Saturday, August 25, 2018

Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for one more week!

Pertaining to Yachts and Yachting by Charles Sheeler

Before we retired, my husband Rick and I could never get it together to attend an exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until the very last day. We were contending with huge crowds of procrastinators and we vowed that when we retired, we would make sure this didn’t happen. Unfortunately, we didn’t kick the bad habit in retirement, but we are improving and managed to get to Modern Times: American Art 1910–1950 a week before closing—something of a record for us.

Rick and I tend to approach paintings differently; he’s a formalist and likes to analyze a painting’s composition; he always points out formal features I haven’t noticed or fully appreciated. I tend to approach art as a form of story telling and Modern Times tells a compelling story. The museum catalogue describes the Modern Times exhibit as a portrait oif a changing society:

Bright lights, big country
From jazz and the jitterbug to assembly lines and skylines: the early twentieth century was a time of great social, artistic, and technological change. Artists responded with a revolutionary language of shapes and colors. See how Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Jacob Lawrence, and others challenged convention and forged bold new styles to fit the times

Work, technology, the economy, architecture, world affairs, leisure activities—all were transformed in the first half of the twentieth century. Artists of the Modern movement looked at the changing world around them and tried to capture the newness of these experiences through both the style and the subjects of their work.

Yet despite my tendency to view art as a kind of story telling, the paintings I loved the most in this exhibit were comnpelling visual images such as Pertaining to Yachts and Yachting by Charles Sheeler and Birch and Pine Tree No. 1 by Georgia O'Keeffe:

Another favorite, a compelling image that told a powerful story, is The Libraries Are Appreciated by Jacob Lawrence, part of his Harlem series, No. 28 now exhibited at The Harlem Branch Library of the New York Public Library.

The libraries were especially appreciated by African-Americans who had migrated from the South where libraries either did not exist or were segregated. As someone whose life would have been very different if not for the Philadelphia Free Library where I spent my childhood, this photo really resonated with me. In retirement I have once again become a heavy user of the Free Library.

African-American artists are well-represented in the exhibit. In addition to Jacob Lawrence, there are paintings by Horace Pippin, Claude Clark and Beaufort Delaney, including Delaney's iconic portrait of James Baldwin.

This exhibit is not to be missed!

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