In the 1960s, young American artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg began folding printmaking into their artistic practice, creating prints that reflected and expanded ideas begun in other media, and making their work more accessible (both numerically and financially) to a wider audience. They and others of their generation found eager collaborators in printmaking studios like Gemini G.E.L., Castelli Graphics, Pace Editions and many more. Together, they pioneered new printmaking technologies, and as the expansive exhibition Graphic Revolution: American Prints 1960s to Now at the Saint Louis Art Museum makes clear, launched an explosion of printmaking activity that continues today.
With more than 165 works by a star-studded roster of some 80 internationally recognized artists, Graphic Revolution illustrates the extraordinary richness of the St. Louis collecting community; the entire show is drawn from SLAM’s permanent collection and private St. Louis collections, and includes works produced at Island Press, Washington University’s acclaimed printmaking studio.
The exhibit features screenprints, like Robert Rauschenberg’s “Signs”; linocuts, like Kara Walker’s “Keys to the Coop”; woodcuts, like Roy Lichtenstein’s “Head”;
drypoints, like Louise Bourgeois’ “Sainte Sébastienne”; lithographs, like Josef Albers’ squares-within-squares series; collagraphs, like Jaune Quick-To-See- Smith’s “Celebrate 40,000 Years of American Art”; etchings, like Lee Bontecou’s “Etching One”; and innovative hybrids like Julie Mehretu’s monumental six-panel piece, “Epigraph, Damascus,” a combination of photogravure, sugar lift aquatint, spit bite aquatint and open bite.
Along the way, there are oddities like Robert Rauschenberg’s “Passport,” a screenprint on three rotating Plexiglas disks;
Helen Frankenthaler’s “Hermes,” created by a proprietary and wildly complicated process called Mixografia; Frank Stella’s convoluted “Montrous Pictures of Whales,” a tour-de-force of lithograph, etching, aquatint, relief and screenprint; pop-up artists’ books by Kara Walker and Tauba Auerbach; and Claes Oldenburg’s three-dimensional “Tea Bag,” of laminated, vacuum-formed vinyl, screen-printed vinyl, felt, rayon cord and Plexiglas.
Naturally, the exhibit includes iconic images like Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans,
Chuck Close’s "Phil/Fingerprint,” exquisite urban landscapes by Richard Estes, Roy Lichtenstein’s Cathedral Series and Jasper Johns’ Numeral Series,
as well as works by Ed Ruscha, Kerry James Marshall, Annette Lemieux, Richard Serra, Donald Judd, Robert Motherwell, Larry Poons, Barbara Kruger, H.C. Westermann, Bruce Nauman, Glenn Ligon, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Morris, James Rosenquist, Kiki Smith, Nick Cave and many more.
Graphic Revolution, on view through Feb. 3, 2019, amply and comprehensively illustrates the amazing explosion of imagery and technology in printmaking beginning in the 1960s and continuing today.