American Modern presents a fresh look at The Museum of Modern Arts holdings of American art made between 1915 and 1950, and considers the cultural preoccupations of a rapidly changing American society in the first half of the 20th century. Organized thematically and featuring paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, and film, the publication brings together some of the Museums most celebrated masterworks, contextualizing them across mediums and amidst lesser-seen but revelatory works.
The selection of works by artists such as Edward Hopper, Georgia OKeeffe, Charles Sheeler, Charles Burchfield and Stuart Davis include urban and rural landscapes, scenes of industry, still-life compositions and portraiture.
Although varying in style and specifics, they share certain underlying visual and emotional tendencies. Cityscapes and factories are eerily emptied of the crush of residents that flocked to them, becoming both a celebration of clean modern form and technological advances, as in Sheelers paintings and photographs, and a reflection of anxiety about increasingly urban life-styles and their consequences for the American individual, as in Hoppers iconic Night Windows. Equally silent rural scenes are no less haunting, but perhaps reflect a nostalgia for seemingly simpler times, and a celebration of early American traditions and values.
Rather than an encyclopedic view of American art of the period, this volume is a focused look at the strengths and surprises of MoMAs collection in an area that has played a rich and major role in the institutions history.