When "American Perspectives on Modernism" opens Monday, the Windgate Gallery at the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock will become the latest Arkansas arts facility to showcase an exhibition of works by American modernist painters.
Interest in American modernism has soared at the state's institutions such as Crystal Bridges Museum of Art and the Arkansas Arts Center -- and with audiences -- in the past several years.
“American Perspectives on Modernism”
Monday–Oct. 19, Windgate Gallery, University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, 3000 West Scenic Drive, North Little Rock
Hours: 10 am.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday
Reception: 6-8 p.m. Friday; 6:30 gallery talk by Jen Padgett, assistant curator, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Information: (501) 812-2715
Organized by the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
The exhibition schedule at the Windgate Gallery, University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College:
"American Perspectives on Modernism," Monday-Oct. 19
"Juvenile-In-Justice," Oct. 26 -Dec. 14
"Women of a New Tribe," Jan. 14-Feb. 23
"The Creative Mind," Jan. 14 -April 1 (in the lobby)
"Arkansas Arts Council/Small Works on Paper," March 1-April 13
"UA-PTC Art Department Student Competitive," April 19-May 11
"Anne Frank -- A Private Photo Album," May 24-July 6
"Wandering Spirit -- African Wax Prints," July 19-Oct. 5, 2019
Some of modernism's leading lights will be featured among the 34 works at the Windgate exhibition, including John Marin, Stuart Davis, Lyonel Feininger, Marsden Hartley and Max Weber.
"Having UA-Pulaski Technical College mentioned in the same sentence as Crystal Bridges and the Arkansas Arts Center means the world to us," says Debra Wood, Windgate Gallery and CHARTS (Center for Humanities and Arts) coordinator at the college. "Our challenge is to find exhibitions that will appeal not only to the community, but also to our students while being relevant to their studies. Modernism will always play an important role in teaching and engaging our art students."
What is modernism?
It is a philosophical movement that began in response to far-reaching transformations in Western society and culture during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Europe and America were experiencing rapid social change, industrialization and scientific advances. As things got more "modern," new ideas were expressed in art, music, political life, science and literature that ran up against the Victorian way of thinking.
"To me, modernism is the art people made when they were trying to cope with the modern world," says Ann Prentice Wagner, curator of drawings at the Arkansas Arts Center. She curated the center's Marin exhibition earlier this year. "It's an important way to study what's going on in this country."
"I love how artists are energized to look at the world in new ways, challenging past conventions and traditions," says Jen Padgett, assistant curator at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, who will speak at 6:30 p.m. Friday at an opening reception for the exhibit at Pulaski Tech.
"Modern period artists challenged representation in art to show how it can express emotion and elicit emotion, show changes in terms of the demographics of the nation and reflect on the changing moment.
"A number of artists at that time were immigrants from Europe; they contributed to American art. There are parallels to today; looking at modernism helps us gain perspective on the times in which we live."
Modern art took root in the United States in the early 20th century, championed by the famed photographer and influential New York City gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, who was the first in America to give exhibitions for Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Constantin Brancusi. Stieglitz also promoted American modernists such as Georgia O'Keeffe, whom he would later marry; Arthur Dove, Marin, Ansel Adams and others.
In Arkansas, Crystal Bridges and the Arkansas Arts Center have been particularly active in exhibiting American modernism. In one of the biggest art stories of 2012, Crystal Bridges acquired a half interest in "The Alfred Stieglitz Collection," sharing ownership with Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. The collection, donated to the school by O'Keeffe in 1949, includes her masterpiece Radiator Building -- Night, New York, as well as works by Stieglitz, Charles Demuth, Diego Rivera, Marsden Hartley and Dove.
The museum, which has galleries dedicated to modernism, also hosted a major exhibition of Davis' work ("Stuart Davis in Full Swing") that closed Jan. 1. Its current exhibit is "The Beyond: Georgia O'Keeffe and Contemporary Art," which was organized by Crystal Bridges and curated by Lauren Haynes, curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges, and independent curator Chad Alligood. The museum has also hosted symposiums and lectures.
