Worcester Art Museum Announces Major Spring Exhibition-The Stamp of Impulse: Abstract Expressionist Prints

WORCESTER, MASS., March 6, 200l-The first in-depth examination of the influence of Abstract Expressionism on printmaking is the focus of a major exhibition organized by the Worcester Art Museum, on view April 22-June 17, 2001. The Stamp of Impulse: Abstract Expressionist Prints consists of 100 prints by as many artists, and provides a new and comprehensive survey of the diverse stylistic and technical experimentation that revolutionized American graphic arts at mid-century.

Among the 100 pioneering Abstract Expressionist printmakers represented are masters of the New York School - Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Nell Blaine, and Louise Nevelson. Artists, such as Richard Diebenkorn and Claire Falkenstein, working in Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are also represented. The exhibition also considers the work of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists Helen Frankenthaler, Cy Twombly, and Joan Mitchell, who explored the graphic arts as an original, creative medium. The prints, drawn mostly from the Museum's notable permanent collection, represent the movement's entire stylistic range, including Abstract Surrealism, biomorphism, painterly gesture, and calligraphy. Exemplifying a wide variety of printmaking media, the prints range from miniature drypoints to mural-sized screenprints.

Organized by Dr. David Acton, curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Worcester Art Museum since 1986, Acton states “Abstract Expressionism is acknowledged as the leading achievement of American art in the 20th century, but its impact on the graphic arts has never been fully examined. At a time when there was no market for the graphic arts, the artists often used the tools and procedures of printmaking to explore the process of creativity. These experimental prints were produced in just a few uncirculated impressions. In the past, these rare prints have often been dismissed as anomalous. However, seen together and in context, they reveal the transforming spirit of exploration and improvisational practice associated with Abstract Expressionism.”

Dr. Acton is the principal author of the 296-page exhibition catalogue, The Stamp of Impulse: Abstract Expressionist Prints. The catalogue features three introductory essays, 100 entries, and 109 color and 43 halftone illustrations. It also includes an essay by literary critic and historian David Lehman that examines the relationships between the visual arts and poetry of the 1950s and 1960s, as reflected in the Abstract Expressionist printmaking and the book arts. An essay by musician and composer David Amram combines a conceptual discussion of the nature of improvisation with reminiscences of the artists and their work. Period photographs of artists, many from the Museum's permanent collection, illustrate the catalogue and help bring this era to life. Dr. Acton has written extensively on old master prints and drawings. His books on American prints include A Spectrum of Innovation: Color in American Printmaking and The Hand of a Craftsman: The Woodcut Technique of Gustave Baumann.

Related Programming
The exhibition opening soiree, Driven to Abstraction, is Saturday, April 21, from 8 - 11PM. Visitors will experience America's revolutionary art movement while previewing the exhibition and listening to the sounds of jazz. A symposium, Abstract Expressionist Prints: Impressions of Intuition, will be held on Saturday, April 28, from 9:30 - 3PM, and is free and open to the public. The symposium features artists Deborah Remington and John Grillo, jazz musician and catalogue essayist David Amram, and art historian Dore Ashton, who will present first-hand experiences and perspectives about Abstract Expressionism prints and printmaking. On Sunday, May 6, at 2PM, enjoy An Afternoon with the New York School Poets. Two of America's greatest poets, John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch read their work and reminisce about a time in America when artists, writers and musicians were experimenting with creative forms. Poet and art historian David Lehman offers his perspective with a reading of work inspired by Ashbery and Koch. Two evenings of All that Art - and Jazz on Thursday, May 10 and Thursday, May 17, from 6 - 8:30PM, feature jazz music of the 1930s through the 1960s.

The Stamp of Impulse: Abstract Expressionist Prints and the accompanying catalog are organized by the Worcester Art Museum. The exhibition is sponsored by Allmerica Financial. Additional generous support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Judith Rothschild Foundation, The Richard A. Heald Fund, and the Christian A. Johnson Exhibition Endowment Fund. Media sponsors are The Worcester Phoenix, WSRS/WTAG, and Charter Communications.

Museum Background

Opened to the public in 1898, the Worcester Art Museum is the second largest art museum in New England. Its exceptional 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints and drawings is displayed in 36 galleries and spans 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Throughout its first century, the Worcester Art Museum proved itself a pioneer: the first American museum to purchase work by Claude Monet (1910) and Paul Gauguin (1921); the first museum to bring a medieval building to America (1927); a sponsor of the first major excavation at Antioch, one of the four great cities of ancient Rome (1932); the first museum to create an Art All-State program for high school artists (1987); the originator of the first exhibition of Dutch master Judith Leyster (1993); and the first museum to focus its contemporary art programs on art of the last 10 years (1998). The Museum's hours are: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-5pm, and Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission: FREE for members; Non-members: $8 Adults; $6 Seniors and full-time college students with current ID; FREE for youth 17 and under; FREE for everyone Saturday mornings 10am-noon sponsored by The TJX Companies and Massachusetts Electric Company. For more information, call (508) 799-4406 or visit the Museum at 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester.