Commentary
5:00 am
Wed February 6, 2013

Art Review: Under Pressure

The Wichita Art Museum opened a new show this past weekend. The exhibition is Under Pressure: Prints from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation. This exhibition features 40 artists from this private collection of postwar American artists.

Robert Indiana, American Dream #5, 1980. Screenprint. Collection of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation © 2012 Morgan Art Foundation/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy Wichita Art Museum.

While this is just a selection from a profound collection, Under Pressure offers audiences a chance to examine printmaking-- not as a supplemental medium to an artist's practice but as a serious pursuit on par with the mediums of painting and sculpture. Often, printmaking suffers from this underdog status. Prints are not singular, unique objects. The artist's touch is not visible as it might be in an oil-on-canvas painting.

But artists in the 1950s began to break away from these constructs. Pop art, minimalism and conceptualism challenged these perceptions by embracing printmaking as an underutilized creative and experimental medium. Under Pressure offers a wide range of work from mid-20th-century to today. The display of artwork moves between formal concerns, urban and natural environments, and social issues and identity politics.

With brightly colored walls of yellow, teal and grey, the gallery offers an energetic space to engage with these prints. At both entrances of the gallery, the wall text provides brief descriptions of the printmaking processes used in the displayed works– a smart touch that sheds light on the technical challenges of printmaking.

Under Pressure is a riveting exhibition that melts away any preconceived notions of printmaking and replaces them with a sense of awe and respect for the medium. After spending several hours in the show, I left with a renewed admiration for printmaking-- its technical demands, experimental possibilities, incredible formal qualities, and its power to address social and political issues with biting acuity. Since the show will be up until May, I suspect Under Pressure still has more to offer.