Atelier 17 in America: 1940-1955

October 26, 2010–February 20, 2011

Between 1927 and 1939, British-born Stanley William Hayter ran a printmaking studio in Paris, eventually named Atelier 17 after the street number of its final location on the rue Campagne-Première, which became known throughout Europe as a place where artists could investigate the full potential of engraving and other intaglio processes. With the advent of World War II, Hayter closed the studio and moved to New York City. There, in the fall of 1940, he reopened Atelier 17 initially under the auspices of the New School for Social Research and then as an independent workshop in Greenwich Village. Artists from all over the country were drawn to the studio, where, for nearly fifteen years, until its closure in 1955, they produced some of the most visually compelling images of the twentieth century.

By the time he settled in the United States, Hayter had been exploring certain aspects of Surrealism in his own work for several years, in particular the employ of automatism, or automatic drawing, in an effort to reveal the primal sources of myth. A number of artists who attended the New York space developed similar propensities, and the resulting imagery, often violent and psychologically penetrating abstractions, provided one of the signature expressions for the atelier. Rather than proselytizing for any single approach, though, Hayter was more interested in promoting an atmosphere of experimentation and collaboration. The prints thus produced by the workshop, despite the often disparate stylistic preferences of their authors, almost uniformly evidenced the graphic innovations—imprinted textures, heavily embossed lines (gauffrage), and multicolor plates—that likewise came to characterize the Atelier 17 aesthetic. 

Selected entirely from the Palmer Museum’s permanent collection, the prints in this exhibition demonstrate the range of imagery issued by members of Atelier 17 during its American years. The works on view include two engravings executed by Hayter during his tenure in the United States; intaglios by Mauricio Lasansky, Gabor Peterdi, André Racz, each inspired in part by Picasso’s Guernica; several virtuosic sheets by Letterio Calapai and Minna Citron, both of whom owe their forays into abstraction to their experiences with Atelier 17; and important graphic experiments by sculptor Louise Nevelson and abstract expressionist Theodore Brenson.

Organized by the Palmer Museum of Art. Curated by Patrick McGrady, Charles V. Hallman Senior Curator.