60 years of a superpower

Tuesday, 2nd May 2017

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Ed Ruscha, Standard Station. Screenprint, 1966. MoMA, New York/Scala, Florence. © Ed Ruscha. Reproduced by permission of the artist

THE past six decades have been among the most dynamic and turbulent in US history, from JFK’s assassination, Apollo 11 and Vietnam to the Aids crisis, racism and gender politics.

Responding to the changing times, American artists produced prints unprecedented in their scale and ambition.

Starting with the explosion of pop art in the 1960s, the exhibition includes works by the most celebrated American artists. From Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg to Ed Ruscha, Kara Walker and Julie Mehretu – all boldly experimented with printmaking. The American Dream: Pop to the Present, currently at the British Museum, is an opportunity to experience this extraordinary history through their eyes.

Emma Amos, Stars and Stripes. Colour monotype and photo laser transfer, 1995. © Emma Amos. Reproduced by permission of the artist

Taking inspiration from the world around them – billboard advertising, global politics, Hollywood and household objects – American artists created highly original prints to rival their paintings and sculptures. Printmaking brought their work to a much wider and more diverse audience.

The sheer inventiveness and technical ingenuity of their prints reflects America’s power and influence during this period.

Many of these works also address the deep divisions in society that continue to resonate with us today – there are as many American dreams as there are Americans.

Claes Oldenburg, Profile Airflow. Moulded polyurethane relief over lithograph, 1969. MoMA, New York/Scala, Florence. © Claes Oldenburg. Reproduced by permission of the artist

This exhibition presents the British Museum’s outstanding collection of modern and contemporary American prints for the first time. They are shown with important works from museums and private collections around the world.

The American Dream: Pop to the Present runs until June 18 at the British Museum, Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG. Open Monday-Thursday 10am-5.30pm, Friday 10am-8.30pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5.30pm. £16.50, children under 16 free, 020 7323 8181, www.britishmuseum.org
Sponsored by Morgan Stanley
Supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art

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