Premiering at the Art Institute of Chicago in October 1930, Grant Wood’s American Gothic captivated the public’s imagination and catapulted Wood into the national spotlight overnight. The painting depicts a couple — modeled on Wood’s sister, Nan, and his Dentist — who stand in front of a Midwestern house. The house is notable for its lone “gothic” window, a typical feature of the then-popular Carpenter Gothic style of architecture, in which gothic elements are used in otherwise simple, modern wood structures.
Wood identified the pair as father and daughter, though the work was initially assumed to be a portrait of a husband and wife. “I simply invented some ‘American Gothic’ people to stand in front of a house of this type,” Wood later explained. From the painting’s debut onward, its meaning has been the subject of endless speculation. What has remained central is its seeming embodiment of something stereotypically American.
Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables, on View Through June 10th, 2018 at The Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District, NYC.
The forms of Agnes Pelton’s Sea Change (1931) channel the movement and energy of water, which the artist regarded as a metaphor for the ebb and flow of human thought. Created the year she left Long Island for the Southern California desert, Sea Change can be understood as a meditation on personal transitions; however, Pelton refused such specific readings of her art. Influenced by modern Theosophy, an esoteric blend of religion and philosophy, as well as the mysticism of the American Symbolist painters, Pelton believed that art channels the universal energies of the natural world through color and light, which are experienced rather than purely seen. She described color as “active,” likening it to a voice or “vibration” that is ideally perceived like “the fragrance of a flower [which] fills the consciousness with the essence of its life.”
Photographed in the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.
Hey, if you need to find a way to come out to your Mom, and she is also a Star Wars Fan, maybe you can do so via this fun poster, which I spotted on Gansevoort Street out front of the Whitney Museum. You can buy this piece, and other work by artist Denis Ouch via Artfinder at This Link.
Arshile Gorky (1904 – 1948) based this portrait of himself and his mother on a photograph taken in his native Armenia in 1912, when he was eight years old. Three years later, during the Ottoman Turk campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Armenians, Gorky, his mother and his younger sister all survived a death march. Tragically, his mother never recovered her health. She died in 1919 from starvation — one of the estimated one million to one and a half million victims of what is now widely referred to as the Armenian genocide. The following year, at the age of fifteen Gorky emigrated to the United States with his sister. As Gorky established his career as an artist, he became preoccupied with the photograph. The Artist and His Mother, made over the span of ten years (1926 – 1936) does not attempt to reproduce the camera’s image precisely, but instead reduces it to broad areas of muted, softly brushed color. The mask-like faces and undefined hands of the figures at once suggest their loss of physical connection and the difficulty of accessing memories over time.
As an astute observer of Depression-era New York, Raphael Soyer (1899 – 1987) evoked the inner lives on anonymous city dwellers. His paintings frequently depict the new generation of female workers that he encountered in his Union Square neighborhood. Leaving the home for secretarial and clerical jobs, these woman depicted in Office Girls (1936) achieved an independence that was unprecedented for women of the period, even while unemployment remained high among men. While his artist colleagues usually portrayed these young women in optimistic terms, Soyer’s composition strikes a more ambivalent tone. Squeezed between a throng of rushing female workers and a glowering man, the central woman looks out at the viewer with a gaze that is at once weary and unflinching.
Larry Bell has exploited the transparency and reflectivity of glass to great effect since the beginning of his career, when he inserted a square piece of glass into a painting and titled it Ghost Box (1962). Pacific Red II (2017)
Over the years, Bell has developed coating and laminating techniques in order to tint his sculptures or imbue them with metallic or smoky finishes.
Here on the Whitney Museum 5th floor outdoor terrace, Bell has installed Pacific Red II (2017), a work consisting of six laminated glass cubes, each measuring six-by-eight feet, and enclosing another six-by-four foot glass box.
The multiple surface interplay and respond to their urban surroundings, when glass towers abound.
Read more about the painstakingly brutal installation process of Pacific Red II, and see a video, at This Link.
New York Interior (1921) is an early example of Edward Hopper’s interest in enigmatic indoor scenes, offering an unconventional view of a woman sewing, suggesting the impersonal, yet strangely intimate quality of modern urban life. We glimpse this private moment through a window, with the figure’s turned face and exposed back heightening her anonymity and our awareness of her vulnerability. The woman’s clothing and gesture are reminiscent of the iconic ballet dancers painted by French impressionist Edgar Degas, whom Hopper singled out as the artist whose work he most admired.