Silkscreen printing was a favorite medium of American and British Pop artists of the 1960s and '70s. Less well known is the early history of the screenprint as a fine art form, from its emergence in the federally funded print and poster workshops of the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s through the Abstract-Expressionist dominated 1950s. The technique was adapted from the European pochoir (stencil-print) processes that rose to prominence in the early decades of the 1900s as a way to create brilliant colors in mass-produced advertising materials and prints created as deluxe illustrations in books and journals. This exhibition surveys the development of the screenprint from its popular commercial origins, through its depression-era struggle for artistic legitimacy, to the peak of production in the Pop Art era and absorption into the multi-media orientation of printmaking today.
The screenprint has always had a wide appeal for artists, from aspiring amateurs to established professionals, due to the relative ease of the method (which does not require a printing press). From the outset it was promoted through instruction manuals as an economical means of creating original prints in a full range of color, and offered interesting aesthetic possibilities of overprinting and layering, producing new printing textures and effects and broad expanses of saturated color. The exhibition (over eighty works drawn from the Museum's collection) reflects this broad reach with imagery representing the major stylistic movements of the 20th century, from figurative social commentary to minimalist abstraction. In addition to early WPA silkscreens by Harry Sternberg and Elizabeth Olds, the exhibition will include prints by Pop Art luminaries Andy Warhol Roy Lichtenstein, and Ed Ruscha, as well as examples by Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Estes, Josef Albers, and recent work by Kara Walker (b. 1969), Fiona Banner (b. 1966), and Takashi Murakami (b. 1962), among others.
CuratorShelley R. Langdale • Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings