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5 Prime Examples of the American Printmaking

  • Andy Warhol - Campbell’s Soup II
November 14, 2018
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

Printmaking has a really long tradition which can be dated in the Renaissance. However, it wasn’t until the late 19th and early 20th century that it became widely used simultaneously for commercial and artistic purposes which was an effect of the development of advertising. Although it fits to traditional media and was used by the artists throughout the history, in the American context, printmaking was revived in the post-war period when a large number of mainly Pop artists started embracing it.

Therefore, The Saint Louis Art Museum decided to release an extensive exhibition entirely focused on this particular medium which boomed in the United States since the post-war period under the title The Graphic Revolution: American Prints 1960 to Now.

American Printmaking – The Exhibition Concept

Elizabeth Wyckoff, curator of prints, drawings and photographs, and Gretchen L. Wagner, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, decided to explore the effects of the networks between the printermakers, dealers, publishers and collectors who actively participated in the development of American art in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Barbara B. Taylor of the Saint Louis Art Museum Director Brent R. Benjamin underlined the importance of this exhibition:

Graphic Revolution vividly highlights the Saint Louis Art Museum’s significant holdings of postwar American prints. The richness and variety of this collection is attributable not only to the prescience of past museum curators and directors but to the many donors who have enthusiastically and generously supported purchases by the museum and contributed works of art from their own collections.

Graphic Revolution: American Prints 1960 to Now

The Installment

The story of printmaking development is presented with a selection of more than one hundred and ten prints and artists’ editions made by those whose captivating aesthetics basically defined the art history.

The works of Bruce Conner, Bruce Nauman, Roy Lichenstein, Enrique Chagoya, Ed Ruscha, Kiki Smith, Frank Stella, and Kara Walker and others will be featured. All of these works enabled the younger generations of artists to explore further the very media, so it is natural that they are now contextualized in a form of a dialog.

Graphic Revolution at The Saint Louis Art Museum

An array of exhibition-related programming will happen at the Museum during the exhibition, and of special importance will be a symposium Graphic Revolution: Behind-the-Scenes of the Print Boom 1960 to Now which is scheduled for February 2019 prior to the closure of the exhibition and it will include lectures, panels, and interactive breakout sessions.

A fully illustrated scholarly catalog edited by Wyckoff and Wagner, the exhibition co-curators, will accompany the exhibition.

Graphic Revolution: American Prints 1960 to Now will be on display at The Saint Louis Art Museum until 3 February 2019.

In order to bring you closer this outstanding survey on printmaking production in the past fifty years, we decided to present five American prints which we can see at the exhibition.

Featured image: Andy Warhol – Campbell’s Soup II, 1969. Screenprint, sheet: 35 × 23 inches. Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert G. Greenberg 166:1971.2 © 2017 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

  • Claes Oldenburg -Tea Bag

Claes Oldenburg – Tea Bag

The first on our list is one of the leading artists of Pop Art Claes Oldenburg. This notable figure is best known for his multiples e.g. mass-produced small-scale sculptures crafted with industrial plastics which reformed the notion of printmaking in the mid-1960s.

This particular screenprint on Plexiglas called Tea Bag was made in 1965 and it perfectly encapsulates the gap between high art and popular culture, which is one of the main characteristics of Pop art.

Featured image: Claes Oldenburg – Tea Bag, 1965, published 1966. Laminated vacuum-formed vinyl, screen printed vinyl, felt, rayon cord, and Plexiglas, 39 3/8 x 28 inches. Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Nancy Singer 41:1967 © 1966 Claes Oldenburg

  • Robert Blackburn - Faux Pas

Robert Blackburn - Faux Pas

Next up is an American artist and a notable printmaker Robert Blackburn. His most productive period was between the late 1950s and the early 1970s when he produced a number of series of abstract still lifes and color compositions. At one point in his career, Blackburn switched to producing woodcuts, as well as some monotypes and intaglios.

The work Faux Pas is a lithograph and was produced in 1960. Formally, it continues the assemblage aesthetic, while conceptually it looks like a completely distorted Pop Art work.

Featured image: Robert Blackburn – Faux Pas, 1960. Lithograph, 30 × 24 inches. Saint Louis Art Museum, The Thelma and Bert Ollie Memorial Collection, Gift of Ronald and Monique Ollie 121:2017 © Robert Blackburn

  • Robert Rauschenberg – Signs

Robert Rauschenberg – Signs

Robert Rauschenberg was one of the leading American post-war artists who experimented with different media including painting, sculpture, prints, photography, and performance, over the span of six decades. His radical innovation was a reaction to the stiffness of Abstract Expressionism, and he is best known for the iconic and multimedia objects called Combines.

Rauschenberg adorned printmaking and this particular work Signs is a survey of the 1960s in The States. Interestingly so, it was commissioned for a magazine cover, yet rejected. Sings was produced in 1970, through his gallery affiliation, Castelli Graphics, in an edition of 250 signed impressions.

Featured image: Robert Rauschenberg – Signs, 1970. Screenprint, 42 7/8 × 34 inches. Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of the Honorable and Mrs. Thomas F. Eagleton 311:1986 © Rauschenberg Foundation

  • Roy Lichtenstein - Head

Roy Lichtenstein – Head

The next artist on our list is none other than Roy Lichtenstein, best known for his colorful and linear comic book based works. The artist was very much inspired by the works of Picasso and Klee; by masterfully incorporating contemporary art theory and popular print media into his works, Lichtenstein created an impressive signature style.

The print Head from 1980 is based on of Expressionist legacy and can be perceived as a prototype for a sculpture in Barcelona public space made a decade later.

Featured image: Roy Lichtenstein – Head, 1980. Woodcut with embossing, sheet: 40 × 33 5/8 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Julian and Hope Edison 87:2012.6 © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

  • Andy Warhol - Campbell’s Soup II

Andy Warhol - Campbell's Soup II

The last but not least on our list is the Pop Prince Andy Warhol. As it is well known, his entire practice is based on a multimedia approach, but the artist was committed to traditional ones such as printmaking. As a matter of fact, Warhol practically revived it by reintroducing the silkscreen technique.

The work Campbell’s Soup Cans II was produced in 1969 as part of his Campbell’s Soup Cans series. It consists of ten prints depicting different cans of a famous brand; two hundred and fifty sets of this particular print were made, and edition #17 is in the collection at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Featured image: Andy Warhol – Campbell’s Soup II, 1969. Screenprint, sheet: 35 × 23 inches. Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert G. Greenberg 166:1971.2 © 2017 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York