Musical, artistic and literary timelines generally tend to progress autonomously, but on those rare occasions when they do intersect, it's obvious that a dramatic shift is imminent. One such instance occurred in 1910. Arnold Schoenberg's “Five Pieces for Orchestra” ushered in a new style of composition while Emma Goldman's “Anarchism and Other Essays” caused a scandal in the literary world.
In the visual arts, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque began experimenting with a new style that would come to be known as cubism. Over the next 50 years, the visual arts would splinter into styles ranging from synchromism and precisionism to expressionism and social realism.
An American view of those experiments is the focus of a new exhibit opening Thursday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. “American Moderns, 1910–1960: From O'Keeffe to Rockwell” is a touring exhibit that shows how American artists explored new approaches to modernism.
Organized by the Brooklyn Museum, “American Moderns” features 53 paintings and four sculptures by leading artists of the era, including Georgia O'Keeffe, Milton Avery, Marsden Hartley, Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, Rockwell Kent, Joseph Stella and Norman Rockwell.
“In spite of two world wars and the Great Depression, it's amazing to see the artistic creativity that took place in American Art,” said Alison Amick, curator of collections at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
The exhibit explores themes ranging from architecture and urban living to the sociological effects of alienation and the rise of female independence. Even traditional forms such as landscapes and still lifes found new expression as artists re-examined how they approached line, color and space.
Advances in technology also had a dramatic effect on the visual arts. Artists seeking new ways to make their work relevant rejected or reformulated artistic traditions. Realistic landscapes and portraiture gave way to contemporary works with new aesthetic possibilities.