Paul Cadmus: YMCA Locker Room Etching

M. C. A locker room. Fifteen figures, four benches, and a slew of lockers occupy the space of the locker room. The figures are varied in size and in age and are scattered throughout the room. Each person engaged within their own particular activities. Some individuals are putting on clothing while others appear to be conversing with colleagues. Many of the individuals are dressed in a relatable fashion which would suggest some sort of physical event. All characters seemingly have their own personality, each fostering their own emotions.

Emotions that are portrayed through facial expressions and body engage. The figures themselves all appear to be active in some fashion. Towels twirling, soap being tossed, deodorant being applied, socks being pulled up to the knees, and locker doors opening and closing, each giving birth a liveliness to the piece. Some characters are standing, some crouched, and some placed on or around benches which are positioned against lockers. The lockers begin in the foreground and recede into space, then angle to contour the back wall of the room.

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The ceiling, a lighter shading than that of the lockers and characters, is represented n an early sass, beveled patterned style that is lined with light fixtures that follow the perspective of the lockers . The artist suggests that the overall feeling of the piece to be buoyant and cheerful. The slightly characterized figures, and the ostensibly lack of a central focal point, suggest that Cadmium did not intend for the viewer to be visually locked in a unambiguous location for an extended period of time.

There does not appear to be one stagnant line within the entire composition. Each appearing to flow flawlessly from one line to another. The title of the piece would also suggest the general idea was to stay positive and active . In the sass the nonprofit, Young Men’s Christian Academy organization was starting to gain popularity with youth through billboard, radio, and television advertisements. Shortly after its founding, the Y. M. C. A. Became known for being active. Both with physical sports and with community works (Winter).

One of the strongest aspects of the etching would be the use of movement. This is achieved by the use of line and shape. Squares that form the benches, rectangles hat form the lockers and ceiling, and circles that compose the light fixtures create the space for which the inhabitants reside. The hard, straight edges of the lockers, benches, and ceiling, create at stagnant backdrop that contrast well with the active curves in the figures and their clothing. This creates a seamless balance between the foreground and the background.

The vertical shape figures could easily overpower the rest of the objects, however this is carefully balanced by the horizontal movement other. Another aspect of Y. M. C. A Locker Room, which adds to the global appeal of the composition, is the eloquent use of lines. The lines of the figures are gradually varied in distance between each other in order to create a realistic shading for the characters. The lines within the room itself accomplish a similar feat by giving the room depth.

One of the objects that I personally find to be an interesting choice, is the long, horizontal lines of the floor of the locker room. Many artists who use this perspective, including myself, rarely implement a two dimensional floor in three dimensional style. However, I believe that it that the floor helps all of the other objects occupy the space more efficiently. Even the shadows, created by the characters, seem to had a blurry edge to them akin to the shadows casts real objects. These lines are created in a couple of different ways.

One of which is by the lines created by the objects. The line of the figures help keep the image active, the lines in the ceiling craft a space for the other objects to occupy, and the lockers and benches generate a pictorial rule of thirds which helps keep the composition visually appealing. All of which helps a seemingly over crowed masterpiece seem well spaced and balanced. The second use of line is formed by the actually etching process itself. The process of etching, much like engraving, is a type of printmaking which utilizes metal plates.

The plates are usually consisting of either copper, zinc, or steel. The major difference between etching and engraving is that engraving uses sharp tools to physically remove metal from the plate, whereas etching uses acid to chemically remove metal from the plate. They both are part of the intaglio family of printmaking quenches, which also include dripping, aquatint, mezzanine, and some calligraphy (Mistrials). The process as applied to printmaking is believed to have been invented by Daniel Hoofer (circa 1470-1536) of Suburbs, Germany.

Hoofer was a craftsman who decorated armor in this way, and applied the method to printmaking, using iron plates. In the process of etching, a material which is impervious to acid is placed on the plate. The material are often composed of various waxes, gums and resins; there are many recipes but the only essential requirement is that it must be impervious to acid (Griffith). The material is often dark in color so that the contrast between the plate and the material is easily visible. The desired image is then drawn into the material using various tools. The act of drawing is similar to putting pen to paper, but the medium does impose certain restrictions. It is impossible to wipe and print a plate where the lines have collapsed so as to leave pools of ink. Therefore the artist cannot expose areas of copper wider than a thick line” (Griffith). The plate is then coated with acid, which reacts to the exposed plate chemically, so as to eat away the sired parts of the plate. While the plate is in acid, the plate must be feathered to make sure the acid eats away the plate evenly.

Once the plate is removed, the impervious material is then cleaned, leaving predetermined marks on the metal plate exposed. Ink is then taken and placed into the grooves on the metal. Once the excess ink is cleaned from the plate, the plate is then passed through a press and the image is transferred to another material, often paper. This printing process can be replicated any number of times. These thin lines are what ultimately gives this pieces TTS own identity. Reducing the space between the lines helps create a depth of field. The closer that the strokes are together, the darker the space.

The further that the anatomy by using these darker, close lines to articulate muscular movement within each individual. The darkest part of the entire composition is the front facing portion of the lockers which the characters are balanced against. This, and the use of shapes, creates a definite distinction between the front and the back of the locker room. In general, the composition is both unique and technically interesting. As a graphic designer I have the luxury of being able to duplicate, reshape, move, crop, adjust thickness, look on the internet for help, and create lines with ease.

Therefore I can appreciate how much effort goes in to making each line physically by hand. The objects are consistently proportional and Cadmium’ ability to make them fit perfectly together, like a well-constructed puzzle, is astounding. All of these concepts and ideas come together to produce a beautiful work of art. The broad shapes, the gestures created by the characters, and the intricate lines created by the etching recess, each carrying their own separate ideas of what it means to be art.

Once each of these are housed together as a single entity, it becomes much more than a hand full of lines etched into a piece of metal. Work Cited Griffith, Antonym. Prints and Printmaking. Los Angels: University of California Press, 1996. 56-71. Print. Mistrials, Rachel. Printmaking Techniques of the WAP Printmakers. Yale University Press, 2003. 86-88. Print. Winter, Thomas. “Luther Halley Click: recreation, physical education and the YMCA. ” infer. Org. The University of Chicago Press, n. D. Web. 31 Gauge 2013..

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