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Three people stand talking by tables covered with art prints.
Mel Hardy, Rashad Ali Muhammad, and Juanita Hardy discussing In Unison artworks during Professor Mel Hardy’s The Role of the Arts in Peace Culture Transformation George Mason University class in the Library’s Prints & Photographs Division. Photo by Katherine Blood, 2023.

Pluralist Printmaking: The In Unison Portfolio

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The following is a guest post by Katherine Blood, Curator of Fine Prints, Prints & Photographs Division.

The famously democratic art of printmaking is a perfect medium for experimentation and innovation, creative collaborations, and the fluid sharing of ideas among artists and audiences. All of these qualities shine brightly in the artist print portfolio called: In Unison: 20 Washington, DC Artists. The Library of Congress was recently honored to become the first public institution to acquire this remarkable portfolio, published by the Millennium Arts Salon in 2010-2011. Its creation story has many great connections to the Washington, D.C., art world, and beyond. The portfolio’s concept was the brainchild of the late artist Sam Gilliam, resulting in a special suite of prints by artists of diverse ages, races, ethnicities, and genders, working in a wide range of styles and visual languages–all coming together in celebration of how art mutually connects and enriches us.

The Millennium Arts Salon (now approaching its 25th anniversary) was founded by art collectors and experts Juanita and Mel Hardy with a commitment to “advancing cultural literacy” through art and cultural programming, which includes salon talks, exhibitions, tours, and special events at such venues as the Library of Congress, The Phillips Collection, The DC Arts Center, The Driskell Center at the University of Maryland College Park, George Mason University, the Brandywine Workshop, and others. To commemorate their 10th anniversary, Gilliam suggested inviting a handful of established D.C. area artists to create a suite of monoprints. The number of participating artists quickly grew, and the Library’s portfolio features a splendid array of twenty artworks on paper by: Akili Ron Anderson, Sondra N. Arkin, Billy Colbert, Paula Crawford, Sheila Crider, Edgar Endress, Helen Frederick, Claudia Aziza Gibson-Hunter, Susan Goldman, Tom Green, Bill Harris, Joseph Holston, Martha Jackson-Jarvis, Walter Kravitz, E.J. Montgomery, Michael Platt and Carol Beane, Al Smith, Renée Stout, Patricia Underwood, and Yuriko Yamaguchi.

In the words of Juanita Hardy: “[The project] provided an early example of the value of diversity and inclusion, a much-discussed topic in these times, over a decade later. The artists worked “in unison” in the print studio at George Mason University. They shared, learned, and grew from the creativity of each other and the collective prowess of the group.” The longstanding practice of inclusive collecting at the Library of Congress means that this acquisition deepened our representation of work by nearly half the In Unison artists while bringing first-time representation of the other artists—an ideal opportunity to build on collection strengths while also filling important gaps.

The arrival of In Unison also brought a new infusion of monoprints, a special category of printmaking that results in unique impressions and a relative rarity in our collection of some 60,000 artist fine prints dating from the 15th century forward. The In Unison artists and artworks fit well with the Library’s Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, Hand Print Workshop International, Lily Press, Navigation Press, and Pyramid Atlantic collections in the Prints and Photographs Division as well as the artist books by Dandelion Black Women Artists in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

We invite you to enjoy In Unison artworks either in our reading room or online. The titles of several prints represent the variety of emotions and experiences you can encounter: “Afro Wii,” “Armored,” “Celebration,” “Charred,” “Spirit Bones,” “Sunshine Boogaloo,” and “Web Desire.”

Colorful monoprint of a kneeling girl accentuated with paint swirls. Text is printed near her hands.
Midnight Skies #2. Monoprint by Michael B. Platt, with poem by Carol A. Beane on cotton lawn and paper, 2010. Reproduced by permission. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.87138
Colorful lithograph of stenciled letters intermingled with abstract designs.
Afro Wii #5. Gum Arabic lithography, stenciling, linoleum printing, stamping, and acrylic by Claudia Aziza Gibson-Hunter, 2010. Reproduced by permission. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.87130
Colorful monotype of three similar arms pointing in alternating directions.
Armored. Oil-based monotype and artist-made paper and digitally printed chine collé by Helen C. Frederick, 2010. Reproduced by permission. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.87129
Colorful monotype of a female figure holding snakes with a small human figure seated on her lap, below which are the words Mami Wata.
Mami Wata. Oil-based monotype with mixed media by Renée Stout, 2010. Reproduced by permission. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.87140
Colorful monoprint of abstract shapes and paint effects.
Spirit Bones V. Monoprint and chine collé by Martha Jackson-Jarvis, 2010. Reproduced by permission. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.87135
Monotype of a light-colored spider web with interspersed texture effects on a dark background.
Web/Desire #6. Oil-based monotype by Yuriko Yamaguchi, 2010. Reproduced by permission. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.87142

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Comments

  1. Superlative. Honored to be a part of the LOC’s collection.

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