Over the past few years, curators at the Cleveland Museum of Art have been actively building the holdings of prints by a diverse and international range of women working today. These exciting new additions to the collection will be on view for the first time in Women in Print: Recent Acquisitions.
Although printmaking has existed for hundreds of years, techniques such as lithography and etching were often considered too physically demanding for women to pursue professionally. This changed over the past half century with the founding of numerous printshops—such as Atelier 17 in New York and the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in New Mexico—that encouraged women’s participation. They trained a generation of printmakers and made the medium accessible in a new way to female artists by providing technical training and access to master printers who could help translate their ideas using complex processes.
Women in Print features works by artists who frequently experiment with printmaking, such as Ethiopian-born Julie Mehretu. The artist’s Hymn (Behind the Sun), from Six Bardos, a recent partial gift from Stephen Dull, uses expressive layers of grainy aquatint to create an immersive experience for the viewer, drawing from wall paintings that Mehretu encountered on a trip to China.
Others included in the exhibition are exploring printmaking for the first time—for example, Amy Sherald, who became well known for creating former First Lady Michelle Obama’s official portrait. Handsome, Sherald’s first print, uses her distinctive style—intended, in her words, to show “Black people just being people”—to portray a dancer from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with a casual pose and assertive gaze.
Working with an array of techniques over the past several decades, Mehretu and Sherald are just two of more than 20 artists in Women in Print who have used the medium to investigate topics as expansive as personal identity, social issues, and even the creative process itself. The exhibition celebrates their work and their important place within the museum’s holdings.