09. March - 18. June 2017 British Museum


Wayne Thiebaud, (b.1920), Gumball Machine. Colour linocut, 1970. © Wayne Thiebaud/DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2016.
May Stevens (b. 1924), Big Daddy with Hats. Colour screenprint, 1971. © May Stevens. Reproduced by permission of the artist and Mary Ryan Gallery, New York
Edward Ruscha (b. 1937), Standard Station. Colour screenprint, 1966. The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence. © Ed Ruscha. Reproduced by permission of the artist.
Willie Cole (b. 1955), Stowage, Woodcut on Japanese paper, 1997. © Willie Cole. Reproduced by permission of the artist courtesy of Alexander and Bonin Publishing, New York
Andy Warholl, Vote McGovern, Colour screenprint, 1972. © 2016 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London.

Pop to the present

Sponsored by Morgan Stanley and supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art 'The American Dream: pop to the present' explores the creativity of a medium that flourished through some of the most dynamic and turbulent years in US history and that accompanied a period when its wealth, power and cultural influence had never been greater.

The exhibition will include important loans from institutions such as New York's Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC as well as works drawn from the British Museum’s extensive collection of prints.

Using more than 200 works by 70 artists, the exhibition traces the creative momentum of American art over the past six decades – from the moment pop art burst onto the New York and West Coast scenes in the early 1960s, through the rise of minimalism, conceptual art and photorealism in the 1970s, to the practices of living artists working today.

Many of America’s greatest artists will feature, including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg,Ed Ruscha, Chuck Close, Louise Bourgeois, Kara Walker and Andy Warhol, all of whom engaged with printmaking to create some of the most enduring images of recent years.

The exhibition explores the innovative techniques and unprecedented scale, boldness and ambition that made American printmaking an ideal expression of the USA’s power and influence, as well as how the medium addressed contemporary social issues such as race, AIDS, and feminism.

Large prints designed to be seen en masse, such as Warhol’s 'Marilyn', the minimalist linear inflections of the sculptor Donald Juddor, the monumental woodcut 'Stowage' by the African American Willie Cole on the legacy of slavery, will be shown alongside those on a smaller, more intimate scale, including artist'’ books by Ed Ruscha, Ida Applebroog and others.

Some American artists made prints that related closely to their work in other media, and this crossover will be shown in works such as Andy Warhol’s 'Little Electric Chair' painting alongside 'Campbells Soup Cans', his series of ten screen prints of the same subject and Claes Oldenburg's sculpture of the 'Three-Way Plug' juxtaposed with his 'Floating Three-Way Plug' etching.

A revolutionary and enduring change in the production, marketing and consumption of prints took place in the 1960s. Inspired by the monumental, bold and eye-catching imagery of post-war America, a young generation of artists took to printmaking with enthusiasm, putting it on an equal footing with painting and sculpture, matching their size, bright colour and impact.

American prints provide a vivid and varied commentary on a period of great change for US society. The creative momentum unleashed in the 1960s persists to this day as American artists continue to explore the vital and expressive potential of printmaking as an integral part of their aesthetic, with its ability to reach a broader audience and address wider social and political issues.

The UK’s first major exhibition to chart modern and contemporary American printmaking is held from 9 March until 18 June 2017 at the British Museum in London.

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