9 March – 18 June 2017
Land of the free.
Home of the brave…
Trace 60 years of a superpower in this major new exhibition.
The past six decades have been among the most dynamic and turbulent in US history, from JFK’s assassination, Apollo 11 and Vietnam to the AIDS crisis, racism and gender politics. Responding to the changing times, American artists have produced prints unprecedented in their scale and ambition.
Starting with the explosion of pop art in the 1960s, the exhibition includes works by the most celebrated American artists. From Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg to Ed Ruscha, Kara Walker and Julie Mehretu – all boldly experimented with printmaking. Experience this extraordinary history through their eyes.
Taking inspiration from the world around them – billboard advertising, global politics, Hollywood and household objects – American artists created highly original prints to rival their paintings and sculptures. Printmaking brought their work to a much wider and more diverse audience.
The sheer inventiveness and technical ingenuity of their prints reflects America’s power and influence during this period. Many of these works also address the deep divisions in society that continue to resonate with us today – there are as many American dreams as there are Americans.
This exhibition presents the Museum’s outstanding collection of modern and contemporary American prints for the first time. These will be shown with important works from museums and private collections around the world.
British Museum director Hartwig Fischer said that “as a new president enters the White House and another chapter of U.S. history begins, it feels like an apposite moment to consider how artists have reflected America as a nation over 50 tumultuous years.”
Drawing on the museum’s own collection and loans from New York’s Museum of Modern Art and other galleries, the show begins in the 1960s, when artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns began experimenting with printmaking. A process that allows for easy reproduction, printmaking was perfectly suited to an era of mass media, mass production, mass consumerism and the threat of mass destruction.
Co-curator Catherine Daunt said Tuesday that the exhibition’s title “reflects the sense of opportunity and creativity and the new technologies that were being used in the 1960s, this real burst of creativity that came about in the visual arts.”
While some of that creativity reflected American opportunity and prosperity, “we also have artists questioning the American dream.”