About three years ago, I found my way into art collecting through intaglio, aka printmaking. So given the opportunity to write my first art review for SFR on the sixth annual International Guild of Realism show at Sage Creek Gallery—a suggestion left on my suggestion-covered desk—or on Thayer Carter's new woodcuts at Argos Studio & Santa Fe Etching Club, I chose the latter.

Not that I have a particular distaste for technically precise artworks depicting kitchen gadgets and people found in antique shops; rather, as an altweekly culture critic, I’m required to love my work more than the money, and prints are affordable.

Argos Studio owner Eric Thomson also thought that the affordability of prints would make them popular during the Recession. However, seeing no end to the economic downturn, Thomson in February moved Argos Studio to a more staying-open-friendly site. Once located across from Argos Etchings and Paintings on the high end of Canyon Road, the studio now resides south of the Plaza. Thomson would like to keep both locations, but doubts the economy will play along. 

That’s my long way of saying that I went over to Argos on Luisa Street, Monday, to view Carter’s new exhibition, New Woodcuts. Much of the collection can be viewed online, but the online experience still doesn’t compare to standing face-to-face with creation.

For instance, Carter’s new work forms a ring around the gallery, with some of his older works leaning on shelves along the southern wall. 

One can literally follow the evolution of his work, from the entrancing patterns of village rooftops in “Night Reader” or of slot canyons in “San Leonardo Lupe” to the subtler, order-in-chaos roofscape, “La Perla, Old San Juan,” or the desert landscape, “Galisteo Basin,” which slices a soft grouping of trees with a bold rock outcropping. Carter says he often finds these kinds of contradictions in his work.

In "Cordova, NM," which Thomson calls a transitional piece, Carter breaks the pattern in the horizontal plane with opposing, asymmetrical lines. Trees and utility poles jut up randomly.

“Meyer Street” and “Meyer Street 2” depart from Carter’s concentrated details, establishing patterns and bold shapes in negative space.

Carter pulls his work from sketchbooks he takes on his travels, finding himself in similar landscapes throughout Mexico, Puerto Rico, Arizona and New Mexico. He says that he attempts to capture scenes that describe the essence of the area. 

While the majority of the works are black print on paper, Carter also mixes in a few postcard-sized watercolors and shows his skill with dramatic two- or three-color printing in “El Yunque” and “El Yunque 2,” the latter of which recalls, in my imagination, nightfall in the tropics, right down to the cooling air.

The prints, numbered from 20 to 75, range in price from around $400 to around $900, which is comforting for someone accustomed to sighing as the pieces that speak to him earn the little red dot next to their titles. That doesn’t exactly make them affordable for someone with my salary and a family on the way, but I’ve come to terms with this inadequacy by accepting the superfluity of material accumulation. Of course, Gertrude Stein told Ernest Hemingway to spend money on art, instead of clothing and booze—two of my favorite expenditures—and I always take satisfaction believing that each artwork I buy might be one more artist who doesn’t have to work at Starbucks. So I’ve got some soul-searching to do.