Associated American Artists: Prints for the People
APR 6 – AUG 18, 2019
The Associated American Artists (AAA) revolutionized modern print collecting in the period following the Great Depression. Founded by Reeves Lewenthal in 1934, the AAA aimed to provide affordable fine works of art to the middle and upper classes across the United States. Publishing limited print editions of 250 to be sold for $5 apiece (roughly $88 today), the AAA brought prints to the people through mail-order campaigns, department store sales, and eventually a traveling-exhibition program. Lewenthal controlled which artists and subjects were published under the AAA name, focusing on themes that represented the “American Scene.” Rejecting European modernism and abstraction, Lewenthal selected American Regionalist and Social Realist works that explored the communities and lifestyles of everyday people, as well as prominent social concerns of the 1930s and 40s’.
While the AAA gained notoriety for publishing popular artists like Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and John Steuart Curry, Associated American Artists extends its reach to prints by lesser-known artists, foreign artists working in America, and Latin American printmakers. The labor and leisure of farm life, industrial life pre- and post-war, and family dynamics of the time all permeated the works of AAA artists and are showcased in this exhibition.
Organized by the Portland Art Museum and curated by Chyna Bounds, Research Assistant for Prints and Drawings. This exhibition is supported in part by the Vivian and Gordon Gilkey Endowment for Graphic Arts and the Exhibition Series Sponsors.