Ida Abelman, My Father Reminisces [detail], 1937, Lithograph, Allocated by the US Government, Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, 1943-4-1.
January 14 - April 2, 2023

Pressing Issues:

Printmaking as Social Justice in 1930s United States

In the midst of the Great Depression, visual artists in the United States were put to work through the relief efforts of the New Deal not only to provide a living wage but to bolster the spirits of the general public. Many used the opportunity to portray various scenes of everyday life in the United States through images of modern and rural landscapes, leisure activities, and industrial growth, while others directed their viewers’ attention to economic toil and key social issues. Pressing Issues: Printmaking as Social Justice in the 1930s United States brings together work by artists in the United States during the 1930s who, through their art, produced radical critical commentaries on the social injustices plaguing the country in their time. 

Relying primarily on rarely displayed Works Progress Administration/Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP) prints from Krannert Art Museum’s strong collection of twentieth century works on paper, the exhibition includes approximately 40 works organized into themes of labor unrest, discrimination and racial violence, and reactions to the rise of fascism. Pressing Issues is an especially timely exhibition that connects this past to the present. Given the social and economic upheaval experienced in the United States in the last decade, including the revival of fascist ideologies, continued racial violence, and the refugee crisis in America, this exhibition provides a visceral and much needed reminder of how visual artists call attention to and combat various forms of oppression. 

Pressing Issues is curated by Kathryn Koca Polite and organized by Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Sponsored in part by the International Fine Print Dealers Association, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, and the College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

See the 360-degree virtual view of this exhibition.

Riva Helfond, Custom Made, 1938, Lithograph, Museum Purchase through the Richard M. and Rosann Gelvin Noel Krannert Art Museum Fund, 2020-3-1.
Herman Volz, Scab, 1937, Lithograph, Allocated by the US Government, Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, 1943-4-452.

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