Serigraphy (silk-screen printing or screen printing) is a 20th Century printmaking technique that was developed in America. It was introduced as a fine art technique with an exhibition of serigraphs at the New York World's Fair in 1939.
Seri comes from the Latin work for silk and graphein, from the Greek, means to write or draw. The origin of screen-printing may have been in Japan, where artist made large, delicate paper cuttings in which the elements were joined and held together by human hair. The hairs served as stencil ties without interfering with the printmaking process.
In its simplest form, screen-printing involves forcing ink through a stencil that is embedded or securely attached to a silk or synthetic mesh screen. The screen is tightly stretched on a wooden or metal frame. Viscous ink is squeegee through the screen depositing the ink on the paper under the frame. A separate screen is used for each color and selected parts of the stencil can be blocked out, if desired, during the reprinting. Wet prints are usually hung to dry. In the 1930's and 1940's artists used the touche-washout method. This involved painting directly on the top surface of the screen fabric with a grease crayon or touche. Once the image is drawn, the screen is elevated and a water based glue solution is pulled evenly across the fabric. When this solution dries, the grease marks on the fabric are removed leaving the image areas of the fabric open for painting. It is interesting to note that according to Velonis these depression era artists used fabric remnants for mesh, literally “anything they could get their hands on!” They used paint from the hardware store in lieu of today's fine art inks.
Today many artists use photographic techniques to make stencils directly on the screen. Artists such as Warhol, Albers, Motherwell, Stella, and Rauschenberg have all worked in Serigraphy.