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This article by Nicole Plett was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on August 18, 1999. All rights reserved.
Whitney’s Big Draw: American Century
Most of us would recognize Grant Wood’s 1930 painting,
"American Gothic," but could we talk about the times when
it was created? How about Alfred Stieglitz’s 1907 photograph, "The
Steerage" — What was life like back then? What lifestyle does
Florine Stettheimer’s 1921 "Spring Sale at Bendel’s" reflect?
What was happening in America? What kind of music was current? What
did people do for fun?
Such questions are readily answered at New York’s Whitney Museum of
American Art, where a walk through the first 50 years of "The
American Century: Art and Culture 1900-1950," curated by Barbara
Haskell, serves as a thrilling walk through history. Part I runs through
August 22 and is not to be missed.
"The American Century" will surprise, humble, and educate
you. Most of all, it will make you very proud. Starting on the museum’s
fifth level, four floors and a mezzanine are taken up with this multi-media
look back at America. The Whitney notes that "more than 1,200
paintings, sculptures, photos, and prints, supplemented by related
materials in architecture, music, dance, literature, film, and the
decorative arts," are involved in this exhibition. But let the
impact of a day’s walk-through convince you that this is "required
visiting" — and a prerequisite to Part II, the century’s second
50 years, opening in late September.
Photographic images of the Depression and Dustbowl will stir you,
and film clips of Charlie Chaplin spoofing technology in "Modern
Times" will amuse you. You will get a patriotic jolt from World
War II documentary film clips. Here, you can watch Fred Astaire and
Ginger Rogers, in tux and frothy dress, dancing on three big screens
(still not enough); there, it’s Duke Ellington’s Cotton Club Band,
live again on film. D.W. Griffith, Valentino, Fairbanks, Bogart —
the litany of now-classic film names and images highlights a half-century.
Even as you move from floor to floor, you will hear American music
in the stairwell by George Gershwin.
And, of course, you will see the art the times made possible and that
in turn reflected the times: turn-of-the-century society matrons and
Thomas Eakins’ portrait of Louis N. Kenton, "The Thinker;"
Edward Hopper’s mysterious scenes; and Georgia O’Keeffe’s New York
urban vistas to Jackson Pollock’s "Number 27" — with countless
icons and treasures in between. Mixed among these landmarks on the
50-year time line: Tiffany glassware, examples of design and architecture
(from furniture to the aerodynamic vacuum cleaner, and homes designed
by Frank Lloyd Wright), dioramas of stage settings, displays of movie
posters and sheet music covers. And old-time telephones you can pick
up to hear music of the times.
Plan a day for "The American Century." Sure, it’s likely to
be hot and humid in New York right now. And terribly crowded, too,
even on weekdays, with summer vacationers and tourists. But it’s the
only time left for you to see, hear, and thrill to it. Don’t wait
until Part II — that would be like seeing only the second half
of a great movie.
— Pat Summers
Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue, New York. Part II, 1950-2000,
September 26 to January 23, 2000. Not just one, but two, Web sites
tell all about it: www.whitney.org, and www.artmuseum.net.
For those unable or unwilling to brave the crush of
another New York City blockbuster show, a single room of the New Jersey
State Museum currently offers a small oasis of esthetic pleasure.
"The Modernists," the first integrated showing of gems from
the museum’s permanent collection in over three years, opened last
month on the second floor, where it remains on view through January
23. The show is a tribute, of sorts, to the Hoboken-born Alfred Stieglitz
who, beginning in 1908, introduced America to European innovators
and its own home-grown mavericks at his 291 Fifth Avenue Gallery in
New York. He and his circle — John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Arthur
Dove, Georgia O’Keeffe, Oscar Bluemner, Charles Demuth, and Max Weber
— are all represented here by works of the highest quality. The
show of some two dozen works by 16 artists also includes fine works
by Charles Demuth, Abraham Walkowitz, and Joseph Stella.
Here you will find a vintage print of Steiglitz’s iconic photograph,
"The Steerage" (just as at the Whitney), but you will not
have to press past any crowds to see it.
Hanging appropriately nearby are two rivetting O’Keeffe’s, one of
her signature early drawings and "East River" of 1927. The
latter offers a fabulous intersection of her early urban precisionist
period with her sky-swept mature work: a rippling sky drenched in
acid blues and reds set above the static buildings of a gloomy gray
Among the unexpected joys of this show are two powerful works by Helen
Torr, wife of artist Arthur Dove, whose career as a painter was evidently
eclipsed by that of her gifted husband. Hanging beside Dove’s concise,
"After the Storm," is Torr’s dynamic 1930s abstraction, "Mountain
Mood." Also featured in the show is Torr’s "Paper and Glass,"
— Nicole Plett
State Street, Trenton, 609-292-6464. Through January 23. Tuesday to
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Free.
school grounds have become a showcase for seven big wood, stone, and
bronze sculptures by the Lambertville-based artist Harry Gordon. Also
featured, Gordon’s large, climbable artwork in the lower school playground.
Summer group exhibition features Robert Asman, Magi Puig, Natalya
Zaloznaya, Alain Hermand, Valeriy Skrypka, Atanas Zgalevski, and Georges
Mazilu. Show runs to September 15. Gallery hours are Wednesday to
Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and by appointment.
"View Finders," a group show featuring photographs by Clem
Fiori, Rhoda Kassof-Isaac, William Vandever, and Selena Rose. The
upper lobby exhibit continues to September 7.
Rhoda Kassof-Isaac is a painter and psychoanalyst and a graduate of
the Pratt Institute. Clem Fiori is a photographer, environmentalist,
and writer who specializes in landscape photographs of the rural countryside,
and author of "The Vanishing New Jersey Landscape." Bill Vandever
has had his commercial studio in South River for over 20 years.
609-799-6706. Summer show of gallery artists including the whimsical
sculpture of Bob Matranglo. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.;
Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 to 6 p.m.
Watercolors by Harriet J. Kaftanic. Proceeds benefit the medical center.
To September 16. At Merwick, paintings by Alice Warshaw, to September
from the Collection of Dr. M. Jay Goodkind ’49," a show of 39
works of landscape and nature photography collected since 1964, part
of the collector’s promised bequest to the museum. The show includes
Ansel Adams’ "Aspens, New Mexico," 1958, the first work acquired
by Goodkind in 1964, which, together with eight additional Adams photographs,
set the tone of the collection. The brave Dr. Goodkind also presents
his own landscape photographs for scrutiny. To September 5.
Also "From Ritual Simplicity to Imperial Splendor: Chinese Ceramics
from the Collection of Nelson Chang ’74," to September 26; "Chinese
Painting and Calligraphy: In Memory of John B. Elliott," to September
30. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free tours of the collection are given every
Saturday at 2 p.m.
In the Milberg Gallery, "Artifacts: The Biographical Object in
the Princeton University Library Collections," to September 15.
Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; noon to 5 p.m. on weekends.
732-524-3698. "The Woodcut Printmakers of Jiangsu Province, China,"
a show organized by the Printmaking Council of New Jersey comprising
work by 30 artists of Jiangsu, a southeastern province adjacent to
Shanghai. The art technique that remains basically unchanged since
originating in China more than 2,000 years ago, has prospered in the
region since the 16th century. To September 30. Free by appointment.
"Diversity," an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Taylor
Oughton and Peter Petraglia, both of Bucks county. To August 29. Gallery
hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
609-397-4590. "Silver Prints," an exhibition of photographs
by New Jersey multi-media artist Victor Macarol, to September 30.
Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Lambertville, 609-397-3939. "Broad Street to Bridge Street,"
a series of new drawings and sculpture by Susan Twardus inspired by
scenes observed during her daily Route 29 commute along the Delaware.
