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Contact: Ruta Smithson (609) 258-3763
January 18, 2000

Large format prints of the 1960s and 1970s at Princeton University Art Museum

Exhibition Dates: January 18 through April 2, 2000

PRINCETON -- "Transfer," an exhibition of large format prints of the 1960s and 1970s, will be on view at The Art Museum, Princeton University, through April 2, 2000. Acting Museum Director Peter C. Bunnell, David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art, organized the exhibition with Hal Foster, professor of art and archaeology, Princeton University.

"The 1960s and 1970s were the golden age of postwar printmaking in the United States," notes Professor Foster in his introduction to the exhibition. "An expanded market existed for artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, who had emerged in the mid-to-late 1950s, as well as for younger artists like Andy Warhol and Frank Stella, who had emerged in the early ’60s -- all splashily. In part, this market was peopled by a new kind of Pop collector, who might not be able to afford the paintings of these artists quickly adopted by the museums, but who could rise to prints, the bigger the better, which, like some on view here, were often related to painting originals."

Another reason for this boom was the prominence of master printers and print studios such as Tatyana Grosman and Gemini G.E.L., where adventurous printers like Rauschenberg could explore new techniques and restrained printers like Johns could test similar ideas in different mediums.

Yet this great run of printmaking would not have happened if an artistic shift that almost favored the print had not also occurred -- a "transfer" not only in generational sensibility but in the very conception of what a picture could be, indeed, what an artist could be. Above all, the Abstract Expressionists of the 1950s valued the immediacy of the painterly mark as expressive of the presence, the authenticity, of the self, and this meant painting first and last, according to Professor Foster. This was not the case for Johns, Rauschenberg, Warhol, and others in this exhibition. The print served these different artistic personalities equally well.

But what exactly is this "transfer" of the picture that almost favored the print, that allowed its techniques to enter painting, almost to colonize it in the greatest works of Johns, Rauschenberg, and Warhol? The critic Leo Steinberg said it best in his essay "Other Criteria." Beyond the old model of the image as a window, which was vestigial in much abstraction, "these pictures no longer simulate vertical fields, but opaque flatbed horizontals. . . . The flatbed picture plane makes its symbolic allusion to hard surfaces such as tabletops, studio floors, charts, bulletin boards -- any receptor surface on which objects are scattered, on which data is entered, on which information may be received, printed, impressed -- whether coherently or in confusion." For Steinberg, this "tilt of the picture plane from vertical to horizontal" inaugurated a radical shift, a "shift from nature to culture," as the basic frame of reference for postwar art. There is no better definition of the transfer from modernist art to postmodernist art as well, and we can see some of its impressions in the prints in this exhibition, writes Professor Foster.

The Art Museum is open to the public without charge. Free highlights tours of the collection are given every Saturday at 2 p.m. The Museum is open

Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. It is closed on Monday and major holidays. The Museum Shop closes at 5 p.m.

The Museum is located in the middle of the Princeton University campus. Picasso’s large sculpture Head of a Woman stands in front. For further information, please call (609) 258-3788.