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TO JUNE 28
If Robert Blackburn had worked primarily by himself, he might be known as a solid but unremarkable artist. The earliest piece in this exhibition1936’s Man With Load, done when Blackburn was 16is a conventional struggling-proletariat drawing, and the Harlem-raised artist’s later work includes such congenial but derivative prints as 1950’s blocky, colorful Girl in Red (pictured) and 1960’s abstract Color Symphony. But Blackburn was drawn to collaboration, and not just with such longtime friends as Will Barnet and Jacob Lawrence, who are both represented in the show. The Printmaking Workshop, which Blackburn founded in 1948, became one of the world’s premier fine-art printshops. Blackburn served as teacher and mentor to artists from diverse traditions, as well as printmaker for such stars as Robert Rauschenberg and Helen Frankenthalerwho turned to prints after Pop clobbered abstract expressionism’s snobbery toward the mechanical reproduction of images. The approximately 60 pieces in this exhibition (all from the Library of Congress’ holdings) suggest calligraphy and fabric design (William T. Williams’ richly textured, untitled intaglio print) and African and Caribbean folk art (Margo Humphrey’s Only the Gods Survive), but Blackburn didn’t just encourage artists whose work somewhat resembles his own. There are also things such as Russian duo Scherer & Ouporov’s Death Portrait-Suzanne and Pavel, a near-neoclassical diptych, and other Workshoppers use antique photo processes or create the art-world equivalent of pop-up books. The show includes many tributes to Blackburn, but the diversity and quality of the prints are the most important. The exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Saturday, to Saturday, June 28, at the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free. (202) 707-4604. (Mark Jenkins)