesta Cubana! gala in fall 2017. Featuring approximately 10 prints, LA Redux, like the artist’s retro prints, revives the bygone architecture, signage, and automobiles of Los Angeles while shining a neon spotlight on the artist’s dedication to craft and the perpetuation of culture.

LA Redux: Reduction Linocut Prints by Dave Lefner is organized by the Pasadena Museum of California.

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