O'Keeffe, Stettheimer, Torr, Zorach: Women Modernists in New York

February 18 - May 15, 2016



 

Selected Torr images from the exhibition

(above: Helen Torr, American, 1886-1967, Along the Shore, 1932, Oil on canvas, 24 x 17 ? in (61 x 45.1 cm). Karen and Kevin Kennedy Collection Photo: Josh Nefsky)

Unlike White Cloud (Light House) (on display in this gallery), which depicts an impressive building, Along the Shore captures a humble tar-paper shack that is encircled by, rather than standing proudly against, the forms of nature. Its still blockiness contrasts with the movement of the waves, reeds blowing in the wind, and wildly energetic trees and sky. The structure's utterly mundane character enhances the viewer's sense of the drama of nature surrounding it.

 

(above: Helen Torr, American, 1886-1967, Corrugated Building, 1929, Oil on panel, 26 7/8 x 19 1/8 in (68.3 x 48.6 cm). The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by The Brown Foundation, Inc., and Isabel B. Wilson in memory of Peter C. Marzio. Photo: Bridgeman Images)

In her mature works, Torr often explored the distinction between geometric, human-made structures and organic nature. She was fascinated by Alfred Stieglitz's series of photographs of clouds, Equivalents, and in her paintings she used the subject, like he did, to explore expressive form for its own sake. However, as Corrugated Building, Torr's clouds suggest a roiling energy all her own. Here, these vigorous forms contrast with the still verticality of the abstracted industrial building. The close resemblance between such works by Torr and contemporaneous paintings by her husband, Arthur Dove, illustrates their shared modernist aesthetic.

 

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