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CFP: Expanding Modernism: Printmaking in America, 1940-1960

Experimental prints made in America during the 1940s and 1950s do not fit neatly into studies of postwar art or the history twentieth-century printmaking. This period of printmaking activity is often overlooked as a “messy” aberration, bracketed between the graphic arts workshops of the Work Progress Administration and the collaborative printmaking studios opened in the 1960s, such as Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Gemini G.E.L., and Universal Limited Art Editions. Made in the two decades preceding the Print Council of America’s standard-setting publication What is an Original Print? (1961), these midcentury prints also do not conform to today’s guidelines for printed editions: impressions are often unique and part of unnumbered editions of unknown quantities.

Despite midcentury prints becoming peripheral to the mainstream history of postwar modernism, artists explored printmaking with zeal and enthusiasm. Their prints traversed the United States and the globe in the postwar decades, evangelizing unfettered modernist expression and American democracy. The government recognized this diplomatic potential, and the United States Information Agency (founded 1953) amassed a collection of more than 1,600 prints to hang in American embassies around the world.

This session welcomes a broad range of papers that will open scholarly inquiry into this understudied period of printmaking in America. Case studies could focus on artists (both Americans and international artists working in America), known and under-known communal or academic printmaking workshops, the midcentury print market and collecting activities of curators and individuals, and exhibitions of prints in the United States or abroad.

Please submit an abstract by August 30 to Christina Weyl (

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