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A Transatlantic Avant-Garde: American Artists in Paris, 1918 - 1939

December 20, 2003 through March 28, 2004


Tacoma Art Museum will be the only West Coast venue for the internationally touring exhibition, A Transatlantic Avant-Garde: American Artists in Paris, 1918 - 1939 on view from December 20, 2003 through March 28, 2004. The exhibition examines the work of American artists who traveled to and from Paris between WWI and WWII and highlights their innovations inspired by their expatriate experience.

Approximately 130 works will be featured including works by major modern American artists such as Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth, and Man Ray. The exhibition is organized by the Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, Terra Foundation for the Arts and is currently showing there through November 30. When the exhibition leaves Tacoma Art Museum, it will travel to the Terra Museum of American Art in Chicago.

Paris was the world's art center before World War II, attracting international artists who gleaned ideas and styles from the city's heady scene. Key artists of many disciplines such as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Gertrude Stein, Josephine Baker, and Eric Satie lived in Paris during this time period. Throughout these interwar years, the French admired American ingenuity and popular culture - from billboard advertising and jazz music to Manhattan skyscrapers and the landmark cross-Atlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh. Consequently, many American artists living in Paris discovered new-found confidence in their work and a renewed sense of national identity.

"It's exciting to present major works by important American artists never seen before in the Pacific Northwest," notes Tacoma Art Museum Chief Curator Patricia McDonnell.  "This exhibition reveals the artistic exchanges between French and American artists. Viewers can see for themselves how American artists developed distinct artistic voices and contributed to the rise of American modernism."

The exhibition concentrates on four thematic groupings. The Purity of the Object examines how artists simplified and abstracted motifs from modern life and the human form to create distinctly modern artistic expressions. The Birth of American Abstract Artists in Paris: Geometric Abstraction delves into American geometric abstraction appearing in Paris. The Chemists of Mystery: Influences of Surrealism explores the artists' evolution from dada to surrealism, and Portraits of the Avant-Garde offers a keen insight into the artists and sitters of the time through creative portrait photographs, sculptures and drawings.

Highlights from the exhibition include: Rue du Singe qui Peche (1921) by Charles Demuth, New York - Paris, No. 1 (1931) by Stuart Davis, Mobile (1931) by Alexander Calder, and Typographer (Final State) (1919) by Fernand Léger. In Tacoma Calder's standing mobile Untitled 1938, from the collection of Seattle residents John and Mary Shirley will also be featured. The exhibition is accompanied by a 260 page full color catalogue published by the University of California Press that contains essays by prominent French and American scholars.The exhibition is locally supported by The Allen Foundation for the Arts and Comcast, and will be on view in the Weyerhaeuser Family, The Boeing Company, and the Jane and George Russell Galleries.

Tacoma Art Museum opened a dynamic new 50,000 square-foot facility on May 3, 2003. The building features approximately 12,000 square feet of flexible exhibition space. Five galleries feature an array of top national shows, the best of Northwest art, creatively themed exhibitions, and historical retrospectives as well as a permanent display of the consummate public collection of Dale Chihuly's work. In addition, there is an 8,046-square-foot Education Wing for children, adults and seniors with an art resource center, classroom, and studio for art making. The museum is located in the downtown Cultural District, next to historic Union Station.

Tacoma Art Museum's mission is to connect people through art. The museum serves the diverse communities of its region through its collection, exhibitions and learning programs, emphasizing art and artists from the Northwest. 



Saturday, January 31, 2004: Paris Soiree. 7 pm­midnight. An evening of dancing, Parisian delights, and exploration of the exhibition American Artists in Paris, 1918­1939.

Sunday, February 22, 2004:  Lecture by Wanda M. Corn: Dressing Modern: Artists and their Clothes. 2 pm.  Wanda M. Corn, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History at Stanford University, explores the everyday dress of artists, paying particular attention to Gertrude Stein, Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe, and their predecessors. Corn examines modes of modernism championed by many artists represented in the exhibition American Artists in Paris.

Thursday, March 4, 2004: Pioneering Independent Films and Americans in Paris. 6 pm. View the creative experimental films of Americans Man Ray, Charles Sheeler, and Paul Strand along with those of Europeans Hans Richter and Fernand Léger. Chief Curator Patricia McDonnell discusses the context that inspired them and the heady Paris milieu and dada spectacles where they were shown.


Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Tacoma Art Museum in Resource Library Magazine.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2003 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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