To August 22. Gallery hours are Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5
p.m.; Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
The gallery features Delaware Valley artists in a variety of creative
media including painting, sculpture, photography, woodworking, blown
glass, and stained glass.
Featured artist for August is owner Lauren Travis Wylie exhibiting
landscapes and garden scenes of central Bucks County. To August 31.
Web site: www.travisgallery.com. Gallery hours are Tuesday
to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday noon to 4 p.m.
Trenton, 609-394-4095. "Ennis Beley Photography Project,"
an exhibition of photography by young artists Troy Bridgewater, Maurice
Bridgewater, Joseph Cawley, Dashar Coons, Esau Coons, Gennara Crews,
Alyma Cross, Contelle Forte, Brandy Forte, Alex Johnson, Kionna Laldler,
Vincent Laldler, Christian Melendez, Ashley Mitchell, Cintella Spotwood,
Alisia Turner, and Jamar Turner. In the main lobby, to September 17.
"TAWA Invitational III, a members’ juried group show, selected
by Brian H. Peterson of the Michener Museum in Doylestown. Selected
artists are Judy Fowler, Mary Person Hrbacek, Ruth Jourjine, Tomi
Urayama, and Nancy Zamboni. To September 12. Museum hours are Tuesday
to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 4 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Web site is at www.ilovelbi.com/tawa.
"Zero Tolerance Area," Kate Graves’ exhibition of cast bronze
sculptures depicting three abandoned houses. To September 2. Gallery
hours are Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"Zero Tolerance Areas" is a designation given by a Trenton
city ordinance to discourage illegal activity in vacant structures,
explains Graves, A Trenton resident of four years. Her meticulous
scale models of these mute structures reveal decay, yet echoes of
their original architectural splendor remain. Says Graves, "Let
these sculptures document the wasteland, places used and discarded,
and remind us to pay attention and be vigilant about where we presently
215-340-9800. "The Philadelphia Ten: A Women’s Artist Group, 1917
to 1945." Show presents work by 30 Philadelphia-based painters
and sculptors to banded together with the sole purpose of "showing
just the work they wished to present, in the most dignified and harmonious
manner." To October 3.
Fern Coppedge and M. Elizabeth Price are among the Bucks County artists
represented. The show was organized by the Moore College of Art and
Design, curated by Page Talbott and Patricia Tanis Sydney.
Also, "From Soup Cans to Nuts," an exhibition of prints by
Andy Warhol, on loan from the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The artist,
who died in 1987, is best known for his flamboyant, multiple silkscreen
prints that explore icons of popular culture from the famous soup
to Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy. To September 5.
Museum hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday
evenings to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed
Mondays. $5 adults; students $1.50; children free.
Portraiture by watercolorist Elizabeth Lombardi and landscapes by
new gallery artist Carol Lehr. Gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday
(call for hours) and by appointment. To September 10.
609-298-6970. New works from impressionist Robert Fodor and collages
by Hanneke DeNeve. Gallery is open Thursday through Saturday, 4 to
"Panoramas," an exhibition of landscapes and seascapes by
Dorothy Wells Bissell and Eileen Shahbender, is the inaugural show
at Forsgate’s new Highlands Gallery, open to the public during club
hours. Anita Benarde is the series curator. Show runs through September
Road, 609-921-3272. Community Art Exhibit continues to September 30.
Hours are Tuesdays through Sundays, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Saturdays
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
609-586-0616. Summer Exhibition featuring new additions outdoors by
Itzik Benshalom, Kenneth Capps, Chas Colburn, J. Seward Johnson Jr.,
Kevin Lyles, and Susanne Wibroe. Also featured, George Segal’s "Bread
Line," part of the F.D.R. Memorial commission in Washington, D.C.
In the Museum and Domestic Arts Building, a group exhibition by 40
members of the Sculptors Guild. To September 12. Free.
The 22-acre landscaped sculpture park is on the former state fairgrounds
site, with indoor exhibitions in the glass-walled, 10,000 square foot
museum, and the newly-renovated Domestic Arts Building. Friday through
Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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