Everson Museum of Art

Syracuse, NY

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American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection from the National Museum of American Art

 

American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection from the National Museum of American Art will open at the Everson Museum of Art with a lecture and preview party on Friday, March 5, 1999 from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. The events are free for Everson members and $10 for non-members. American Realism: The Sara Roby Foundation Collection from the National Museum of American Art was organized and circulated by the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. It has been supported in Syracuse by the Niagara Mohawk Foundation, KeyBank, the Post-Standard, Herald-Journal, and Herald American. It will remain on view through May 23, 1999.


Yasuo Kuniyoshi, 1893 Japan--1953 USA, Fakirs, 1951, oil on canvas, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation

Kuniyoshi immigrated to the United States in 1906, lived briefly in Seattle, then moved to Los Angeles and subsequently to New York. During the 1920s he supported himself as a photographer, and in the mid 1930s he joined the print division of the WPA's Federal Art Project. A social realist during much of his career, Kuniyoshi experimented with hard-edged volumetric form and distorted space as well as fluid strokes and soft edges. Circus performers were a major motif during the 1920s and again in the years just before his death, but the later canvases are more intense in color and sardonic in expression.


Collector Sara Roby was committed to the work of American realist artists and through a foundation she established in 1952, she created a premier collection of American figurative art that embodied traditional artistic values, technical virtuosity, and strong compositional principles. American Realism provides an overview of the kinds of realism found in American art between the end of World War I and 1983. The exhibition is composed of 60 works by 54 artists, and includes paintings, drawings, watercolors, and sculpture. Works in the show complement and expand upon the permanent collection of the Everson, which specializes in American art.


Jacob Lawrence, born 1917, Dreams No. 2, 1965, tempera on fiberboard, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation

Jacob Lawrence acknowledges the influence of Brueghel, Goya, Daumier, and the Mexican muralists, a lineage that is more thematic than stylistic. He reduces figures to simple shapes, often silhouettes, and alters scale for pictorial effect. He emphasizes the posterlike quality of his work by using gouache, tempera, and casein, all paints that result in matte surfaces. Dreams No. 2 is one of Lawrence's most enigmatic images. In contrast to his narrative series that trace the lives of Toussaint L'Ouverture, Harriet Tubman, John Brown, and other central figures and events in African American history, Dreams No. 2 is an intensely psychological painting. It shows a woman slumped in a chair, several pieces of paper on the floor below her unclasped fingers. Through the windows we glimpse scenes of a wedding that seems to be playing out in the woman's mind.


"Whether announcing despair or affirmation, American realist art in the twentieth century is a persistent attempt to discover what position man occupies in a world he has brilliantly transformed but often seems unable to control," said art historian and opening night lecturer William Kloss "As seen in the Sara Roby Foundation Collection, realist art has a remarkable range of style and content. It features outstanding examples of many kinds of realism-psychological, socio-political, spiritual, and satirical, with surrealism and magic realism showing up as well. As such, it offers a rare opportunity to consider the variety and vitality of modern American realism."


George Tooker, born 1920, In the Summerhouse, 1958, egg tempera on fiberboard, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation

Like his friend Paul Cadmus, Tooker paints in egg tempera and borrows compositional arrangements from the Italian Renaissance artists. His thematic concerns, though, more often parallel those of existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre and Samuel Beckett. In the Summerhouse shows two young women in a lattice framework, presumably a gazebo, holding Japanese lanterns that cast a warm light on their arms and faces. The gentleness of the night is a marked departure from Tooker's more familiar scenes of alienated, often shrouded individuals contained in boxes or cubicles.


The exhibition preview party and opening lecture will be held Friday, March 5 from 5:30 to 8:00. The lecture will be delivered by Kloss, Washington-based curator, art historian, and catalogue essayist, who will present a slide-illustrated talk concerning American Realism. The preview party will follow from 6 to 8 pm in the Sculpture Court with musical entertainment by the Don Martin Trio, food, and cash bar. All activities are free for Everson members. Non-members are welcome to attend the lecture and preview party for $10 per person, which may be applied to a membership if purchased that evening.


Edward Hopper, 1882-1967, Cape Cod Morning, 1950, oil on canvas, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation

Often described as the quintessential American realist, Hopper painted the lighthouses and Victorian manses of the New England coast as well as the movie houses, offices, and cafes of New York City. Hopper was in his early forties, though, before he achieved recognition, first for his watercolors, and soon after for paintings of people--often solitary female figures--in architectural settings. He created mood through the body language of carefully positioned figures, contrasts of light and dark, and subtly manipulated geometric shapes. Cape Cod Morning combines two of Hopper's favorite motifs--the use of a single figure whose stance suggests anticipation or unease and the landscape of Cape Cod, where he and his wife spent summers beginning in the 1920s.


David Tatham of the Department of Fine Arts at Syracuse University, will lead a free gallery talk on Thursday, April 8 at 12 noon, in which he will discuss the various types of realism in American art. The book Modern American Realism by NMAA senior curator Virginia Mecklenburg, with an essay William Kloss, will accompany the exhibition.

 

See more on this traveling exhibition:

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 9/20/10


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