The early 1960s marked a significant turning point in American printmaking: the rise of communal studios provided new avenues for creative and technical exchanges between artists.
Many of the artists included in the Bruce Museum
s exhibition, American Abstraction: The Print Revival of the 1960s and '70s, which opens on December 2, 2017 and continues through March 1, 2018, pushed the printmaking media in new and exciting directions. From vibrant biomorphic forms and primitive marks to lively calligraphic gestures and bold color-field patterning, the works in American Abstraction highlight the evolution of abstract art in printmaking during two exciting decades.
These new-style printmakers began to take on some of the responsibilities of publishers and dealers, helping to streamline the production and distribution of artists prints. Artists formerly rooted in the solitary studio practices of Abstract Expressionist painting began to collaborate regularly with master printmakers. Some, like Robert Motherwell, even established their own workshops. In California, the emergence of collaborative presses helped to rescue lithography from virtual extinctionwhich in turn made abstract prints readily available to American collectors.
The American Abstraction exhibition features 23 works by 13 artists. Most are drawn from the splendid gift of Judith and Stephen Wertheimer to the Bruce Museum and include prints produced by Ernest de Soto of The Collectors Press Lithography Workshop and Irwin Hollander of Hollanders Workshop.
Thanks to Steven and Linda Wertheimers fantastic gift, the Museums print collection is home to some of the twentieth-century's most influential artists, says Elizabeth Smith, exhibition curator and 2017-18 Zvi Grunberg Resident Fellow.
All of the prints in American Abstraction are from the Museums permanent collection, and many are being exhibited at the Bruce for the first time. Also on display is Alexander Calders color lithograph Abe Ribicoff (1974), a gift of Barbaralee Diamonstein and Carl Spielvogel; and Louise Nevelsons Totem's Presents (1965), an etching and aquatint that is a gift of the "I Have a Dream" Foundation of Stamford, CT.
Printmaking is often overshadowed by other mediums that artists were working in during 1960s and 70s, says Smith. Art critics and historians of the time debated action painting or minimalist sculpture, but printmaking was seldom discussed in academic circles. I wanted to demonstrate that it was just as important in the development of abstract art through the post-war era and beyond.