America’s Cool Modernism: O’Keeffe to Hopper

Ashmolean Museum
23 March-22 July 2018

Charles Demuth, I saw the Figure 5 in Gold, 1928


The Ashmolean will present a major exhibition of works by American artists that have never before travelled outside the USA. America’s Cool Modernism: O’Keeffe to Hopper, will show over eighty paintings, photographs and prints, and the first American avant-garde film, Manhatta, from international collections.



COOL MODERNISM examines famous painters and photographers of the 1920s and ’30s with early works by Georgia O’Keeffe; photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand and Edward Weston; and cityscapes by Edward Hopper. It also displays the pioneers of modern American art whose work is less well-known in the UK, particularly Charles Demuth(1883-1935) and Charles Sheeler (1883-1965). On Show will be major pieces by the so-called precisionist artists. These include Demuth’s I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928, from the Met), the original Robert Hughes descried as the ‘one picture so famous that practically every American who looks at art knows it.’ Made in 1928 and dedicated to the poet William Carlos Williams, the Figure 5, was one of a series of symbolist ‘poster-portraits’ which Demuth made of friends and fellow artists. The painting evokes new style of advertising that were multiplying in American cities in the 1920s.

Another important loan is Sheeler’s Americana (1931, from the Met) which has never been lent outside the USA. The painting shows a traditional American domestic scene with Shaker furniture and folk objects arranged in a near abstract composition. The Shaker furniture actually originated from the Shaker religion in 18 century England and its furniture is famous and wide-spread in America because it’s based on the idea of ‘form followed function’ which served the America’s dream well at that time. It is interesting to see what Dr. Katherine Bourguignon (curator  from Terra Foundation for American Art and exhibition) also comments : These artists were actively seeking to create art that could be seen as authentically ‘American’.

The exhibition also looks at a interwar American art that is relatively unknown. The familiar story of America in the ‘Roaring Twenties’ is that of The Great Gatsby, the Harlem Renaissance and the Machine Age; Edward Hooper’s Manhattan Bridge Loop (1928) has a gloomy atmosphere with a tiny, solitary pedestrian whose walking pace is at odds with the bridge’s traffic. This exhibition interestingly focuses on the word ‘Cool’ and selectively chosen the artists who is working on the idea of presenting America with a cool, controlled detachment altogether. Works by Jacob Lawrence from his ‘Migration’ series, which is otherwise full of characters, are notable for the absence of people. The express the harsh experience of African Americans travelling north in the hope of a better life, yet what they found was often more frightening than promising. The exhibition in a way remind the audience to revalue the time of ‘Cool’ America, and to reconsider what has been happening in today’s America society.




展覽通過考察20世紀20到30年代藝術家格魯吉亞·奧基芙的早期作品和其他著名畫家、攝影師作品,到藝術家愛德華·霍珀的城市景觀,試圖重新將美國內戰時期的藝術作品帶回進世人的目光中,當時的藝術家在質疑這個有著翻天覆地變化的現代社會,而如今的我們何嘗不 是在幻想著未來科技社會。展覽還展示了許多現代美國藝術的先驅藝術家,儘管他們的作品在英國並不出名,尤其是查爾斯·德米特(Charles Demuth,1883-1935)查爾斯·希勒 (Charles Sheeler,1883-1965)。藝術家德米特的作品《我看到了黃金的符號5》(1928年,來自大都會),羅伯特·休斯將它描述為“這是一幅非常有名的作品,幾乎每個學過藝術的美國人都知道它。” 這幅畫同時也是根據他的的詩人朋友威廉·卡洛斯·威廉姆斯所創作的(在雨中/在燈光裡/在紅色的消防車上/我看到了金色的數字5 )。

另一件重要的作品來自藝術家希勒的《美國人》(1931,來自大都會),之前也從未在美國之外的地方展示過。這幅畫展示了一個傳統的美國家庭場景,其中的“震顫派”家具和日常用品以接近抽象的構圖排列。 “震顫派”家具實際上起源於18世紀英國的“震顫教”,它的家具實用主義文化在美國是很有名且廣泛傳播的,因為它基於當時為美國夢服務的“形式追隨功能”的理念。凱瑟琳·布吉尼翁博士(Terra美國藝術與展覽基金會策展人)還評論道:這些藝術家正在積極尋求並創造可以被視為正宗’美國’的藝術。



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