Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"The Armory Show At 100: Modern Art And Revolution" At New-York Historical Society

"The Armory Show At 100: Modern Art And Revolution" at the New-York Historical Society focuses on a groundbreaking exhibit that introduced New Yorkers to American and European avant-garde art movements at the beginning of the 20th century. That original show, at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets, was mounted in 1913 by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors. While art has assimilated the trends of a century ago, one is struck by how shocking movements such as Cubism and Fauvism were then. Those who think that today's culture wars are a recent development need only read the comments of critics, cited in the show, who equated the artists with political radicals and viewed them as presaging the breakdown of civilization. The work of the Americans was not quite as incendiary as that of the Europeans; Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending A Staircase," 1912 (above), was likened to "an explosion in a shingle factory." Of the Americans, I particularly enjoyed the Ashcan School of painters, whose depiction of New York working class life was considered unconventional subject matter. This survey of 100 works provides an outstanding survey of the artists who gave birth to modernism.

The Armory Show At 100: Modern Art And Revolution” continues through Feb. 23 at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West at 77th St., NYC; (212) 873-3400, www.nyhistory.org.

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