Multiplicity features 83 works from the museum’s permanent collection by such outstanding contemporary artists as John Baldessari, John Cage, Vija Celmins, Chuck Close, R. Luke DuBois, Sol LeWitt, Brice Marden, Julie Mehretu, Martin Puryear, Susan Rothenberg, Kiki Smith, and Kara Walker. The concept of making multiple images from the same matrix has been integral to printmaking ever since the earliest prints were pulled from woodblocks and metal plates in the fifteenth century. Each impression is considered to be an original work of art.
Many of the artists in this exhibition have expanded the idea of multiplicity beyond editions of identical impressions by creating series, sequences, and images that comprise numerous parts. They explore repetition, pairing, and variations on a theme as artistic strategies. Implicit in their exploration of multiplicity is a challenge to rarity and uniqueness as determinants of value.
This exhibition brings together a selection of prints by artists for whom the concept of multiplicity in its many forms provides a touchstone for their artistic expression. These prints are the result of collaboration between the artist and professional printers who help realize the artist’s vision. They question the authority of the unique masterpiece and alter the stereotype of the artist working alone in the studio.
Nearly half of the prints included in the exhibition are recent acquisitions. Joann Moser, senior curator, selected the works for display.
Multiplicity is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with support from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Endowment Fund. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.