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Posts Tagged ‘1913 armory show’

Today the public radio program Studio 360 featured a shortened version of a wonderful WNYC documentary about the year 1913. That was the year Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring was only one of many “shocking” arts events to usher in the modern age.

From the Studio 360 website: “What a year was 1913! In an exhibition in a New York Armory, American viewers confronted Cubism and abstraction for the first time. In Vienna, the audience at a concert of atonal music by Schoenberg and others broke out into a near-riot. And in Paris, Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s new ballet The Rite of Spring burst on stage with inflammatory results.

Culture Shock 1913 tells the stories behind these and other groundbreaking events that year, and goes back to consider what led to this mad, Modernist moment.

” ‘I think in a lot of ways it was just the beginning of a century just of absolute chaos and nightmare, and as so often, the artists heard it and reflected it first,’ notes the critic Tim Page.

“WNYC’s Sara Fishko speaks with thinkers, authors, musicians, art curators, and historians about this unsettling era of sweeping change — and the not-so-subtle ways in which it mirrors our own uncertain age.

“This Studio 360 episode is an abridged version of a one-hour documentary Sara Fishko produced for WNYC.” More here.

I liked how the documentary explains that the shock was derived from artists not wanting to master and perfect what was done in the past or to replicate nature but rather to be different and to focus on structure, taking things apart and putting back again differently. Artists themselves organized the Armory Show, not curators or galleries. They went to Europe, where change was erupting like crazy, and they brought back art never seen in conservative America.

A key takeaway was that when we see something really new we often think it is ugly, as people thought the Eiffel Tower ugly. But once they look and look some more, they begin to like it.

That helps me think about some of the art Asakiyume and I saw yesterday at the Worcester Museum of Art. It sure looked ugly to me, but it’s a good idea to keep an open mind. Asakiyume sets a good example in that department.

(My mother was born in 1913. Perhaps something was in the air that year that can explain her rebellious nature.)

Photograph taken by spDuchamp/flickr
Marcel Duchamp’s NudeDescending a Staircase, No. 2, was featured in the landmark Armory Show and outraged most visitors because she wasn’t reclining like traditional nudes and she was in motion and it was hard to see her.

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Today it’s a bit hard to imagine Cezanne, Matisse, Duchamp, and Van Gogh shocking anyone, but at the Armory art show in New York City 100 years ago, they did. Tom Vitale at National Public Radio has the story.

“On Feb. 17, 1913, an art exhibition opened in New York City that shocked the country, changed our perception of beauty and had a profound effect on artists and collectors.

“The International Exhibition of Modern Art — which came to be known, simply, as the Armory Show — marked the dawn of Modernism in America. It was the first time the phrase ‘avant-garde’ was used to describe painting and sculpture. …

“It was the Europeans — Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, Duchamp — that caused a sensation.

“American audiences were used to seeing Rembrandts and Titians in their galleries — ‘a very realistic type of art,’ says Marilyn Kushner, the co-curator of an exhibition called ‘The Armory Show at 100’ that opens in October at the New York Historical Society. …

“The most talked-about painting in the 1913 Armory Show deconstructed a human figure in abstract brown panels in overlapping motion. Marcel Duchamp’s Cubist-inspired Nude Descending a Staircase was famously described by one critic as ‘an explosion in a shingle factory.’

“In 1963, on the 50th anniversary of the Armory Show, Duchamp was interviewed by CBS reporter Charles Collingwood. The audio is now at the Smithsonian’s Archive of American Art.

“When Collingwood asked Duchamp if he had realized that the piece would create ‘such a “furor,” ‘ the artist responded: “Not the slightest.” …

“Duchamp went on in the 1963 interview to say that, at the time, artists had lost the ability to surprise the public.

” ‘There’s a public to receive it today that did not exist then. Cubism was sort of forced upon the public to reject it. You know what I mean?’ Duchamp said. ‘Instead, today, any new movement is almost accepted before it started. See, there’s no more element of shock anymore.’ ” More.

Photograph: Marcel Duchamp’s Cubist-inspired Nude Descending a Staircase was famously described by one critic as “an explosion in a shingle factory.” (Copyright succession Marcel Duchamp / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2013)

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