Art Thats Good Enough to Eat; A Londoner in New York: Hackney-Born Stanley William Hayter Moved to the US during the Second World War So His Cinq Personnages Is Featured in the British Museums American Prints Display

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

Art Thats Good Enough to Eat; A Londoner in New York: Hackney-Born Stanley William Hayter Moved to the US during the Second World War So His Cinq Personnages Is Featured in the British Museums American Prints Display


ART historians often talk about the tactile qualities of art but this superlative exhibition of 147 American prints, culled from the British Museums virtually infinite collection, shows that great art can also seem edible.

I went through the show feeling as though I was dining out on the delicious inky blacks of lithographs of 1910s Manhattan streets, the crunchy grain of wood-cuts of skyscrapers and the coulis of soft mists in Shelby Shakelfords innovative wax prints of Afro-American lives in the Deep South.

As that list suggests, this show is full of surprises. It displays a long list of artists whom most of us have never heard of, including a number of brilliant black print-makers, while also including the little-known prints of household names such as the Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock, the colourful American Cubist Stuart Davis, the Surrealist Louise Bourgeois and the lonely-per-sonsitting-in-empty-room-maestro Edward Hopper.

The overbearing Seventies wood veneer of the British Museums print room faded into the back-ground, as the exhibition per-suaded me that modern art, usually described as the history of colour and form, is equally the story of texture and line.

Its a historical as well as sensu-ous experience. The exhibition multi-tasks like a one-man band, the left foot kicking the bass drum of American social history. …

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