The Frist Center Welcomes GEORGIA O'KEEFFE AND HER TIMES Exhibit 10/2-1/31/2010
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts closes the 2009 exhibition year and welcomes the new with Georgia O'Keeffe and Her Times: American Modernism from the Lane Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston on view in the Ingram Gallery from Oct. 2, 2009 through January 31, 2010.
Featuring 45 paintings and eight photographs by such American masters as Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, Arthur G. Dove, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, and Ansel Adams, the Lane Collection is considered by many to be one of the greatest museum collections of American Modernism. William H. Lane (1914-1995), owner of a small Massachusetts manufacturing plant, formed this pioneering collection in the early 1950s when these artists were little appreciated, though today they are considered to be among the most important American artists of the early twentieth century.
"Like the exhibitions we had from the Phillips Collection and the Cone Collection from Baltimore, Georgia O'Keeffe and Her Times reflects the passions of a collector who was guided by his deep love for art, friendships with artists, and desire to introduce audiences around the country to these wonderful expressions of the modern spirit," according to Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala.
Included in the Lane Collection are paintings such as O'Keeffe's Deer's Skull with Pedernal, Sheeler's Ore into Iron, and Dove's That Red One, which rank among the most significant and appealing works that these artists ever produced.
The works in the exhibition will be arranged by themes that were favored by William Lane as he acquired the collection.
Section 1: Abstraction and Nature
During the first half of the twentieth century, modern artists in the United States embraced new images and styles that they felt captured the spirit of their times. Artists such as O'Keeffe, Dove, Marsden Hartley, and John Marin strove to convey the essence of nature through the distillation of its images and forms into works that balanced abstraction and realism. This section of the exhibition will include an entire gallery dedicated to the works of O'Keeffe, with subsequent galleries featuring major paintings by Dove and other modern artists who sought to infuse the essence of nature with their own emotions.
Section 2: Expressionism in American Art
In the early to mid-20th century, many American painters were influenced by expressionistic styles from Europe that employed strong colors, visible brushstrokes, and distorted forms to create psychologically compelling images. A frequent subject was the human figure, which was often painted with raw, agitated brushstrokes that suggested the dissipation of the body by equating its carnal substance to heavy pigment. Lane collected very few figurative paintings. Many of those he acquired dealt with difficult themes of suffering or martyrdom, such as Hyman Bloom's Female Corpse, Back View and Karl Zerbe's self-portrait as the Biblical Job.
The theme of the still life is also well represented in this section. Many American artists used modern styles to translate everyday objects into dynamic relationships among shapes, colors, patterns, and textures. The intense colors and expressive brushstrokes associated with Fauvism and Expressionism appear most notably in Hans Hofmann's Green Bottle and Max Weber's The Red Poppies.
Section 3: Defining Modern America
For some artists, America's combination of democratic idealism and technological innovation epitomized the promise of progress in the 20th century. This was conveyed by paintings by Stuart Davis and Patrick Henry Bruce that depicted manufactured materials in geometric still lifes, as well as landscapes defined by the functional geometry of modern architecture. While inspired by Cubism and other European art movements that transcribed the world into a language of pure form, works by such artists as Charles Sheeler and Ralston Crawford portrayed American subject matter using a clean, sharp-edged style to convey the fresh and optimistic spirit of the early 1900s.
Thomas Hart Benton in Story and Song to Open Concurrently
In addition to Georgia O'Keeffe and Her Times, the Frist Center will open Thomas Hart Benton in Story and Song. Benton (1889-1975) is celebrated for his colorful animated realism, with which he portrayed his vision of the simplicity, humor, and dignity of life in rural America.
This exhibition presents works that were inspired by two aspects of American culture: vernacular literature and music. The first section, organized to coincide with the Nashville Public Library's city-wide celebration of beloved author Mark Twain, includes original illustrations of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1939, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1941, and Life on the Mississippi in 1944. Like his fellow Missourian Twain, Benton employed a direct and often humorous tone to convey the quintessentially unpretentious character of the American heartland.
As an extension of the American storytelling tradition, Benton cherished American folk, or "hillbilly" music found in the Midwest and Southeast. He often incorporated portrayals of musicians and country ballads into such images as Wreck of the Ole '97, which is based on a 1924 ballad recounting the fatal crash of a Southern Railroad train in 1893. His last work, the mural-sized painting The Sources of Country Music (1975) at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, depicts formative influences on country music, including a church choir, dulcimer player, cowboy fiddler, and black banjo player. The final study for the mural, along with studies and maquettes, is one of the highlights of the exhibition.
"We thought these two exhibitions worked well together," says Scala. "They provide contrasting views of American identity as it changed from a rural agricultural economy to one defined by industrial, technological, and cultural advances during the first half of the 20th century. These and other dichotomies continue to occupy the nation's political, cultural, and sociological landscape. At the Frist Center, we always encourage visitors to ‘connect with art,' to find its meaning through their own experiences. How might an artist, a musician, or anyone, capture the contradictions that animate contemporary American life?"