Gregory James Lago

Greg Lago was born in 1949 and grew up along the Erie Canal in the villages of Gasport and Middleport, New York. He served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division / Republic of Vietnam and attended Buffalo State where his studies with Frank C. Eckmair focused his artistic talents on printmaking. In 1988 he established Winged Bull Studio, a print gallery, in Clayton, New York.

Working as a printmaker and illustrator for over 30 years, the insistence of handwork, in a traditional, if not arcane and archaic medium, lends a sense of evangelism to Lago's engravings. The incised quality of a line engraved in end-grain wood, the sensuous, tactile, receptive nature of fine rag papers and the absolute negative and positive of ink, all come together in resistance against an iron press. The prints that result from this process are an arresting form of visual parable. Lago's images are a haunting mix of dark humor and illuminating truth.

Beginnings

My older brother and I were born drawing. We began making images in earnest at around three or four years of age on paper towels. My mother encouraged the activity because it kept us busy at the kitchen table on laundry days at a time when whole days were given over to laundry.

As we grew older, we made three-dimensional objects using a jack knife swiped from my father, carving and whittling sticks until one of us would incur a flesh wound and bleed profusely. We made toy guns, wooden swords, knives, and spears-all the accoutrements required for mock war. Several hours of combat usually ended with me and my siblings sitting in various assigned corners, faces to the walls, throughout our old house. In this P.O.W. status, television on our ten-inch black-and-white screen was forbidden.

It was thus out of necessity that my brothers and I discovered books, particularly letterpress books that were cheap in 1955 as the technology of letterpress printing fell from commercial grace. With their incised, cuneiform codes inscribed in positive and negative space, and the timeworn smell and feel of their rag paper pages, these letterpress books seemed to us mysterious. But we found in them tangible proof of lives and ideas, foreign and familiar. Books spoke about all the unspoken things. They held answers in their pages. Once decoded, the ideas contained within books became common property; they became our ideas. I looked at the pictures mostly, while my brothers read to me. The power of illustrators like Rockwell Kent, who worked essentially in black and white, never left me.

The austere, straightforward, and elegant simplicity of wood engraved images always implied to me a way of seeing that is peculiar to the North Country. Lagos have lived in Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties for at least 160 years. Besides farmers, they were carpenters, wheelwrights and millwrights, loggers, cutters of wood. Direct and inexpensive in its heyday, wood engraving seemed a natural progression from drawing an image to reproducing an image. Working with wood, either engraving or carving, just fit into my sense of time and place. My engravings have been described as oddly skewed visual parables—a blend of dark humor and illuminating truth—but always relying in a very traditional sense on people’s instincts to find common experience. -GL

Most Recent Shows

Pulp Friction: 3 Variations on Wood
An exhibit of 3 artists working with wood at the Kenan Center Gallery
Kenan Center, Lockport, New York
2007

Think Ink: Prints from the Burchfield Penny Collection
Burchfield Penny Art Center
Buffalo, New York
2006

Greg Lago: Just Prints
A one person exhibition at the Richard F. Brush Gallery
St. Lawrence Univeristy, Canton, New York
2000

If You Go Down in the Woods Today
An exhibition of work of North American Engravers
Line Gallery
Linthgow, Scotland
1999

Society of Wood Engravers 61st Annual Traveling Exhibition
United Kingdom
1998

Munson Williams Proctor Institute 56th Exhibition of Central New York Artists
Genesee Street, Utica, New York
1995

North Country Regional Juried Art Show
Gibson Gallery, SUNY Potsdam
1994

War and Peace Exhibition
The New York City Center for the Book Arts
Bleeker Street, New York City
1992

International Graphic Art Foundation Miniature Print Biennial
Susan Teller Gallery, Broadway & Prince, New York City
1991

The Art of the Broadside
Summer Arts Festival
Clarkson University & SUNY Potsdam
1990

Fine Print Magazine's Third Biennial International Broadside Competition.
Winning entry, The Eight Primary Trigrams of the I Ching, San Francisco, California
1988

North Country Regional Juried Art Show
Gibson Gallery, SUNY Potsdam
1987

North South Collaborative Print Exhibition
Sponsored by the Los Angeles Printmakers Society & the Northwest Print Council
1982

Cooperstown 44th Annual National Juried Art Show
Cooperstown, NY
1981

Publications

 

Simon Brett. An Engraver's Globe Wood Engraving World- Wide in the Twenty-First Century, London: Primrose Hill Press, 2002.

 

 

Harry Smith. The Sexy Sixties Outrageous Pronouncements on Lies, Love & Power in an Immodest Decade, Delhi, NY: Birch Brook Press, 2002. Illustrated by Greg Lago.

 

 

John R. Nesselroade. Cautionary Couplets for Assistant Professors, Charlottesville, VA: John R. Nesselroade, 2002. Illustrated by Greg Lago.

 

 

William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Designed, printed, and bound by Mark McMurray. Canton, NY: Caliban Press, 2002. Linocut by Greg Lago.

 

 

Crispin & Jan Elsted. Endgrain: Contemporary Wood Engraving in North America. Mission, BC: Barbarian Press, 1994.

 

 

The Frank P. Piskor Collection of Robert Frost Bibliography. Canton, NY: St. Lawrence University, 1993. Cover Art a wood engraving by Greg Lago.