Rarely an artist’s main focus, printmaking in the first half of the 20th century was understood widely as ancillary to other media such as painting or sculpture. In the 1940s and 50s Abstract expressionist painters in New York City shifted the art world’s focus from Europe to the United States. Artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem DeKooning embraced improvisation, gestural mark making and immediacy of expression, while the dominant discourses surrounding their work was foregrounded in an outpouring of emotion, spirituality, and masculine sexuality as an external reflection of the internal. Social and cultural revolutions shaded the decades that followed, and artist such as Robert Rauschenberg and Helen Frankenthaler challenged these notions of artistic “purity” and masculine “genius” by creating minimalist printed works through time-consuming experimental methods. As a result, American print studios in the 1970s such as ULAE and Gemini GEL rose to prominence, encouraging artists to embrace the more democratic art form as a means of diffusing their work widely, across financial and institutional barriers.
Printing at the Margins: Printmaking and the role of Identity in the 1970s examines the largely unexamined, yet critically important shift in the 1970s away from the then dominant mode of painting via Abstract Expressionism, and towards a new reliance on the print. The artists in the exhibition illuminate the relationship between printmaking and identity by working outside the normative masculinist-oriented purview of Ab Ex. Immigrants, queers, women or ex pats, these artists remained at the margins of dominant art discourses, and resultantly had free license to experiment, acting as pioneers pushing the printed medium to new heights of achievement.
Printing at the Margins: Printmaking and the role of Identity in the 1970s
Palos Verdes Art Center
5504 W Crestridge Rd
Rancho Palos Verdes CA 90275
June 31 through September 7th, 2014