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María Alejandra Zanetta (1961-)

Pictured, from left (see below for more information):

  • Akron Cityscape, 2019
  • Interactions/Interacciones (lilac and silver), 2014

About the art and artist

Zanetta is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Akron; she also holds a B.A. in painting from the National School of Fine Arts, "Prilidiano Pueyrredon," in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and has taught art at the college level. Much of her abundant professional scholarship deals with Spanish-speaking artists (painters, filmmakers, poets, writers) across four centuries, including the 20th century. She has maintained a parallel artistic and design practice with many solo and group exhibitions, productions for print, and regular critical notice.

A yearlong residence in Italy — Tuscany and Rome — gave her the opportunity to indulge her love of landscapes, producing numerous paintings of these and of the human figure, which she was able to study intensively in life-drawing classes. Recent forays into printmaking and printing have allowed her to pursue interests in texture and color along with the variability of product that printmaking processes generate. Her work includes not only land- and city-scapes but also still life's, figural studies, and fully abstract compositions.

Akron Cityscape, 2019

Akron Cityscape, 2019 

Commissioned by Summa Health

Materials: Mixed media and linoleum with collage, pastels, colored pencil 29" x 40”.

Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, sixth floor, hallway outside patient rooms H6-101 and H6-102.

This work represents an epitome of Akron’s cityscape, with iconic architectural elements — the Quaker Towers, the Akron Art Museum, the YMCA, the Inventors’ Hall of Fame, and E.J. Thomas Hall — abstracted and lined up along the Cuyahoga River, with a benevolent Goodyear blimp floating above (just in case you were having difficulty in identifying the city!). Artist María Alejandra Zanetta has been working with variations on this image for some time, experimenting with what the medium — linoleum block printing — allows her to do.

The work began as a linoleum block into which the artist cut the image she wished to create (the image prints in reverse from how the artist incises it). Zanetta then collaged (glued) a strip of newspaper on the lower part of the paper on which she would print, not for its newsworthy content but because, she explains, the newspaper had a grey tone and typography that mimicked the texture of the street above the river that she wanted to include. Once that was in place, she printed onto the collaged paper in black ink the image from the incised linoleum block.

Over this monochrome base print, other broad areas of color were printed from separate passes of the linoleum block — the bright blue-green of the sky, the colors of the blimp, buildings, trees, river — and finally the artist applied touches of color with pastels and acrylic to accentuate certain passages. This work is a variant of a smaller work that Zanetta created earlier and was purchased by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 2018. The color, detail, and technical changes she introduced in this larger print mark it as a work adapted specifically for Summa Health.

Linoleum prints can make for bold imagery because they do not tolerate a lot of fine detail. In this image, the undulant movement of the clouds in the sky and the overall reduction of form to simple but animated shapes — few restful horizontals and lots of diagonals and curves — contribute to a sense that the city of Akron is on the move.

Interactions/Interacciones (lilac and silver)

Interactions/Interacciones (lilac and silver), 2014

Materials:  linoleum cut monoprint on collage, 36” x 45”

Location at Summa:  Akron Campus, main building (141 N. Forge St.), purple neighborhood, ground floor, opposite "T" elevators 

This work was acquired for the Summa Health System – Akron Campus Wayfinding Project.


About this work

University of Akron Distinguished Professor María Alejandra Zanetta intends this highly abstract work to refer to human interactions.  Her interpretation emphasizes the benefits of positive social interactions, “when we open ourselves to the other and when we establish sincere, value free interactions with each other,” and that positivity we infer from the lively organic forms here.

Some of these are small, simple shapes of solid color, others are irregular wheels with radial patterns, all bracketed by larger stripy bands and purple ribbons that terminate in or are perforated by small squares.  At the purely formal level, we can enjoy searching for wheels, orbs, or squares and then watching where these seem to overlap or interact with other forms or marks on the paper of this print.

Moving closer to the surface, we can also discern several aspects of the techniques Zanetta employs. Linocut or linoleum block, is a basic printmaking process that many of us learned in elementary school. But before creating the linocut itself, this artist plans her overall composition, which will also include cut-outs from prized papers of various colors and textures, in this case dominated by silver and lilac (for example, we can recognize a silver paper used repeatedly in this collage: It has rectangular "freckles").  These she glues in layers onto another, heavier paper, producing the collaged ground onto which she will print.  (You can watch her create a similar collage for the ground of another print here).

The design then to be printed onto this collaged ground is another part of the artist’s idea for the entire composition and is cut into the linoleum. With sharp gouging tools called burins, she leaves areas standing out, in relief and in reverse to how they will appear in the final print.  She then inks the block with black and, finally, impresses it onto the single collaged ground.  Those relief areas of the block make the black lines and solids, as well as the thinner lines of hatching in the background, on top of the collaged ground, creating contrasting textures and colors.  These interact with the printed elements so that the surface becomes three-dimensional, luminous, engaging our attention.  To add emphasis to the print, Zanetta finally draws on it with pastels, such as the rose-colored flourish in the lower right corner.  In this way, while the print could be made in multiples, each is in fact finished with unique materials and gestures, becoming a unique monoprint.

While you’re thinking about linoleum block print technique, you might want to look as well at Dinara Mirtilapova’s Mythical Garden


Where you can see more of this artist’s work

Zanetta’s work is held in collections in the U.S., South America and Europe, including the Ohio State University (where she earned her Ph.D. in comparative literature) and the Ortega y Gasset Foundation in Toledo, Spain. Work can be seen in the Student Union of the University of Akron, as well through the galleries in Akron, Cleveland and Columbus which represent her.

The healing arts at Summa Health


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