SLAM Takes a Hard Look at Abstract Art in Printmaking

    “Printing Abstraction” at the Saint Louis Art Museum examines works produced in the last six decades in Europe and the United States. Works from artists such as Anni Albers, Marcel Duchamp, Carmen Colangelo, and Ad Reinhardt demonstrate how artists have pushed the boundaries on what it means to create art. Housed in the Sidney S. and Sadie M. Cohen Gallery off the main hall, the free exhibition breaks abstract printmaking down into categories which compare and contrast approaches.

    Crisp and clean in presentation, hard-edge approaches uses shapes, colors, and structures to focus on the art work itself as the object of focus rather than as a representation of something else. Compositions tend to be linear with simple color patterns and sharp and definite transitions between colored areas.

    Op art consists of dizzying patterns, clashing colors, and images designed around perceptual psychology and visual science to create optical illusions.

    With black and white patterns, artists crafted their images in such a way as to create tension between the foreground and background in order to make the image seem to move or to create an after-image once the viewer looks away. Color-based op art uses contrasting colors as another element to trick the eye and create a sense of depth, or false three-dimensional space. Some artists, such as Marcel Duchamp, incorporated kinetic movement into their op art pieces.

    Often regarded as a reaction to abstract expressionism in the mid-20th century, pop art uses elements from advertising and mass media as found images within compositions. In the works on display, artists took pop art and hard-edged abstract approaches and blended them together.

    The last section within the exhibition looks at how some artists used abstract methods to examine how people think, feel, and react to ambient conditions within their environment. Artists translate their own immersive experiences into images where architecture and light play key roles.

    Through using these different strategies which developed together across the past sixty years to explore reductive and non-representative art as reflected in printmaking, “Printing Abstraction” beautifully compliments SLAM’s main exhibition, “Graphic Revolution: American Prints 1960 to Now.”

    The show will run through March 31, 2019. For more information, go to