Friday, 1 March 2013

Back 100 years: Modern Art

There was posted a to celebrate its centennial recent virtual tour of the 1913 exhibition of the Avant-Garde Movement in America. It was the The International Exhibition of Modern Art exhibition and shocked the country with its 'bold destruction and reinvention of visual art’s established forms'. To celebrate its centennial the Art Institute of Chicago has recreated its viewing experience. You can walk around the museum and step back in time 100 years, though it is in black and white, how fitting. To quote the MoMa curator, Leah Dickerman,

“It’s this moment in time, 100 years ago, in which the foundations of cultural practice were totally reordered in as great a way as we have seen. And that this marks a reordering of the rules of art-making — it’s as big as we’ve seen since the Renaissance.”

We are now used to the Modern movement, if fact we are now post post Modernism. In the modern world we are used to being bombarded by images daily that we have lost the relationship between what we see and its meaning, a deeper meaning that needs contemplation to digest. 

For a long time society as a whole viewed the art world as a single unit to judge and shift to accommodate their changing styles. Artists were expected to cater to public taste and created movements that reacted and shifted along with the society’s general mode of existence. After the outbreak of WW1 society and thus reality were irrevocably changed. The very foundations of western existence were rocked and shifted. In the field of art alone abstract art and Surrealism struggled to give reason and definition to the horrors of war, to explain and have others perceive the chaos, as seen through the eyes of the Surrealists, Dadaists, Expressionists, Fauvists, and Cubists. This created a chasm between the image and its meaning. No longer could the spectator rely on the realistic pictorial symbols before him, and draw their meaning based on his own experiences of the same. In traditional art the spectator was the centre of the  world, while in new modern art there were many different viewpoints around the object depicted. This fragmentation that comes between our inclination to draw conclusions and the incomplete information we are given causes a new way of responding to what we perceive as factual. After the introduction of movements like Surrealism, Cubism and Dadaism, the artists shifted the focus from the expected realistic portrayal of objects and instead to distorting these objects to convey their individual feelings and messages. To the audience for the most part this shift was confusing, because of their lack of understanding of each artists’ individual approach to the subject matter. 

The exhibition that we can now see can give an insight into the huge shift that the art world was just on the brink of. Impressionism was followed by war, and which led to the Surrealist, the Dadaists and the Cubists, breaking further the norms of art. But compare the art in this exhibit to the norm, like Sargent, and appreciate how far we've come in only 100 years. Truly a new Renaissance. 

two sides of the same room from the virtual tour

See the rest of the exhibition at

the original post introducing this show at

Enjoy 1913

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