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New Palmer Museum Exhibition Showcases Printmaking Pioneer

by on January 18, 2018 4:30 AM

A new exhibition at the Palmer Museum of Art features the works of an American printmaking pioneer and his experimental process.

"Dox Thrash, Black Life, and the Carborundum Mezzotint" opened on Tuesday and is on display through May 20. With 47 works on loan from public and private collections, the exhibition showcases the carborundum mezzotint process developed by Thrash, a Philadelphia-based artist in the first half of the 20th century and a participant in the New Negro movement of the 1930s and 1940s.

“This exhibition sheds important light one of the great figures in the history of American printmaking, and how he used the carborundum mezzotint process, along with other media, to chronicle aspects of the African-American experience well before the dawn of the Civil Rights era,” Palmer Museum Director Erin Coe said in a release.

A World War I veteran who trained at Chicago's School of Art Institute before moving to Philadelphia, Thrash began working at the Federal Art Project’s Fine Print Workshop in 1937. There he and fellow artists began experimenting with a new approach to printmaking that came to be known as carborundum mezzotint.

"By thoroughly abrading a plate with particles of carborundum, or silicon carbide, the artists created a design on its surface by burnishing and scraping," a Palmer Museum release explained. "When inked and printed, the plate yielded an image that was remarkably rich in darks and lights. With its broad tonal range, the new process was ideally suited to the sensitive portrayals of black life for which Thrash would become known."

The exhibition at the Palmer brings together examples of the process as well as Thrash's work in other print media, watercolors and drawings, all of which draw from African-American culture.

"Thrash has long been recognized as an innovative printmaker,” said Joyce Robinson, Palmer Museum curator, “but it’s important to note that his subject matter, drawn deep from within African-American culture, played a key role in his artistic output.”

A gallery talk with Patrick McGrady, Palmer Museum of Art Charles V. Hallman Curator, who organized the exhibition will be held at 12:10 p.m. on Friday in the exhibition gallery on the museum’s first floor.

Robinson will lead a second gallery talk about the exhibition at 12:10 p.m. on Feb. 2.

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