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Frye Art Museum Exhibition Explores American Modernism
Emil Kosa, Jr. The Open Road, n.d. Oil on canvas. 20 x 30 in. Frye Art Museum Purchase, 1956.

SEATTLE, WA.- Open Roads and Bedside Tables: American Modernism in the Frye Collection, on view from September 26, 2009 through January 10, 2010, presents works from the Frye Collection that explore how American artists created distinctly American subjects for American audiences.

In the early twentieth century, artists grappled with this concept as they attempted to image a United States that was no longer a colony, nor an unwanted offspring of a grand European vision. Modernism, a complex and contested term, is used to describe America’s self-conscious break from past European traditions in the visual arts.

Intense debate about American modernism began with two important New York City exhibitions, the Macbeth Gallery exhibition of The Eight in 1908 and the International Exhibition of Modern Art—the Armory Show—of 1913. Both exhibitions incited criticism and brought into productive tension and high relief Europe’s focus on “the new,” and America’s desire to find visual vocabularies distinctive to its own experience. Artists such as Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood looked to America’s heartland for artistic narratives while Robert Henri, John Sloan, and others represented the urban experience.

Open Roads and Bedside Tables features modernist American works from the Frye Collection. The exhibition includes newly expressive depictions of America’s vast horizons as well as quiet, private domestic interiors. Keeping pace with industrialization and a growing population, these artists imaged, each from his or her own vantage point, an America in the process of redefining its own artistic national identity and at the same time emerging as a leader in the visual arts. Open Roads and Bedside Tables is on view at the same time as the Frye’s presentation of the traveling exhibition The Old, Weird America: Folk Themes in Contemporary Art (October 3, 2009-January 3, 2010).

Open Roads and Bedside Tables: American Modernism in the Frye Collection is curated by Jayme Yahr, Frye Art Museum curatorial intern.

Frye | American Modernism | Jayme Yahr |

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