Proto-Feminism in the Print Studio: Spruance Gallery, Arcadia University

September 1 - December 4, 2022 Exhibitions

Guest curator: Christina Weyl

During the 1940s and 1950s, hundreds of American women artists gravitated toward making prints, partly because the medium provided forms of access and agency not as readily available within painting and sculpture. Working in a range of styles, they studied at various print studios—including independent outfits and university classrooms—and exhibited their work in the era’s countless print annuals. At a time when women struggled against structural sexism to earn solo exhibitions at top-tier galleries, these group print shows offered women artists a rare opportunity to garner critical notice. Women’s participation in the midcentury printmaking community also had significant collective impact. Through these networks, women met others with professional ambitions, compared notes about their struggles, and formed a sense of solidarity as marginalized members of the art community. In this way, women’s involvement with printmaking at midcentury fostered a range of proto-feminist attitudes and practices, such as collaboration, network building, and collegial support. Proto-Feminism in the Print Studio centers primarily around the women artists who were members of Atelier 17, the avant-garde printmaking studio located in New York City between 1940 and 1955. Featuring artists—well known and un(der)known—such as Minna Citron, Worden Day, Jean Francksen, Alice Trumbull Mason, Louise Nevelson, and Miriam Schapiro, the exhibition draws on visual and archival material to suggest how these women made technical advances within the graphic arts while simultaneously contributing to the growth of feminist networks and practices of collective action and collaboration.