WASHINGTON—Pressing Ideas: Fifty Years of Women’s Lithographs from Tamarind brings together extraordinary works of art by women who, over the past 50 years, have helped re-energize and re-organize the artistic medium of lithography. Featuring 75 original prints by 42 artists, Pressing Ideas celebrates the diversity, innovation and collaborative nature of lithography. The exhibition is on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts June 17, 2011, through October 2, 2011.
The Tamarind Institute, founded by artist June Wayne in 1960, has revived the art of lithography, which had lain dormant (particularly in the United States) for decades. Challenged to work outside their preferred mediums, artists work collaboratively with master printers during their stay at the Institute. Most artists invited to Tamarind have been well established in their careers such as, Elaine de Kooning, Louise Nevelson, Margo Humphrey, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and Kiki Smith (all featured in Pressing Ideas), but some, such as Fay Ku, are rising stars in the art world and all come to Tamarind to experiment in lithography.
The Taiwanese-born artist Fay Ku’s print, Sea Change, is a one-color print that employs a flowing line reminiscent of calligraphy to depict a fairytale in which a woman transforms from a fish to a bird to a human. Utilizing many different drawing tools to create varying textures, Ku demonstrates one of the many paths artists can choose when delving into the world of printmaking.
Another such path is taken by Margo Humphrey in her piece The Last Bar-B-Que. This print draws both from Old Master depictions of the Last Supper and Humphrey’s own viewpoint as an African American. The combination of these two inspirations resulted in a work that is, all at once, comical, personal and thought provoking. This lithograph in particular is exceptionally colorful, and with a complex composition, took three years to develop.
One gallery in the exhibition celebrates the shared mythological tradition of the “trickster”, common to the peoples of Botswana and of the pueblos of New Mexico. In 1990, Tamarind brought together four San artists from Botswana and four Native American artists from New Mexico to create lithographs inspired by this shared mythology.
Tamarind director Marjorie Devon describes projects such as this one as opportunities to “mesh artistic and social goals that enrich the institute’s other activities by bringing diverse populations into the fold of lithography and sharing new perspectives with our respective communities.” This international collaboration resulted in 16 lithographs illustrating parallel narratives and traditions from cultures geographically worlds apart.
The works on Pressing Ideas encompass the broad range of visual expression that artists can achieve through lithography. It is striking how different each piece is from the others surrounding it. From simple monochromatic prints to multi-colored and from the abstract to the realistic, the diversity of identity, vision and subject presented by the artists exemplifies the mission of the Tamarind Institute: to challenge and test the boundaries of creativity and lithography.
The University of New Mexico Art Museum houses and maintains the Tamarind Archive, a collection which contains multiple impressions from nearly every print pulled in Tamarind’s 50 year history.
Pressing Ideas: Fifty Years of Women’s Lithographs from Tamarind is organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts and is generously supported by the Members of NMWA.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), founded in 1981 and opened in 1987, is the only museum solely dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in the visual, performing and literary arts. The museum’s permanent collection features 4,000 works from the 16th century to the present created by more than 800 artists; including Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Alma Thomas, Lee Krasner, Louise Bourgeois, and Chakaia Booker along with special collections of 18th-century silver tableware and botanical prints. NMWA is located at 1250 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., in a landmark building near the White House. It is open Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday, noon–5 p.m. For information, call 202-783-5000 or visit www.nmwa.org. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for visitors 65 and over and students, and free for NMWA Members and youth 18 and under.