August 09, 2003 Mulling Over Modernism From 1915 to 1929, American Modernist art went through an intense process of redefinition. Alfred Stieglitz and the cadre of artists shown at his New York gallery were partly banking on the latest aesthetic inventions and theories spawned in Europe to direct their work. This situation changed dramatically around 1915, when a number of artists arrived in New York... in particular, French artist Marcel Duchamp. In 1915, disappointed by the mainly nature-based abstraction he saw, Duchamp proclaimed in newspapers and magazines that American artists were too dependent on outmoded European traditions and had ignored far greater subjects...
namely, the skyscraper and the machine. Duchamp's comments set off a serious discussion that lasted right through 1929, prompting Stieglitz and his group to define what made their work innovative, original and American. The controversy that ensued from Duchamp's reaction to the state of American art is the subject of Debating American Modernism: Stieglitz, Duchamp, and the New York Avant-Garde, an exhibit organized by the American Federation of Arts (AFA). Debating American Modernism examines the debate between Alfred Stieglitz and Marcel Duchamp, focusing totally on the discourse between the two artists and their circles, while suggesting a new interpretation of American Modernism. Varied media, such as painting, sculpture, photography, watercolors, drawings, prints and film, are featured in the exhibit, which also tackles the appearance of sexual ized imagery in nearly all of the work created during this extraordinary time... a phenomenon that provides evidence of common ground between the two seemingly opposed camps.
Debating American Modernism is structured in three thematic sections: o The first presents the work of Stieglitz and his circle, setting the backdrop for the development of abstraction in the United States. Included are a grouping of works from Stieglitz's celebrated Equivalent series, his photographic studies of clouds and the sky, a selection of Arthur Dove's abstracted landscapes and sensuous oil paintings of natural phenomena by Georgia O'Keeffe. o The second section, devoted to Duchamp and his colleagues, illustrates the allure of mass-produced and mechanical objects. Many of the works... for example, a selection of Duchamp's readymades, the echanomorphic imagery of Francis Pica bia and Marius de Za yas, and the charged sculptural forms of Man Ray... suggest an aversion to the gestures and expressions of the artist's hand.
o The third segment of the installation focuses on the art of a group of young artists active during the 1920 s... the last phase of early American abstraction which in time gave way to the regionalism of the next decade. In this section, the works of Charles De muth, Charles S heeler, John Storrs (whose pristine architectonic aesthetic later came to be known as Precision ism) and the proto-pop images of Stuart Davis, synthesize visions of the two distinct groups that came before them. Venue Debating American Modernism: Stieglitz, Duchamp, and the New York Avant-Garde Aug 30 - Nov 30, 2003 o Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, IL Information courtesy American Federation of Arts Debating American Modernism: Stieglitz, Duchamp and the New York Avant-Garde August 30 through November 30, 2003 In the early years of the twentieth century, photographer Alfred Stieglitz's "291" art gallery was the center of modernist notions in America.
The arrival of avant-garde French artist Marcel Duchamp to the city in 1915, however, challenged American artists' ideas on and interpretation of modern art's content and style. This exhibition of 70 paintings, sculptures, photographs, "readymades" and works on paper proposes a new reading of this seminal time in early American modernism and focuses on the artistic debate that framed the production, reception and critique of art in New York in the 1910 s and 1920 s.