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"Breaking Ground: Printmaking in the US, 1940-1960" on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Antonio Frasconi, American (born Argentina), 1919 ‑ 2013, Railroad Yard, 1952. Color woodcut, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the Thomas Skelton Harrison Fund, 1952. © Visual Artists and Galleries Assoc., Inc. (VAGA), New York.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- This exhibition presents some of the most highly experimental prints that convey the breadth and vitality of artistic innovation in the United States during the period. Embracing the ways in which American artists brought the practice of printmaking to new heights, the selection ranges from color prints published by the Works Progress Administration (1935-43) to the technically advanced prints produced at independent workshops in the late 1950s and early 1960s, highlighting work that unites technical craft with creative expression. Unparalleled examples of craftsmanship by Anni Albers, Harry Bertoia, Mary Callery, Antonio Frasconi, Stanley William Hayter, Sue Fuller, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg will be on view.

A key influence on printmaking in the United States was the British printmaker Stanley William Hayter, who moved his print workshop Atelier 17 from Paris to New York at the outset of World War II. In the communal atmosphere of independent print workshops, both emerging and established artists often worked side by side. A selection of prints by Hayter and others who studied in his workshop, including Sue Fuller, Seong Moy, and Alice Trumbull Mason, convey the broad scope of his impact on the American art scene. Hayter’s surrealist visual vocabulary was adopted by his workshop’s student alumni, including Mauricio Lasansky and Gabor Peterdi, who would go on to open workshops at universities. Striking examples of their groundbreaking achievements are represented in the exhibition.

The figurative bronze Study for Acrobats (1953) by Mary Callery, who is primarily known for her abstract sculptural works, is juxtaposed with her multicolor screenprint Sons of Morning (c. 1957) to spotlight the intersection of printmaking and craft and to demonstrate her dynamic engagement with different media. Other works featured include ceramics by Rex Mason, and by Mary and Edwin Scheier, as well as a multilayered printed textile by Henry and Eleanor Kluck.

Among the vivid examples of color lithography and screenprinting are Russell T. Limbach’s Blues Singer (1938) and Hyman Warsager’s industrial cityscape titled Along the Harlem River (c. 1938). As these artists borrowed techniques that originated in commercial industry, others explored entirely new modes of printmaking by layering together processes like etching, engraving, woodcut, or screenprinting in various combinations. Harry Sternberg’s Blast Furnace #1 (1937-43) shows the artist’s first experiment combining screenprint and aquatint.

Prints created by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) in the 1960s are included as examples by major young talents who worked with master printmakers. On view is Rauschenberg’s widely acclaimed Accident (1963), a monumental work that he decided to print after discovering a fissure in the lithographic stone, thus incorporating an “accident” into the work.

The exhibition is organized by Eleanore Neumann, The Suzanne Andrée Curatorial Fellow in Prints, Drawings and Photographs, with John W. Ittmann, The Kathy and Ted Fernberger Curator of Prints, and includes works drawn from the Museum’s collections. Neumann said: “These masterful prints present strong affinities with developments in other media to shed light on an exceptionally creative moment in American art. It is fascinating to explore this rich period through remarkable examples acquired by the Museum, enabling us to convey a timeline of how printmaking evolved in America, and contributed to developments by artists working in other media.”

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