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Indepth Arts News:

"See America First: Prints by H.C. Westermann"
2001-06-28 until 2001-09-09
Smart Museum of Art
Chicago, IL, USA United States of America

The American sculptor, painter, draftsman and printmaker H.C. Westermann (1922-1981) has for more than 40 years been regarded as a central figure in American art of the postwar period. Drawing from a variety of sources, including his own horrific war experiences during his service in World War II and the Korean War, Westermanns charged and often autobiographical prints offer a personal vision of America - one that captured the disillusionment of war, the fascination with Hollywood, and the anxiety of the nuclear age.

Including approximately 90 prints, drawings, related works, woodcut blocks and ephemera, the complete graphic works of H.C. Westermann will be exhibited together and examined in depth as a coherent body for the first time in this exhibition and in its accompanying catalogue raisonné. The exhibition will graphically demonstrate both the artists working procedures in developing and executing his prints, and the meticulous craftsmanship of his final works and related materials. See America First will open Thursday, June 28, with a public reception Friday, June 29, from 5 to 7:30 pm at the University of Chicagos Smart Museum of Art. The opening reception will include a gallery talk at 5 pm, led by Smart Museum Senior Curator Richard Born and Dennis Adrian, co-curators of the exhibition. The exhibition will remain on view through September 9, and will be supplemented with a variety of related public programming including a 10-week film series, a special online teachers web site, and a full range of education programs.

The Smart Museums exhibition of H.C. Westermanns complete graphic works will coincide with a retrospective exhibition devoted to the artists sculpture at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, offering an unparalleled opportunity to compare the relationships in style, subject and theme between the prints and sculptural objects of this important postwar American artist, who came to national attention while living and working in Chicago.

Westermann has often been characterized as an American original, someone who steadfastly followed his own sensibility, unmindful of current art movements, and outside the mainstream of contemporary American art, said Smart Museum Senior Curator Richard Born. Nonetheless, many artists have acknowledged the impact of his sculpture and graphic works and the example of his life on their own work.

His 15 years of printmaking activity, from 1962 to 1977, span more than half of his mature artistic career. Four distinct periods of Westermanns graphic production will be featured in the exhibition including his first lithograph series created in 1967 at the Kansas City Art Institute; his lithograph series See America First (1968), inspired by a cross country road trip; the Six Lithographs (1972) series printed at Landfall Press in Chicago; and the portfolio of woodcuts, The Connecticut Ballroom (1975-76), which feature his signature Death Ships imagery.

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