Friday, January 26, 2018

Dox Thrash, Black Life, and the Carborundum Mezzotint

The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802

January 16th - May 20th, 2018

Dox Thrash, "Saturday Night," c. 1944-45, etching. Courtesy of Dolan/Maxwell, Philadelphia.
Dox Thrash, Saturday Night, c. 1944-45, etching. Courtesy of Dolan/Maxwell.
Philadelphia-based artist Dox Thrash (1893–1965) was both a pioneering printmaker and a noted participant in the “New Negro” movement of the 1930s and ’40s. A veteran of World War I as well as the minstrel stage, he trained at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before making his way to Philadelphia, where he ultimately forged a career as both a painter and a graphic artist.

Dox Thrash, Cabin with a Star in the Window, c. 1944–45, carborundum mezzotint, proof reworked in ink. Private collection, image courtesy of Dolan/Maxwell.
Image: Penn State

In 1937, Thrash signed on for employment with the Federal Art Project’s Fine Print Workshop. There, while working with fellow artists Hugh Mesibov and Michael Gallagher, he began to experiment with a new approach to intaglio printmaking, which today is known as the carborundum mezzotint process. With its broad tonal range, the new process was ideally suited to the sensitive portrayals of Black life for which Thrash would become known.
Dox Thrash, "Life," c. 1938–39, carborundum mezzotint, 10 7/8 x 8 13/16 inches.
Image: Dox Thrash / Courtesy of Dolan/Maxwell
Dox Thrash, Black Life, and the Carborundum Mezzotint brings together numerous examples of the experimental process by Thrash and other colleagues working in the Fine Print Workshop. Also on view are works by Thrash in other print mediums, as well as watercolors and drawings, all of which powerfully document the artist’s intimate, invested engagement with African American culture in the middle decades of the twentieth century.
Dox Thrash, "Defense Worker", c. Carborundum mezzotint over etched guidelines