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Breaking Ground: Printmaking in the US, 1940–1960

March 26–July 24, 2016

Uncover a vibrant period of experimentation in this selection of masterful prints. Breaking Ground reveals the ways in which artists in the 1940s and 1950s pushed the boundaries of printmaking. Through a selection of prints as well as ceramics, textile, and sculpture—all drawn from the Museum's collection—this exhibition conveys the vibrant spirit and extraordinary growth of the arts during these decades. Among the artists represented are influential figures Anni Albers, Antonio Frasconi, Stanley William Hayter, Alice Trumbull Mason, Gabor Peterdi, Robert Rauschenberg, and June Wayne.

Color printmaking first became popular in the US following the establishment of the Graphic Arts Division of the Federal Art Project (FAP), a branch of the Work Progress Administration that provided jobs to artists during the Depression. In search of a new means of producing art for a mass audience, FAP artists embraced commercial techniques like screenprinting and color lithography while reviving traditional mediums such as the color woodcut.

In New York Stanley William Hayter sparked an interest in experimental processes at his print workshop Atelier 17. Some of the artists who passed through the workshop, including Sue Fuller and Mauricio Lasansky, adopted his style of figurative abstraction. Many went on to become consummate artist-printmakers, possessing both complete artistic freedom and the expertise to make a complex print from start to finish.

In the 1950s Black Mountain College in North Carolina became an influential center for interdisciplinary art making, its experimental, collaborative curriculum attracting artists such as Anni Albers, Mary Callery, and Robert Rauschenberg. Independent print workshops like Universal Limited Art Editions (1957) in New York and Tamarind Lithography Workshop (1960) in California were founded to promote specific techniques and draw artists of different disciplines to the graphic arts. Artists new to printmaking were invited to make work assisted by master printers, collaborations that produced yet another wave of groundbreaking prints.

Main Building


Eleanore Neumann, Suzanne Andrée Curatorial Fellow; and John W. Ittmann, The Kathy and Ted Fernberger Curator of Prints

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