Feature Articles

January 2014

Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, NC, Features Works Focused on Social Injustice & 20th Century Modern Works

The Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, NC, is presenting two exhibits including: Partisans: Social Realism in American Art, on view in the West Bedroom Gallery, through Mar. 16, 2014, and Reynolda Moderns, on view in the Northeast Bedroom Gallery, through June 1, 2014.

Social injustice has long motivated artists to create work as a form of protest. In the first half of the 20th century, the tumult of World War I and the global Great Depression led many American artists to comment on the conditions of the working classes. For subject matter, artists looked to the daily life in the workplace, the status of women at work, the rise of fascism, the denial of African American civil rights, and the wealth disparity caused by increased industrialization.

Ben Shahn, Philip Evergood, Thomas Hart Benton, and Grant Wood were among hundreds of artists employed by the Works Progress Administration, the New Deal agency that provided work for laborers of all kinds. This democratization of art-making combined with the prevailing economic crisis to inspire art that depicted and criticized social and political structures.

So-called Regionalists, such as Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, also sought to portray the conditions of rural America and were seen popularly as advocates of a distinctly American art, free of foreign influences. Many of the artists who came to maturity in the 1920s and ’30s continued in later life to paint representationally, contrary to the period’s primary trend toward abstraction, continuing to see art as an expression of conscience and a weapon for correcting social injustice.

In the early 20th century, artists in America began challenging the idea that the purpose of art is to represent reality. Instead of striving to produce window-like views of the world, artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, and Arthur Dove began experimenting with color, form, line, space, and content.

Reynolda Moderns, developed in conjunction with the Museum’s upcoming Spring 2014 exhibition American Moderns 1910–1960: From O’Keeffe to Rockwell (Feb. 7–May 4, 2014), highlights the strengths of the Museum’s collection of early 20th-century modernism and select loans. The painters in this small exhibition of eight works took the tenets of modernism developed by avant-garde European artists and translated them into a distinctively American idiom.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 336/725-5325 or visit (www.reynoldahouse.org).

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