Conrad Botes. Secret Language II. 2005. Lithograph, composition: 17 11/16 × 14 15/16″ (45 × 38 cm). Publisher and printer: The Artists’ Press, White River, South Africa Edition: 30. The Museum of Modern Art. General Print Fund. © 2011 Conrad Botes

During the oppressive years of apartheid rule in South Africa, not all artists had access to the same opportunities. But far from quashing creativity, these limited options gave rise to a host of alternatives—including studios, print workshops, art centers, schools, publications, and theaters open to all races; underground poster workshops and collectives; and commercial galleries that supported the work of black artists—that made the art world a progressive environment for social change. Printmaking, with its flexible formats, portability, relative affordability, and collaborative environment, was a catalyst in the exchange of ideas and the articulation of political resistance.

Drawn entirely from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now features nearly 80 posters, books, and wall stencils created over the last five decades that demonstrate the exceptional reach, range, and impact of printmaking during and after a period of enormous political upheaval. From the earliest print in the exhibition, made in 1965 (the Museum’s first acquisition of work by a South African artist), to printed posters from the height of the antiapartheid movement in the 1980s, to projects by a younger generation that reflect new and evolving artistic concerns, these works are striking examples of printed art as a tool for social and artistic expression. Featured artists include Bitterkomix, Kudzanai Chiurai, Sandile Goje, William Kentridge, Senzeni Marasela, John Muafangejo, Cameron Platter, Claudette Schreuders, and Sue Williamson.

Organized by Judith B. Hecker, Assistant Curator, Department of Prints and Illustrated Books.

The exhibition is made possible by The Coca-Cola Company.

Additional support is provided by Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley and by Marnie S. Pillsbury.

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