"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.
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.
“Women have always been fighting this struggle to make themselves known, to speak some truth to a community that may not want to hear it, but they’re there. They’re there and they need to be heard.”
In a podcast with Pine|Copper|Lime, independent scholar, curator, and writer Christina Weyl discusses her upcoming exhibition with Arcadia University. Their conversation was prompted by the Feminist Art Coalition.
Weyl is a wealth of information on twentieth-century printmaking, as well as this groundbreaking studio. We learn about how World War II was the catalyst that moved the studio from France to New York, the atelier's connections to The New School and to the Surrealists, and the famous (and infamous) women who came out of it, from Miriam Schapiro to Louise Bourgeois.
Weyl also touches on the struggles of twentieth-century women artists that are especially relevant today, including the challenges of balancing work with family life, providing child care, and staying productive during a global pandemic.
The Women of Atelier 17
Yale University Press