Click here to download a review written for the Modern Dialect exhibition at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville.
Find portions of other writings below, as well as links to download PDF files.
Modern Dialect: American Paintings from the John and Susan Horseman Collection
“Modern Dialect: American Paintings from the John and Susan Horseman Collection,” an exhibition currently on display at the Cummer Museum and of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida, is a rich and truthful illustration of the American voice in the early to mid-1900s. From early cubist influence to almost folk-like pictures of Indiana farm life in the 1940s, Modern Dialect speaks of the varied perspective of America. The exhibition, which consists of 58 works organized by the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee, is on display from October, 19th 2013 until January 5th, 2014. Modern Dialect features an elaborate display of works by more than 40 artists that characterize the celebration of a changing America and the adoption of a new aesthetic that concentrated less on narrative and more on emotion and the use of bold color and form. From cubist to surrealist influences, this exhibition, specifically located in The Minerva and Raymond K. Mason Gallery, tells an evocative story about both the struggle and the celebration of being an American in the early to mid-twentieth century. Modern Dialect is a must-see, including works from well-known artists like Charles Sheeler, George Ault and Clarence Carter, but also introducing spell-binding work by lesser known painters such as Lois Mable Head and Reginald Marsh.
No matter your view of American history, Modern Dialect captivates with its dynamic tale of the American experience that begins with the adoption of cubism in American landscape painting and then moves into moody precisionist work by Raphael Gleitsmann. “House at Sunset, Medina County, Ohio,” from 1941, depicts a lonely and detached home that sits against a melancholy, orange sky at dusk. The train tracks and telephone pole in the foreground of the picture seem to neglect the home they stand in front of, offering no connection to the outside world. Light shines from a single upstairs window, providing the only clue that anyone inhabits this solitary house. Patches of blue snow in the grass contradict the warm sky that envelopes the home, creating a stark silhouette of its Victorian steeples. Glietsmann’s temperament, foreshadowed by the trials of World War II and the Great Depression, influenced his gloomy portrayal of rural and industrial scenes around his home town of Akron, Ohio. Despite the technological advances of the 1940s, many Americans felt alienated and afraid. Raphael Glietsmann’s House at Sunset voices concerns that still resonate with viewers more than 70 years after the painting’s creation.
Modern Dialect moves from rural Ohio to bustling New York City, presenting “Mad Men of Europe,” a watercolor on paper painting by Reginald Marsh. This captivating picture offers a candid glimpse into 1940s life in Manhattan. Featuring a movie ticket booth and determined passers-by, Mad Men of Europe is a dynamic scene. Two women in 40s couture stroll by in the foreground of the painting, chatting veraciously, eager to make it to their destination. They pay no mind to the movie tickets that sell for a mere ten cents, and only one woman steps up to the booth to claim her ticket to the show. There are many busy New Yorkers reading news billboards or speedily walking past, however, one curious man engages the viewer, standing in a relaxed pose with one hand in his pocket and the other holding a cigarette. The gestural quality of this watercolor accurately depicts the movement and energy of the scene, while signage in the background provides a hint of the times. One sign reads “Babies for Sale: Adoption Racket Revealed. Infants Sold Over the Counter for Cash!” Yet another sign reads “Mad Men of Europe: England Invaded by Parachute Troops.” Reginald Marsh provides an engaging story of life in The City with his loose brush work, use of muted color and keen eye for the human figure.
The exhibition continues with vintage films of the 1934 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the bread lines of the Great Depression, revealing the diversity of the American experience. Sandwiched between the Depression and an impending World War, the 30s left Americans in search of an escape. “Thanksgiving Day Parade,” by Lloyd Lozes Goff, from 1938, portrays the joy and camaraderie people were thirsty for. With its use of soft and whimsical colors, this painting offers a childlike view of New York, detailing enormous floats juxtaposed against the city skyline. The Empire State Building, which was just 3 years old at this time, shows in the distance and invites the eye on a journey along with the parade. Goff’s Thanksgiving Day Parade celebrates the return to innocence amidst the confusion of a changing American fabric.
