DePaul Art Museum celebrates century anniversary of Armory exhibit

There were no riots at the DePaul Art Museum Friday evening. It is unlikely riots will break out at the museum in the foreseeable future. In 1913, it was a different story.

For and Against Modern Art: The Armory Show + 100, on view at the DePaul Art Museum through June 16, revisits some of the original works and artists from the Armory Show of 1913, the show that introduced shocked Americans to modern art. The Armory Show visited the

Art Institute of Chicago in 1913 to roughly 189,000 outraged patrons.

“The Armory Show was the most important art exhibition ever in America,” said Mark Pohlad, guest curator for the exhibit and associate professor of art and architecture at DePaul.

One hundred years later, of course, it seems wild that works by great artists like Matisse and Picasso would’ve incited such rage, but DPAM’s exhibit is striving to look at the work on a more conceptual level.

“We wanted to go beyond the clichés,” said Pohlad. “It’s not just the fact that people flipped out and were really offended, but why were they offended. We’re really trying to understand that.”

The DPAM exhibit, like the original, combines American and European artists of the time with “radicals of former years,” like Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir and Gauguin. The exhibit takes three focuses: The Academy, The City as Subject and Body.

The Academy references the art that art education students were receiving around the turn of the century in America focusing mainly on realism.

“You’re an art student and you’re being taught one way, and their art is radically different,” said Pohlad. “It’s a hoax.” City as Subject works cover the right

side of the gallery with mostly American artists like William Glackens’ “Skaters” and George Bellows’ “In the Park – Promenade.” The works are very realistic and illustrative of typical American work of the time. Nothing is radical.

The opposite wall of the show is in stark contrast: The Body. European artists were capturing the unidealized female form in their work, like in Henri Matisse’s “Four Studies of a Nude.” Americans had the strongest reaction to this new view of the body, which is obvious in the contrast from the American to European Art.

The exhibit is small, occupying only the first gallery in DPAM, making the exhibit a very intimate experience. Most pieces are sketches, so the viewer is forced to really examine the art and think about the once radical ideas.

While the show celebrates the Armory Show, it’s not a reunion of the original. Pieces designated by pine trees, the symbol of the original Armory Show, show viewers which pieces were originals. The rest are works from around the time of the Armory Show by artists that were originally included.

“There’s a lot of work out there that relates to the Armory Show, it had a huge effect,” said Pohlad.

The clearest example of the show’s effect is in Abraham Walkowitz’s “Geometric Abstraction” from 1916. The artist’s work post-Armory Show demonstrated the abstraction of European art in the show, but differed greatly from the work he showed in the show himself. This work, and the exhibit, doesn’t just celebrate 100 years of the original, but shows the vast effect the Armory Show had on the art world.

A lecture series in relation to For and Against Modern Art: The Armory Show + 100 will take place at DPAM throughout April and May. “For and Against: Re-evaluating the 1913 Armory Show and Revisiting Chicagoans’ Responses” from Laurette McCarty takes place April 24 at 6 pm, and “It’s a Rube Town” from Mark Pohlad May 1 at 6:00 pm.

The DePaul Art Museum is located at 935 W. Fullerton Ave. and is open seven days per week.

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