Across the 20th century, artists experimented with new modes for capturing the world around them, often mining the space between representation and abstraction. Many drew on the influence of European modern art—whether incorporating the vivid colors of Paul Cézanne or the cubist forms of Pablo Picasso—that they encountered while studying in Europe or were introduced to at the 1913 New York Armory Show. Some, like Hale Woodruff and James Lesesne Wells, took inspiration from the stylized sculptures and masks of West Africa and the angular, distorted forms of German expressionist woodcuts. Artists also took cues from the geometries of their urban environment—Arnold Rönnebeck referred to New York City’s landscape of towering skyscrapers as “living cubism.” Others, including Arthur Dove and Georgia O’Keeffe, explored the natural world through expressive compositions of organic forms. In the latter half of the 20th century, many artists moved away from representation all together, instead wielding color, form, and gesture “to realize in visible terms what is inwardly felt,” in the words of former Addison Director Bartlett Hayes Jr. The artists featured in this gallery demonstrate the spirit of formal experimentation and range of artistic styles that characterized the 20th century.
This exhibition is generously supported by the Sidney R. Knafel Fund.