Archive, Monotypes by Alan Magee

Astrida Schaeffer, Assistant Director
The Art Gallery, University of New Hampshire

Disturbing. Affirming. Haunting. Enigmatic. Alan Magee’s monotype faces and facades defy easy description. Absorbing these works takes time and reflection, for though they are expressions of the abrasions and anxieties borne by all human beings, they also reveal a measure of serenity. In Magee’s words, Archive is an attempt to unearth “the concurrent presence of multiple generations, their suffering, their courage and resilience–the great collage of civilization.”

Magee is best known as a realist painter, but to convey the raw emotional power of this series he has chosen the process of monotype, the single impression print. Dense black ink is applied to the print plate, and the layers of meaning and effect emerge as Magee selectively rubs and works the surface with cloth, tools, or his hands. It is a visceral, contemplative, almost tender act of discovery for which the catalyst was the 1991 Gulf War–a genesis made all the more poignant by recent events. Writer Maureen Mullarkey notes that with Magee’s work, “surface and intention join to convey simultaneously the physical shambles of war and the psychic wounds that linger in its wake. Significance is not something added here...but organically bound to the means of creation. Each image becomes its own archive, a visible memoir retaining on its surface the memory of a moving hand and the gradual unfolding of the artist's purpose.” Magee’s Archive encompasses both profound pity and resilient hope, drawing the viewer into an ever-unfolding act of understanding.