Michael J. Ulrich is Wabash Valley Art Guild’s October Artist of the Month at the Vigo County Public Library, Seventh and Poplar streets.
Ulrich was born in Iowa City, Iowa, but grew up outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and DeKalb, Illinois. He received his bachelor of arts in painting from Lawrence University in 1977. He then traveled to Paris, to study intaglio printmaking with S.W. Hayter at Atelier 17. After returning to the U.S., he earned his master of fine arts in printmaking and photography from Northern Illinois University. He moved to Chicago late in 1980, where he primarily worked in the commercial arts industry. He relocated to Terre Haute, from Chicago, in 2018.
Ulrich categorizes himself as a Neo-Pop artist, with roots based in Warhol, Lichtenstein, Lindner, Wesselmann and the entire Pop Art culture. The bold graphic nature of the commercial art Industry has had its influence on his work, much the same way it influenced the Pop Art movement in the ‘50s and ‘60s. His subject matter trends toward people and their faces, often capturing them in a time of reflection, or that “Aha!” moment, where the realization of what is occurring, is fully recognized.
The stylized realism in Ulrich’s oil paintings, reflect his more current work. His limited color palette is used for its simplicity and boldness, much like his preference for black and white photography. It captures the tone and emotion of a setting without needing to record the exact, precise details.
Some of these “stories” are fairly linear and clear, while some are more obscure and less obvious. At times, the thrust of the “story” is just outside the edge of the artwork, drawing the viewer in as a willing participant. Others leave the viewer the option to just play the voyeur.
Also at the library, Ulrich has decided to share some of his rarely seen early work. From his street photography in Chicago and Paris, to his first foray into computer generated art, “Saturday Night Special,” from 1990.
Saturday Night Special was created on a Compaq ProSpeed 386 using the Time Arts software “Lumena,” v. 3.31. It is a far cry from the digital images, processed through Adobe Photoshop, which dominate the computer-generated photography of today. He has included two of the six original gelatin silver prints here, which were scanned into his computer using a Hawtek Scanmaster, before manipulation. The final picture was printed on a Mitsubishi G650 Color Line Thermal Printer. Quite a far cry from today’s technology.
“Diana,” an early intaglio photo-etching, also will be on display. The technology used in creating it was originally invented to create intricate circuit boards.