'At the Dawn of a New Age: Early Twentieth-Century American Modernism' Offers a Broad Perspective at The Whitney

  • May 05, 2022 17:36

  • Email
Marguerite Zorach, Landscape with Figures, c. 1913. Gouache and watercolor on silk, 11 1/2 × 18 in. (29.2 × 45.7 cm. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Mary and Garrett Moran T.2022.201

Opening this weekend, At the Dawn of a New Age: Early Twentieth-Century American Modernism, an exhibition of over sixty works by more than forty-five artists that highlights the complexity of American art produced between 1900 and 1930, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

The exhibition showcases how American artists responded to the realities of a rapidly modernizing period through an array of abstract styles and media. At the Dawn of a New Age features artworks drawn primarily from the Whitney’s collection, including new acquisitions and works that have not been on view at the museum for decades. The exhibition provides a broader perspective on early twentieth-century American modernism by including well-known artists like Marsden Hartley, Oscar Bluemner, Elie Nadelman, Charles Burchfield, Aaron Douglas, and Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as groundbreaking, historically overlooked artists like Henrietta Shore, Charles Duncan, Yun Gee, Manierre Dawson, Blanche Lazzell, Ben Benn, Isami Doi, and Albert Bloch.

Advertisement

At the Dawn of a New Age: Early Twentieth-Century American Modernism is organized by Whitney Curator Barbara Haskell and is on view from May 7, 2022, to March 2023.

America’s early modernists came of age in a period marked by change and innovation. The onset of the twentieth century saw technological advancements combined with cultural shifts, including women’s suffrage and progressive political initiatives, that challenged existing social and economic norms. Against this backdrop of optimism in progress and modernity, many American artists embraced the new and experimental over the traditional and fixed by rejecting realism in favor of art that prioritized emotional experience and harmonious design.

Oscar Bluemner, ‘Space Motive, a New Jersey Valley’ (1913-14). Whitney Museum of American Art

“In the Whitney’s early days, the Museum favored realism over abstract styles,” said Curator Barbara Haskell. “It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that the Museum expanded its focus and began acquiring nonrepresentational works from the period. Gaps remain, but the Museum’s holdings of early twentieth-century modernism now rank among the collection’s strengths. By bringing together familiar icons, works that have been in storage for decades, and new acquisitions, At the Dawn of a New Age gives us an opportunity to reassess how we tell the story of this period of American art and celebrate its complexity and spirit of innovation.”

“At the Dawn of a New Age provides an opportunity to reconsider and expand interpretations of American modernism in the early 1900s through the unique lens of the Whitney’s collection,” said Jane Panetta, the Whitney’s Nancy and Fred Poses Curator and Director of the Collection.

“This show presents an exciting moment for us to feature new acquisitions from pioneering artists of that time, some of whom recently entered the Whitney’s collection for the first time. We’re thrilled to bring these works into the collection as we begin to address how the Whitney can continue to build upon our important holdings from this period.” 

Pamela Colman Smith, The Wave, 1903. Watercolor, brush and ink, and graphite pencil on paper, 10 1/4 × 17 3/4 in. (26 × 45.1 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Mrs. Sidney N. Heller 60.42

At the Dawn of a New Age features paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, photographs, and woodcuts, revealing the variety of styles and media that artists used to express their experiences of modern life. Early explorations from well-known modernists, such as Georgia O’Keeffe’s Music, Pink and Blue No. 2 (1918) and Marsden Hartley’s Forms Abstracted (1914), are presented alongside works by previously overlooked figures, in particular women and artists of color, that are critical to expanding the Museum’s representation of this period. From the flat, stylized geometries of Aaron Douglas and Isami Doi to the simplified organic abstractions of Henrietta Shore and Agnes Pelton and the Symbolist landscapes of Pamela Colman Smith and Albert Bloch, the artists featured in the exhibition channeled vanguard European art styles into a distinctly American brand of modernism.

Florine Stettheimer, ‘Sun’ (1931). Whitney Museum of American Art

The exhibition presents a host of works on view for the first time in decades, including Albert Bloch’s expressionist landscape Mountain (1916), Yun Gee’s Chinatown cityscape Street Scene (1926), and Walter Pach’s Cubist tableau Untitled (Cubist Still Life),1914. Recent acquisitions featured in At the Dawn of a New Age include Isami Doi’s scenic linocut Moonlight (1924); Adele Watson’s coastal outcropping Untitled (Mountain Island Monk), 1931; Henrietta Shore’s nature abstraction Trail of Life (1923); and Aaron Douglas’s suite of Emperor Jones woodcuts. These works demonstrate the innovation and experimentation of early twentieth-century modernism and emphasize the capacity of abstraction to reflect individual responses to the changing period and the collective, groundbreaking spirit of the age.  

Tags: american art

  • Email

More News Feed Headlines

Parthenon Sculptures at British Museum

Greece and UK to Talk About Parthenon Marbles in Formal Dialogue

  • ArtfixDaily / May 19th, 2022

Greece and the UK have agreed to formally discuss the contested Parthenon marbles, UNESCO announced this week. ...

Read More...
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé

Rare Mercedes Zooms to Record-Setting $142 Million at Secret Auction

  • CNBC / May 19th, 2022

A rare Mercedes-Benz race car sold for $142 million on May 5, securing its place as the most expensive car ever ...

Read More...
Enrique Chagoya, American (born Mexico), born 1953; “Illegal Alien's Guide to Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, 2010; lithograph with chine colle; sheet: 24 5/8 x 40 3/4 inches, image (variable): 23 1/2 x 39 1/2 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Ted L.  and Maryanne Ellison Simmons

Simmons Collection of Postwar American Prints Spotlighted at Saint Louis Art Museum

  • ArtfixDaily / May 19th, 2022

The Saint Louis Art Museum next month will open “Catching the Moment: Contemporary Art from the Ted L. and ...

Read More...
A carved and painted carousel horse.

Schwenke Thirteenth Anniversary Auction Features Multiple Estates, Over 700 Unreserved Lots Selling Sunday, May 22nd

  • ArtfixDaily / May 18th, 2022

On Sunday, May 22nd Schwenke Auctioneers will auction a diverse group of over 700 lots consigned from 49 separate ...

Read More...
Skinner - Fine Art at Auction

ARTFIXdaily Artwire