PM / A-D: December 1938 – January 1939. Leo Rackow 9-color silkscreen cover & 16-page feature on silk-screen printing.

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December 1938 – January 1939

Robert L. Leslie and Percy Seitlin [Editors]

Robert L. Leslie and Percy Seitlin [Editors]: PM [An Intimate Journal For Art Directors, Production Managers, and their Associates]. New York: The Composing Room/P.M. Publishing Co., Volume 4, No. 10: December-January 1938-1939. Original edition. Slim 12mo. 9-color split fountain silkscreen wraparound wrappers by Leo Rackow. 64 pp. Illustrated articles and advertisements. Wrappers lightly dusty with a spot to spine heel. A very good to near-fine copy.

5.5 x 7.75 perfect-bound digest with 57 [7] pages of articles including a stunning expose on the WPA-inspired medium of silkscreen printing as well as a profile of Suzanne Suba

Contents: Silkscreen and Its Application in Modern Display; Susanne Suba; The Weber Process; Handwriting Reform; Book Reviews; Typeface review; Editorial Notes; PM Shorts (Lester Beall, Herbert Matter , Bauhaus Exhibit - MOMA).

Susanne Suba emigrated to the United States from Hungary after World War 1. She attended Friends School in Brooklyn and majored in illustration at Pratt Institute. She moved to Chicago to begin illustrating books, many written by her husband Russell McCracken. Her first illustrated book was chosen for the AIGA Fifty Books of the Year. Her illustration work has been exhibited in the Boston Museum, the Art Director's Club, Chicago, the Art Director's Club, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum and other smaller galleries.

“Screen printing—or serigraphy, as it's called in finer art circles—has been a standard commercial process for more than a century. As a reproduction technique, it has many wonderful qualities. It requires very little in terms of equipment, and even that can be easily made by hand; it is easy to teach and to learn; and it's very well suited to very short runs of large format objects. It seems like an obvious choice when looking for ways to create prints for the public. Yet there have been at least two periods in history when screen printing was “discovered” by artists—the first was in the United States during the mid-1930s, under the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration (FAP/WPA), and the second time during the 1960s.

“Between 1935 and 1943 the FAP/WPA was the first, and so far, the last, great effort to put public funding into the arts. It was primarily designed to provide jobs for unemployed artists—at the beginning, 90 percent of the artists had to come from the relief rolls. As an important secondary impact it brought art and artists to the breadth of America. Teaching how to make art was a national priority, and printmaking was an obvious approach. However, conventional art techniques such as lithography or engraving posted pedagogical and technical challenges, and screen printing quickly emerged as a productive choice.

“The Silk Screen Unit of FAP/WPA was created in 1939 to promote public interest in this new medium. Among the major artists involved were Elizabeth Olds, Harry Gottleib and Riva Helfond. Their job was much more than to create a field of work in difficult times, but also to start a forum for proselytizing about printmaking as a tool for social democracy. Olds, an advocate for screen printing, laid out the situation thusly:

“Since Currier and Ives there has been no comparable development… The mass production capacity of these multiple original works of art in color, with their unique artistic qualities as pictures… requires a new exhibition and distribution program in order that this Democratic Art may be made available to a large audience and buying public. —From Radical Art: Printmaking and the Left in 1930s New York, by Helen Langa, University of California Press, 2004, p.221

“The 1942 technical manual Silk Screen Stenciling as a Fine Art featured a Rockwell Kent introduction that enthused about this powerful medium:

“The stencil process is an ancient one, as the authors of this book reveal. The silk-screen stencil, which is the particular subject of the book, is a modern and, it is claimed, American development of this process that is of revolutionary importance. It removes from the craft of stenciling its serious technical limitations, endows it with the freedom of the artist's brush or pencil and makes it a medium for the expression of those subtle values that distinguish what we term Fine Art from its cruder relative, commercial art. It would be of disservice to my country not, at this time, to deplore our own national neglect of our own silk-screen stencil process in this day when nationwide visual, educational propaganda is a matter of such desperate necessity.” [Lincoln Cushing via AIGA]

PM magazine was the leading voice of the U. S. Graphic Arts Industry  from its inception in 1934 to its end in 1942 (then called AD). As a publication produced by and for professionals, it spotlighted cutting-edge production technology and the highest possible quality reproduction techniques (from engraving to plates). PM and A-D also championed the Modern movement by showcasing work from the vanguard of the European Avant-Garde well before this type of work was known to a wide audience.