Although I was saddened by the departure of the James Castle exhibition from the newish Prints and Drawings galleries (124-127), the Prints and Drawings curators have now installed the space with Modern in America: Works on Paper, 1900–1950s, an exhibition of modern works from the department’s collection. The exhibition is a visually rich complement to the Art Institute’s new catalogue, American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago: From World War I to 1955, prepared by the Department of American Art.
Martha Tedeschi, the Prints and Drawings curator who organized the exhibition, was kind enough to walk me through the galleries and discuss how she selected and arranged the works. Whenever possible, she chose prints and drawings featured in the American Modernism catalogue, such as Rufino Tamayo’s 1943 work The Fruit Vendor, pictured above. She then looked for other notable works by artists in the catalogue. Finally, the exhibition was completed by choosing a broad range of works that played off of other works in visually and/or historically interesting ways.
The resulting exhibition is a series of visually compelling and playful juxtapositions that explore modern ideas and techniques developed in America during the first half of the 20th Century. The intent, Martha explained, was to highlight how America served as a great melting pot, where Americans and foreign-born artists discovered and evolved many different approaches to creating modern art. For example, one room contains works by African-American artists who studied with Mexican muralists, alongside works by such muralists. Another room shows how the homegrown American medium, watercolor, was adapted to modern times. Among the other groups of works are a great set of works by George Bellows of boxers and dancers (in an insane asylum); a wall of “street walkers” by artists such as Edward Hopper and Charles Demuth, including the Hopper watercolor pictured above; a gallery of abstract works that fall into the category of classic Modernism; and a wall of black-and-white lithographs with almost-supernatural images of nature, including the John Steuart Curry print pictured below.
Also on view is a collection of working drawings and studies done by Peter Blume for his masterpiece, The Rock, the copyright status of which I previously wrote about here. One such study, a collage, is pictured below. Martha told me that the selection on view is only “the tip of the iceberg” in the museum’s collection. They reflect Blume’s very deliberate and obsessive process as he worked on The Rock over a period of years.
There is a lot to see in this exhibition and I’ve only touched upon the tip of the iceberg myself, so come and see for yourself before it closes April 4th. And don’t forget that February is free admission.
Rufino Tamayo. The Fruit Vendor, 1943. Bequest of Elizabeth F. Chapman.
Edward Hopper. Streetwalker, 1906/07. Olivia Shaler Swan Memorial Collection.
John Steuart Curry. John Brown, 1939. Restricted gift of Bryan S. Reid, Jr.
Peter Blume. Study for The Rock, 1943/48. Gift of Peter Blume.
1 hour 36 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT 1922: A lush display at the Art Institute for the exhibition Woman's Farm and Garden Association: Landscape and Garden Design.
18 hours 34 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago COMING SOON—Provoke: Photography in Japan between Protest and Performance, 1960–75
The short-lived Tokyo magazine Provoke is now recognized as a major achievement in world photography of the last 50 years. A major international traveling show, which has Chicago as its only North American venue, this exhibition is the first survey of postwar Japanese art to be organized at the Art Institute and draws heavily on the the museum’s collection—more than 60% of the over 200 items on display belong to the Art Institute.
OPENING JANUARY 28—http://bit.ly/2jMlnUx
21 hours 46 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW ON VIEW—The Italian–born American artist Josef Stella revisited his native Italy in 1922, where he became fascinated by Renaissance painting. Drawing inspiration from Sandro Botticelli, Stella began to produce decorative, detailed, symbolic compositions, such as A Vision (seen here). Stella was enthralled by the tropical plants he observed at the Bronx Botanical Garden in New York, and he imagined an iconic woman growing out of the earth like the towering flowers on either side of her.
The French–born American artist Gaston Lachaise found his own iconic inspiration for the sculpture, Woman (Elevation), in Isabel Dutaud Nagle, whom he later married, telling her, “I want to create a miracle with it… as great as you.” This sculpture represents Lachaise’s first full-scale expression of the idealized female form that would come to dominate his art. Modernists like Lachaise believed preclassical art possessed a primitive vitality absent from later art forms.
See Josef Stella’s A Vision (1925/26) and Gaston Lachaise’s Woman (Elevation) (1912–15; cast 1927)—on view in Gallery 271.