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NIU Art Museum presents ‘Root Hog, or Die!’

Mike Houston and Martin Mazorra run the explosive Cannonball Press in Brooklyn, N.Y., while working as independent artists.

Once called “world kings of scruffy pirate black and white hillbilly printmaking,” they are among the leaders of a recent revival of the woodcut medium, according to a recent news release.

For their exhibition ‘Root Hog, or Die!,’ Cannonball Press will explore the boom and bust in the economy, sharing an early American settler’s philosophy of ‘work or die’.”

The exhibit at the Northern Illinois University Art Museum will be open from Jan. 19-March 5.

“Through their mammoth scale woodcuts and three-dimensional installations, often incorporating performance elements, Mike and Martin present an unabashed voice in their art,” Michael Barnes, NIU School of Art associate professor of printmaking, said in the release.
“Their subject matter is steeped in down-home vernacular and popular culture, mixed with a little moonshine and rockabilly. They work with straightforward black-and-white imagery in woodcut and often shun the term ‘Fine Art,’ dealing with the print in its true democratic form – ‘For the People’.”

Cannonball’s Mission Statement is a simple recipe:

“Cannonball Print: A down-home dish that is tasty hot or cold. For low-fat version, substitute another printing press, ‘cause these things will put meat on yer bones! 1 lurking artist, 1 one-eyed master-printer, 1 idea, 5 cups backwater goo, 6 spoonfuls of jumpstart and holler, 9 lb. mess with yer face, bottle Tickle-My-Fancy, 6 smatterings kick-ass juice & 1 handful Fine Art. Preheat idea in Oven of Rock. Make sure color is OFF! Allow images to gestate and contort at will. When mysterious, funny or twisted, remove and slap on table. Add all ingredients, and beat and cut until smooth and hot. Do not add Fine Art at this point. Add master-printer, work him into a steady boil, edition. Throw Fine Art in trash. Sign and serve.”

Opening reception is from 4:30-7 p.m. Jan. 21 for NIU Art Museum’s Spring Pop Culture Exhibition Suite, which will include “Root Hog, or Die!”

Several prints created with Cannonball’s print recipe and maybe a performance element will be on display beginning Jan. 19. Houston and Mazorra will present a lecture at 5 p.m. Jan. 19 in VAB/JAH Room 111.

The NIU Art Museum is located on west end of the first floor of Altgeld Hall on the NIU campus in DeKalb.

The galleries are open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, noon-4 p.m. Saturdays and by appointment for group tours. Exhibitions are free; donations are appreciated. Pay parking is available in the Visitor’s Lot on Carroll Avenue and at metered spots in front of Altgeld Hall. Free parking is available on Saturdays and during receptions and visiting artist lectures in the lot northeast of Gilbert and College drives.

For more information, visit or call 815-753-1936.

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