Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Rachel Foster

Rachel Foster’s work inhabits an enigmatic territory in which image and object merge. Her screen prints are composed with subtle colors, unexpectedly cropped images, and positive and negative space. Her prints float at the edge of representation, showing just enough detail to be recognizable while retaining a sense of mystery.

Rachel Foster. Smoke Signals, 2015; screen-print; 12.5 x 19 inches. Courtesy of the Artist.

Rachel Foster. Smoke Signals, 2015; screen print; 12.5 x 19 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Smoke Signals (2015) achieves a ghostly afterimage effect by leaving space for the viewer to re-create portions of the picture. Where most censored documents and images are redacted with thick black ink, Foster uses the pure, indefinable blankness of white. This technique, particularly striking in Smoke Signals, asks viewers to ponder the missing content; after all, erasure is not only enigmatic, but also more powerful than covering up. The juxtaposition of complementary and rhythmic triangular shapes—the smoke, the roof pitch, the chimney support—lead the eye in multiple directions at once, creating a desire to see the rest of the building.

Rachel Foster. Cobalt, 2015; screen-print; 12.5 x 19 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Rachel Foster. Cobalt, 2015; screen print; 12.5 x 19 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Cobalt (2015) could be a found archival document unearthed after long years spent in a dark drawer. Foster displaces the center of the picture plane by situating an image of a pile of pigment in the top third of the print. The blue powder is distinct and unmoored, floating in the ghostly non-space of a brilliant white background. The pile of pigment could be of another color, or might just be a pile of dust, mysteriously titled and inked as cobalt—this ambiguity underscores Foster’s ability to create images that are never as they seem.

Rachel Foster. Litho Stone, 2015; screen-print; 12.5 x 19 inches. Courtesy of the Artist.

Rachel Foster. Litho Stone, 2015; screen print; 12.5 x 19 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Another work, Litho Stone (2015), is also simultaneously recognizable and mysterious. Set against the same eerie white background as Cobalt, it depicts a rectangular stone with a depth-creating shadow at the bottom right corner, suggesting three dimensions and gravity. The stone in Litho Stone is carved with lines and text for printing some kind of bank document; like Cobalt, it reads like an artifact taken from a museum collection, documented for both aesthetic reasons and conservation purposes.

Rachel Foster. Haunted House, 2015; screen-print; 12.5 x 19 inches. Courtesy of the Artist.

Rachel Foster. Haunted House, 2015; screen print; 12.5 x 19 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Printing only in a restrained palette of sepia tones, Foster brings out all of the key structural and psychological details of the delicate birdcage depicted in Haunted House (2015). The work’s title aptly describes the image, which is just shy of creepy. It’s suggestive of aged basements or forgotten backrooms in mansions, and it has a kind of Hitchcock-esque horror—haunted indeed. The birdcage’s eerie nature derives in part from its unidentifiable past and its severe lines—was there ever a bird, or was this used for another purpose?

Rachel Foster. Loch Ness Monster, 2015; screen-print; 12.5 x 19 inches. Courtesy of the Artist.

Rachel Foster. Loch Ness Monster, 2015; screen print; 12.5 x 19 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Another work, Loch Ness Monster (2015), takes a markedly different tack to mystery. The mythical beast of contemporary and historical folklore is often depicted in dark, blurry images, always just ambiguous enough to pique the imagination, even if only for a moment. However, in Loch Ness Monster Foster presents an image of water rippling after something has disturbed it, and like the other prints, the image is off-center, creating a blind spot where the pixelated creature would normally be depicted. Foster’s piece prods the believer to find something in the image that we all know—at least rationally—isn’t there.

As Foster shifts a diverse array of imagery and subjects around various decentered areas of her prints’ backgrounds, she creates a body of work that poses more questions than answers, and that often read with more ambiguity than clarity. Foster’s materials also reinforce her ability to engage open-ended narrative and archival imprinting processes that resemble memories or strive to describe them. Prints are, in their most essential form, an ephemeral representation of something once captured in film, etched into a copper plate, carved into a wood block, or cut into a screen, and then repeated potentially for infinity. What ties Foster’s works together is a powerful ability to join unrelated subjects into an eerie narrative with a consistent level of ineffability.

Rachel Foster is an artist and printmaker living in Chicago, IL. She has an MFA from the California College of the Arts and a BFA from Columbia College Chicago. She operates Factory Outlet Gallery, an online store for affordable fine-art prints, and will have a selection of concrete poems included in the anthology The New Concrete, published by Hayward Publishing in July 2015. Her work has been shown at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (among others), and she is currently a Hatch Resident with the Chicago Artist’s Coalition for 2015.

Share