The Arkansas Arts Center also made national art news when the donation of 290 Marin drawings by his daughter-in-law Norma B. Marin was formalized in 2013. The museum now has the world's second largest collection of Marin's work.
The museum's excellent exhibition "Becoming John Marin," which closed April 22, was curated by Wagner. It was accompanied by a stunning, all-inclusive catalog.
The museum also showcased the work of Herman Maril in 2017 (also curated by Wagner) and "Ansel Adams: Early Works" in 2017.
. . .
Before she joined Pulaski Tech two years ago, Wood worked with the William F. Laman Library in North Little Rock and, for seven years, owned River Market ArtSpace.
A North Little Rock native and graduate of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, she holds a master's degree in arts management from American University in Washington, D.C.
At Pulaski Tech, she plans a season of five or six exhibitions a year, plus the annual "UA-PTC Student Competitive."
"Two things jumped out at me when I saw this exhibit -- one was the John Marin pieces. To be able to bring some works that aren't in [the Arts Center's] collection to our campus is a win for our students who can then further their interest in him for years to come. The second thing was the Stuart Davis piece [Anchor, a 1935 lithograph]."
The Davis exhibition at Crystal Bridges was on Wood's mind, inspiring her to invite Padgett to give a gallery talk.
Padgett wrote her doctorate dissertation on modern American art and the intersection between fine art and design. She says some of the artists in the Pulaski Tech exhibit also designed housewares.
"They did home decor and clothing designs to show Americans how abstraction can be a part of daily life," she says. "Stuart Davis designed clothing patterns that can still be identified today."
"American Perspectives on Modernism" has a "very exciting" range of artists, she adds. "I've done research on Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky and Charles Sheeler. There are artists who are well-known and some surprises that might be less familiar. Miklos Suba's Coal Barge is quite striking." The oil on canvas board was painted in 1937.
The heightened interest in modernism comes as no surprise to Brad Cushman, gallery director and curator at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. UALR's collection includes works by Stieglitz, Edward Steichen and others.
"In some ways, modernism is already a vetted historical narrative," he says. "Some are rediscovering it, some are just now discovering it." But there still is much in modernism to be explored, he says, citing the Arts Center's Marin exhibition, which he describes as "amazing."
Wagner sees a surge of interest in modernism among collectors as well.
"Having modern artists in the permanent collections at the Arts Center and at Crystal Bridges is making this state even more well-known in the arts," she says.
The Marin exhibition Wagner curated will be at the San Antonio Museum of Art from Oct. 27-Jan. 20; she says another venue will be added on the East Coast. "And that's it," she says. "With works on paper, that's about all you can do, it's too much stress on the works" to travel a lot.
The Arkansas Arts Center will close for renovation in the fall of 2019. Wagner says the reopening exhibitions will reflect "major modernist directions." She says there are more Marin exhibitions in the future.
. . .
"American Perspectives on Modernism" exemplifies Wood's goals for art shows at Pulaski Tech.
Wood wants to present exhibits that "help people learn, grow and think about things a little differently than they might have otherwise. When you look at a piece of art, whether by a living artist or deceased, you're in some way touching the soul of that person.
"To create something and have others be moved by it is a gift like no other."
Debra Wood, coordinator of Windgate Gallery at the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College, pauses while installing a new exhibition, “American Perspectives on Modernism.” It opens Monday; a reception will be held at 6 p.m. Friday.
Ernest Fiene’s circa 1940 work is titled Tobacco and Wheat, Maryland.
Czechoslovakia-born Francis Littna immigrated to the United States in 1965 to become associate professor of art at Western Michigan University. His 1959 oil on board, Metropolis, is part of “American Perspectives on Modernism,” which opens Monday in the Windgate Gallery at the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College.
Charles Sheeler’s 1954 screenprint is titled Architectural Cadences.
Jen Padgett, assistant curator at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, will speak at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Windgate Gallery.
Style on 08/12/2018
Print Headline: Modern love: Exhibit at Pulaski Tech underscores growing interest in the style of art