The Stamp of Impulse: Abstract Expressionist Prints
August 4 through October 13, 2002

Opening Reception and Talk with David Acton Saturday, August 3, 5 pm to 7 pm

The Stamp of Impulse is a remarkable exhibition of 100 Abstract Expressionist prints by as many artists that provides a new and comprehensive survey of the diverse stylistic and technical experimentation that revolutionized American graphic arts at mid-century.

Organized by David Acton, Ph.D., Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs of the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, the exhibition will also include 15 paintings by artists who have, or had, homes on Eastern Long Island.

The Stamp of Impulse investigates an important period of art history - the immediate post-Word War II era - and includes works by artists living throughout the United States: in New York State and California, the Midwest and the South. Among the pioneering Abstract Expressionist printmakers represented are masters of the New York School - Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Nell Blaine, and Louise Nevelson. Works by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Elaine de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, Adolph Gottlieb, Philip Guston, Grace Hartigan, Franz Kline, Lee Krasner, Robert Motherwell, Richard Pousette-Dart, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, and Cy Twombly will also be on view.

The prints, drawn mostly from the Worcester Art Museum's permanent collection, characterize the movement's entire stylistic range, including Abstract Surrealism, biomorphism, painterly gesture, and calligraphy. Exemplifying a wide variety of printmaking media, the works range from miniature drypoints to mural-sized screenprints.

"Abstract Expressionism," notes Dr. Acton "is acknowledged as the leading achievement of American art in the Twentieth century, but its impact on the graphic arts has never been fully examined. At a time when there was no market for the graphic arts, the artists often used the tools and procedures of printmaking to explore the process of creativity. These experimental prints were produced in just a few uncirculated impressions. In the past, these rare prints have often been dismissed as anomalous. However, seen together and in context, they reveal the transforming spirit of exploration and improvisational practice associated with Abstract Expressionism."

A 296-page exhibition catalogue, which accompanies the exhibition, features three introductory essays, 100 entries, and 109 color and 43 halftone illustrations. It also includes an essay by literary critic and historian David Lehman that examines the relationships between the visual arts and poetry of the 1950s and 1960s, as reflected in the Abstract Expressionist printmaking and the book arts. Period photographs of artists bring this era to life. Dr. Acton has written extensively on old master prints and drawings. His books on American prints include A Spectrum of Innovation: Color in American Printmaking and The Hand of a Craftsman: The Woodcut Technique of Gustave Baumann.

The presentation of The Stamp of Impulse has been made possible, in part, through generous support from the Herman Goldman Foundation.