Over the course of its forty-year history, the Bronx Museum has drawn together a significant collection of prints and graphic-art works, guided by its mission to give visibility to artists of African, Asian, and Latin American descent. For these artists, the print medium has been an invaluable tool for channeling their aesthetic and political concerns. Due to its mass reproducibility, economy, ease of distribution, and collaborative character, printmaking has long been considered a vehicle for social agency and has played a major role in politically mobilizing different communities and constituencies.
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century and continuing in the present day, artists have joined together as collectives, guided by the desire to promote social change and taking advantage of the collaborative nature of the medium. Historical works in the museum’s collection, such as those of the Mexican Taller de Gráfica Popular, revisit such utopian aspirations and their influence on different socially-engaged graphic workshops around the world. The circulation and reproductive capabilities of graphic art have been instrumental for artists working under or exposing situations of political turmoil and repression. The pedagogical and empowering value of printmaking is highlighted by the selection of works by members of the Rorke’s Drift school of Johannesburg, who came together and gained a voice as an important artistic community of black artists during the apartheid years. The aesthetic and political import of these historical collectives is underscored by the work of contemporary artists, like Tim Rollins & K.O.S., whose practices go beyond the medium of graphic art, approaching printmaking as a way of revisiting the historical junction between art and politics.
Beyond considerations specific to printmaking, this display reflects the underlying thematic narratives in the museum’s collection and its cross-cultural undertakings while reaffirming its commitment to the print medium.