Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cubism Beyond Borders

In a special investigation of the far-reaching influence and wide-ranging interpretations of Cubism in the early twentieth century, the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas, brought together iconic works from France, the Americas, and Eastern Europe in Cubism Beyond Borders, on view August 31- December 8, 2013.

The exhibition featured paintings, sculptures, and works on paper from the Blanton’s collection by Pablo Picasso, Albert Gleizes, Max Weber, Arshile Gorky, Alexander Archipenko, and others, as well as Diego Rivera’s Still Life with Gray Bowl (1915), (below) on loan from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library.

In the first decades of the 1900s, Paris was considered the capital of artistic innovation, with many young artists visiting, moving to, or studying in the city. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque’s development of Cubism between 1907 and 1914 reverberated throughout Paris’s annual salons, where the revolutionary new style found an international audience of artists. Picasso and Braque never codified their innovations, and Cubism thus remained an evolving and open-ended challenge to the traditions of form and space in painting to which artists from around the world were eager to respond.

Rivera’s Still Life with Gray Bowl

exemplifies one such response. Painted while the Mexican artist mingled with the avant-garde in Paris, Still Life with Gray Bowl represents Rivera’s remarkably innovative approach to the Cubist vocabulary.

Arshile Gorky’s Composition with Vegetables (circa 1928)

and Albert Gleizes’s The Cubist Composition: Madonna and Child (1928)

were among other highlights of the exhibition, and further demonstrate Cubism’s broad geographic scope and variety of palettes and interpretations. While Gleizes worked at the forefront of so-called “Salon” Cubism in Paris as one of the movement’s principal theorists and populizers, Gorky, an Armenian immigrant to America, voraciously studied Cubism from afar through reproductions in art magazines and visits to Albert Eugene Gallatin’s visionary collection of modern European art, the Gallery of Living Art, then housed at New York University.

Likewise, Ukrainian artist Alexander Archipenko, residing in Paris and Nice, introduced a Cubist spatial sensibility to sculpture in works such as Egyptian Motif (1917), also featured in the exhibition.

Extending the international dialogue examined in the Blanton’s America/Americas installation – a grouping of twentieth-century works from the museum’s permanent collection created in North, South, and Central America - Cubism Beyond Borders sparks new conversations about the ways in which Cubism defied tradition, transcended national borders, and continually captivates the global imagination.

More images from the exhibition:

Earl Horter, Manhattan Night, c. 1932

Max Weber, New York at Night, 1915