A gem of a show — with a high percentage of gemlike as well as intriguing and culturally significant works of art in it — is on view at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. The 57 works from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum in the “American Moderns 1910-1960: From O'Keeffe to Rockwell” exhibit may not exactly break new ground, but they are a delight to behold.
Figurative works that greet museum visitors, under the heading “Engaging Characters,” are engaging indeed, and serve to whet our appetites for the rest of the show. A woman in a simple gray suit sits with arms folded and an abstracted look at a “Cafe Table,” her pale face almost masklike, in an outstanding small oil done in about 1940 by Raphael Soyer.
Guy Pene du Bois gives a raffish edge and pointed beard to “The Confidence Man,” telling a woman in a black dress something, and contrasts a man in a wheelchair with a couple in the foreground of a second oil.
Reginald Marsh captures the animation of a ragtag crowd in front of the “Grand Windsor Hotel” in shades of brown, in a 1946 egg tempera which combines drawing and painting elements masterfully.
A beribboned officer and men who look like captains of industry seem to have profited from World War II handsomely in “Welcome Home,” a superb, satirically distorted 1946 oil by Jack Levine.
Mahonri M. Young conveys the intensity and exaggerated animation of a boxer landing a “Right to the Jaw” in a bronze — a work which contrasts nicely with the quiet elegance of Elie Nadelman's “Resting Stag.”
Norman Rockwell offers us a comically charming 1944 oil of “The Tattoo Artist,” adding to the list of girlfriends on a sailor's arm, in front of a background of patriotic, tongue-in-cheek wallpaper. Quaintly charming, too, are a snowy winter scene by Grandma Moses, and a heavily textured, folk art-like oil of a “Girl with a Dog,” in her striped dress and floppy hat, by Morris Hirshfield.
Three men work on “The Sand Cart,” pulled by white horses on a beach, in front of blue water, and a sunlit green, gray and golden mountain range, in a visually stunning 1917 oil by George Wesley Bellows