American Modern

Talking on Skype with a friend today, he told me about a great show he saw recently in New York, American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe at MoMA until January 26, 2014.

Apart from having two of my favourite American painters in the title, the works in the show include photographs by some of my favourite American photographers, including Stieglitz and Evans and much else.

As it says on the MoMA page:

American Modern takes a fresh look at the Museum’s holdings of American art made between 1915 and 1950, and considers the cultural preoccupations of a rapidly changing American society in the first half of the 20th century. Including paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculptures, American Modern brings together some of the Museum’s most celebrated masterworks, contextualizing them across mediums and amid lesser-seen but revelatory works by artists who expressed compelling emotional and visual tendencies of the time.

The selection of works depicts subjects as diverse as urban and rural landscapes, scenes of industry, still-life compositions, and portraiture, and is organized thematically, with visual connections trumping strict chronology. Artists represented include George Bellows, Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, Alfred Stieglitz, and Andrew Wyeth, among many others.

Well, personally I could well have done without Wyeth’s contribution; Christina’s World to me is retch-making kitsch, but my friend actually likes it. Had we been on Facebook I might have felt bound to unfriend him, but in the real world I’m a little more tolerant of the aesthetically misguided. But the web site that accompanies the show is also commendable, with images of 118  of the exhibits.  You can also see them in several orders, of which I recommend by date, and you can scroll through the images in order with details and comments which you may chose to read or ignore.

Although there were many familiar images – that white fence, those peppers and more – there were also some that were new to me, and some even by artists I’d not heard of.

You can also download a generous sample PDF of the related publication American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe by Esther Adler and Kathy Curry, which includes the introduction as well as including some images not on the web site. It looks a very attractive volume, and one which gives due weight to photography, and finding it available at my favourite online book site for under £19 including p/p completely undermined my resolution that we just haven’t space at home for any more books.

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