This self-portrait by 8th-grader Charlotte Chorzepa.

The work of about 20 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade artists from Hauser Junior High School in Riverside will be on display at Expressions Graphics, 29 Harrison St. in Oak Park, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 14.

 The students are part of teacher Harjit Singh’s after-school art enrichment program and have been working on their individual rubber block prints since about mid-December.

All of the works are self-portraits and are created by students, first drawing then carving out areas of the rubber block, which is painted with ink before a sheet of paper or cloth is compressed onto it.

Students used the work of Kehinde Wiley, a New York-based painter who creates photorealistic portraits of people in front of highly elaborate wallpaper-like backgrounds. 

Singh said he became familiar with Wiley through a documentary on public television and later saw Wiley’s work, which is part of the permanent collection of the Oak Park Public Library.

While the student images are more expressionistic than realist, the Hauser artists also used wallpaper-type backgrounds. Some used patterned cloth or patterned paper for their backgrounds, while students created their own backgrounds first and then printed their portraits over them.

Singh made the connection with Expression Graphics, a non-profit printmaking cooperative and art gallery in Oak Park’s Arts District, through one of his student artists, Elaina Raffensperger-Schill, whose mom runs the gallery there.

And Janet Schill was more than happy to exhibit the student work. 

“Of course, the purpose of the studio is to give an opportunity for people to show print making, which is pretty limited,” Schill said. “This gives them an opportunity to show their work in our space.”

In addition, the Hauser students will participate in a print-making workshop at the gallery on Feb. 14, the final day of the exhibition.

“They’ll be doing a print on Plexiglas,” said Singh.

While the art won’t be for sale while it’s on display at Expressions Graphics, Singh said the work will be for sale during the Hauser Junior High open house in May.

Anyone interested in seeing the students’ work can attend an opening reception for the exhibition, which is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. at Expressions Graphics, which is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and by appointment. 

For more information, visit online at expressionsgraphics.org or call 708-447-9262.

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