Though the history of poster print art dates back hundreds of years, early 20th century print was denigrated as a medium reserved for advertising and commerce. One of the latest exhibits at the Bellevue Arts Museum displays the medium’s ascent as a respectable art form following World War II.
“Under Pressure: Contemporary Prints from the Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation” has been culled from a collection of more than 8,000 postwar prints from the Oregon tycoon’s collection. It is the second Bellevue Arts Museum exhibit to borrow from the Schnitzer collection, said Stefano Catalani, the museum’s director of art, craft & design. The exhibit was curated on a short timetable by the museum’s new curator of craft, Jenny Milliken.
Printmaking was able to gain traction due to its adoption by established painters, primarily Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Helen Frankenthaler, Milliken said.
In the early 1960s, Rauschenberg began experimenting with the silk screening process. As part of a new wave in Dadaism, he was already known for incorporating found objects into his paintings. Silkscreening allowed him to reproduce photographs onto canvas.
Print methods’ popularity spread among fine artists. Rauschenberg’s friend and contemporary, Johns, was fond of lithography. Frankenthaler, meanwhile, used woodcuts to create some of her abstract expressionist paintings.
“Andy Warhol should be credited with keeping the medium alive during the contemporary period,” Milliken said.
Warhol, of course, used printmaking techniques for some of his most famous pop art contributions, including the Marilyn Prints and “32 Campbell’s Soup Cans.” His 1983 screenprint “Perrier” is included in the BAM’s exhibit.
Other notable additions to the exhibit range from the quirky (Mark Bennett’s blueprint of Bruce Wayne’s mansion) to the meticulous (Chuck Close’s “Self-Portrait,” made out of Kandinsky circles) to the documentary (Roy Lichtenstein’s “Bull Profile Series,” depicting the animal through various stages of abstraction to document the trajectory of the trend in art).
“You can see (in Chuck Close’s ‘Self-Portrait’) the work that can go into a print,” Milliken said. “Close has said he can spend a few months on a painting, but a print can take up to two years. The work’s really about the process.”
“Under Pressure” will run through Oct. 12.