The big guy in Charles Turzak's woodcut print "Man With Drill" hunches over his machine, bores into a city street and releases a blast of shock waves. His entire body reverberates as the skyscrapers behind him turn into accordions. The sinewy dancers in Miguel Covarrubias' lithograph "The Lindy Hop" look like human corkscrews in perpetual, passionate motion. The farmers in Bernard Steffen's color screen print "Haying" pitch great clouds of yellow grain with the force of a tornado.
Energy is part of the point of "Pressed in Time: American Prints 1905-1950," opening Saturday at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. To be sure, there are other kinds of images -- some quietly disturbing ones, even some sweet ones. The tiny man on a deserted street in Edward Hopper's vertiginous etching "Night Shadows" is a speck of loneliness in a big city. The young ladies in John Sloan's etching "Fun, One Cent" are gleefully scandalized by popping pennies into machines that deliver fortunes or naughty pictures.
But the show of 163 works by 82 artists is intended to reflect a half-century of rapid change and intense social awareness in America -- and a dynamic period in the history of printmaking. Many artists who had established themselves as painters, such as George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton and Childe Hassam, used their skills to portray American landscapes and social scenes in bold prints.
The exhibition, at the Boone Gallery through Jan. 6, also celebrates two huge promised gifts to the Huntington. A donation of about 400 prints by Sloan from Los Angeles collectors Gary, Brenda and Harrison Ruttenberg is represented by 17 works. A gift of about 300 prints by 100 artists from San Marino collector Hannah S. Kully debuts with 117 examples.
The Ruttenbergs' gift makes the Huntington a leading center for the study of Sloan's work, says Jessica Todd Smith, curator of American art. The Kully collection, she says, emphasizes quality and includes some of the most striking prints made in the first half of the 20th century.
-- Suzanne Muchnic