CLEVELAND, November 17, 2022: Whether used for visual communication or creative expression, photographic images created in printer’s ink have increasingly saturated our daily lives since the invention of photography. Photographs in Ink, the newest exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA), explores the proliferation of printed photographic images and how artists have responded to this phenomenon. Organized by guest curator Benjamin Levy, Photographs in Ink opens Sunday, November 20, and is on view through Sunday, April 2, 2023, in the Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz Photography Galleries.
Told through historical and contemporary works of art, Photographs in Ink presents two intertwined narratives: the use of photomechanical processes—the umbrella term for techniques that are part printmaking and part photography—to widely disseminate images and their adoption by fine artists as content and aesthetic choice. Since the invention of the medium of photography, the majority of published photographs have been printed through photomechanical processes rather than produced in the darkroom or digitally.
“We are delighted to present this collaboration with Benjamin Levy, respected art historian, curator, writer and doctoral candidate in the joint art history program between Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Art,” said Barbara Tannenbaum, chair of prints, drawings and photographs and curator of photography at the CMA. “Visitors to this exhibition will experience his passion for storytelling and his engaging viewpoint on the merging of photography and printmaking. The exhibition presents a unique opportunity to see recent acquisitions, rarely seen works from the museum’s holdings and books on loan from several local collections.” The works on view range from the 1850s through the early 2000s.
In the 19th century, new technologies combined with photography to enable visualization of the world beyond the limits of human sight. The earliest examples in the exhibition showcase this with scientific photography. Images taken with microscopes, telescopes and X-rays were able to be disseminated and shared. Photomechanical images quickly began appearing across disciplines, from scientific books and journals to magazines, newspapers and advertising.
“My inspiration for this exhibition dates back to elementary school,” said Levy. “Viewing a newspaper image through a magnifying glass, I was fascinated to learn that photographs all around us are made of systems of dots, lines or grids, distinct underlying visual fingerprints. When printed, these minute textures and patterns come together in viewers’ eyes and brains to form the photographic image.”
Beyond the images’ use for visual communication, artists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were drawn to photomechanical techniques for creative expression. As visitors progress throughout the exhibition, they will notice how artists in the second half of the 20th century explored the aesthetics of photomechanical techniques and used them to comment on the mass media.
Andy Warhol famously utilized the halftone, a method employing differently sized dots. Warhol used the halftone’s association with commercial printing to comment on the relationship between the image of a celebrity like Elizabeth Taylor, popular culture and fine art. One of his most famous works, Liz, is on display in Photographs in Ink. Other noteworthy pieces in the exhibition include works by Eadweard J. Muybridge, Alfred Stieglitz, Sigmar Polke, Carl Pope Jr. and Lorna Simpson.
“Although tools of mass media have transformed over the years, contemporary artists continue to return to photochemical techniques,” said Levy. “I hope visitors will appreciate the history, significance and transformative nature of these images, including the effect they had on everyday life.”
All exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are underwritten by the CMA Fund for Exhibitions. Principal annual support is provided by Michael Frank in memory of Patricia Snyder. Major annual support is provided by the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Generous annual support is provided by an anonymous supporter, the late Dick Blum and Harriet Warm, Cynthia and Dale Brogan, Dr. Ben and Julia Brouhard, Brenda and Marshall Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Walter R. Chapman Jr., Richard and Dian Disantis, the Jeffery Wallace Ellis Trust in memory of Lloyd H. Ellis Jr., Leigh and Andy Fabens, the Sam J. Frankino Foundation, Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn, Carl T. Jagatich, Cathy Lincoln, Eva and Rudolf Linnebach, William S. and Margaret F. Lipscomb, Bill and Joyce Litzler, Carl and Lu Anne Morrison, Tim O’Brien and Breck Platner, Henry Ott-Hansen, Michael and Cindy Resch, Margaret and Loyal Wilson, and Claudia C. Woods and David A. Osage.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is funded in part by residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.
This exhibition is supported in part by the Ohio Arts Council, which receives support from the State of Ohio and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The CDC updated its guidelines regarding the need to wear face coverings in public settings for protection against COVID-19. Visitors may choose to wear a mask at any time. Masks may be required by local or state authorities based on the COVID-19 community levels in Cuyahoga County
The CMA’s current hours of operation are Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays. Updated hours will be announced as decided. Visit cma.org to stay up to date on this information.
About the Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland Museum of Art is renowned for the quality and breadth of its collection, which includes more than 63,000 artworks and spans 6,000 years of achievement in the arts. The museum is a significant international forum for exhibitions, scholarship and performing arts and is a leader in digital innovations. One of the top comprehensive art museums in the nation, recognized for its award-winning Open Access program and free of charge to all, the Cleveland Museum of Art is located in the University Circle neighborhood.
The museum is supported in part by residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture and made possible in part by the Ohio Arts Council (OAC), which receives support from the State of Ohio and the National Endowment for the Arts. The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically. For more information about the museum and its holdings, programs and events, call 888-CMA-0033 or visit cma.org.