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‘Pressing Issues’ at Krannert Art Museum shows WPA printmakers’ thoughts on social justice

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'Pressing Issues' at Krannert Art Museum shows WPA printmakers' thoughts on social justice

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Printmakers employed by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s created images that dealt with issues of labor unrest, racial violence, immigration and the rise of fascism – subjects that remain relevant today.

Among its strong collection of works on paper, Krannert Art Museum holds hundreds of WPA prints. Many of them will be on view as part of the exhibition “ Pressing Issues: Printmaking as Social Justice in 1930s United States ” that opens at the museum Oct. 3.

Curator Kathryn Koca Polite organized the exhibition in response to the upcoming election and the way these works address many similar issues the U.S. is confronting today. WPA prints often are seen as nostalgic or celebratory, but these are very different, she said.

“The exhibition is looking at the ways that artists produced critical commentaries of various social injustices plaguing the country during the 1930s – the Depression exacerbated economic inequalities, worsened working conditions and deeply affected people psychologically,” Koca Polite said. “The Coal Pickers,” by Charles Frederick Ramus, 1939. Lithograph. Allocated by the US Government, Commissioned through New Deal art projects. 1943-4-356 Guen Montgomery , a University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign art professor who has a background in printmaking, […]

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