Lois Mabel Head, on the other hand, exposes the seedier side of American life. “Factory Town,” an oil on panel painting from 1940 to 1944, tells a provocative story of a sultry prostitute who scorns two men who decline her services. This nocturnal depiction of Pittsburgh city life features a woman in red in the foreground who glares at two potential customers as they stroll carelessly past her, engaging in their own discussion. Her salt-and-pepper hair offers a strange contradiction to her young face and curvaceous figure. This expressively painted work of art shows less concern with accurate perspective, and pays more attention to wistful brush strokes, rounded forms, bold color and display of emotion. Factory Town was featured in Aimee Cranes and Bennard de Voto’s 1945 “Portrait of America” as a full color illustration and is Lois Mabel Head’s most well-known painting.
Among all of the work featured in Modern Dialect, no painting sparks as much curiosity as “Wheat Field,” an oil on Masonite painting by John Rogers Cox, from 1943. This piece displays apparent contributions to surrealism and offers an almost ironic, humorous take on its potentially mundane subject matter - farm life in Indiana. Cox represents his home town of Terra Haute through the depiction of a vast, wavy sea of grain overshadowed by a singular, almost cartoon-like cloud that sits at the direct center of the sky. A tiny, red brick farm house stands in the far distance, to the left of the large cloud. This painting attracts a curious gaze and invites pondering questions as to why Cox made the artistic decisions shown in the piece. Wheat Field is a unique and unexpected addition to Modern Dialect and divulges the multi-faceted American aesthetic of the 1940s. Scene painter John Rogers Cox, originally a banker, was first director of the Sheldon Swope Art Gallery in Terre Haute, where he acquisitioned works by greats such as Grant Wood, Edward Hopper and Thomas Hart Benton. His paintings of lush farm land are some of the best representations of Magic Realism and are an integral part of the Modern Dialect exhibition.
The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens currently hosts a collection of paintings that intrigue even the non-museum goer with their tale of American life. This exhibition narrates an important era in the development of America and features works with strong European influences from cubism to surrealism, but also credits American-born styles like precisionism and magic realism. Modern Dialect is a true representation of the diverse aesthetic of the American artist in the early to mid-twentieth century. This exhibition offers a candid glance into the concerns of a people under the turmoil of an economic depression and an impending world war and it is an absolute must-see for anyone interested in the development of a true modern aesthetic.
This is a portion of a research paper written during my graduate art history course.
Picasso’s painting, Guernica, from 1937, exemplifies the devastation of war and illuminates the grief of the Basque Capital City, Guernica upon its attack by Nazi war planes during the Spanish Civil War. This Pablo Picasso masterpiece is one the most well-known pieces of Anti-War Protest Art and even in 1981, eight years after Picasso’s death, Guernica raised dangerous protest and still ignites voices of anger and dispute against war and its devastating effects on innocent people. This paper will reveal the visceral emotion that Picasso’s Guernica is representative of and will provide an illuminating history of the devastation in Guernica on April 27, 1937, the rich history and opposition of the painting itself through the years and will speak of the ability of Anti-War Protest Art to immortalize the effects of war.
Picasso believed “painting is not meant to decorate apartments. It is an instrument for the offensive and defensive war on the enemy,”1 and his home town’s entrance into civil war in the late 1930s further ignited his political stance. Prior to Guernica and his home town’s entrance into civil war, Picasso was propositioned by the Spanish Republican Government to create a large-scale work that would hang in the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris International Exhibition. Although Picasso accepted the invitation to paint the mural-sized piece, he only began creation upon the news that his home town, the Basque Capital City, Guernica, had been raided by bombs at its busiest market hour, either killing or injuring almost all of the city’s 7,000 people. For more than 3 hours, at least 25 of Germany’s bombers riddled the city in systematic waves of high-explosive bombs. The planes went back and forth until the city was a hill of unrecognizable ashes, and individuals caught running for their lives were struck by machine gun fire.
Jenny Saville: Un-beauty
This was a research paper written for my graduate art history course.
No subject has been rendered as many times or in as many ways as the human figure. From ancient Greek ideals to fragmented cubist interpretations, the human body has inspired artistic expression for thousands of years. Painting the figure is an integral part in the development of an artist’s skill and many representations of the female form, in particular, are romanticized and praised. There is one artist, however, who ignores the framework of the body and focuses on its fleshy exterior, challenging media-enforced ideals of beauty. Well known British painter, Jenny Saville, blazes a trail with her awe-inspiring and often controversial representations of the modern female body. This paper will discuss Saville’s acclaim in the subject of figure painting and address her role in defining the modern landscape of the human body.