The Millennium Arts Salon is a local group of predominantly African American art collectors. While focused primarily on the city’s black artists, they are also one of the few groups that strive to bridge the divide that separates our little art community into racial and ethnic segments. For that, for encouraging broader exposure of artists to those who love and may purchase their work, and for organizing projects such as In Unison currently at the Kreeger Museum, they are to be thanked.

In Unison is an exhibition that grew out of a months-long project undertaken by the Millennium Arts Salon to directly foster the creation of new artwork. Twenty artists were invited by Sam Gilliam, one of DC’s few truly internationally-known artists, to make new monoprints for the project. The participants include a broad range of local artists, some well-known for printmaking, such as Michael Platt and Carol Bean, Renee Stout, Claudia Aziza Gibson-Hunter, Susan Goldman and Helen Frederick, and others better known for painting or other media, such as Sondra Arkin, Martha Jackson-Jarvis and Tom Green.

Frederick, Director of Printmaking at George Mason University in Fairfax, made the world-class printmaking studio at Mason available to the artists, along with the invaluable assistance of herself and her students. Five portfolios, each of 20 unique prints, were created. For the Kreeger show, a committee composed of Gilliam, Judy Greenberg, Director of the Museum, gallery owner Marsha Mateyka and art critic and historian Claudia Rousseau, chose one print from each of the artists.

There are some pretty terrific prints here and a wide variety of techniques, feeling and subject matter. For the print lover and maker, the show offers endless invitations for those nose-to-the-glass inspections where we try to figure out how the effects were achieved. Some of the pieces that stand out for me are Claudia Gibson-Hunter’s color-saturated heat-infused tower, Renee Stout’s “Lover’s Hearts”, Sondra Arkin’s ethereal circles and Yuriko Yamaguchi’s delicate web.

Certain constraints imposed from the start, such as that each print would be the same size, imposea certain feeling of uniformity that, to my mind, can suppress a bit of the exuberance and spontaneity that the monoprint medium can have. Contrary to some comment, the ground rules for this project did not include use of Mason’s digital lab; monoprint (each one a unique, one -of-a-kind piece of art) and press were the essence of the project and the medium does allow for an astonishing array of effects.