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American painting exhibition from the John & Susan Horseman Collection at the Flint Institute of Arts
Clyde Singer (American, 1908 - 1999), Barn Dance. Oil on canvas, 1938, 39 1/2 x 49 1/2 inches. Collection of John and Susan Horseman.

FLINT, MICH.- The Flint Institute of Arts is presenting the exhibition Modern Dialect: American Paintings from the John & Susan Horseman Collection from July 13 through September 22. This collection of paintings focuses on imagery from across the United States and chronicles the rapidly changing American scene between the 1920’s and the 1940’s.

In the early 20th century, as our society moved from an agrarian way of life into the machine age, both the visual and social landscapes changed dramatically. The country experienced a World War, followed by the Jazz Age—a boom time of unprecedented growth and prosperity—and in rapid succession the Great Depression and World War II. The artists in this exhibition represent a range of subjects and artistic styles that effectively capture the mood and spirit of those challenging times.

During the Depression, many artists were employed through the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal Program, not as a form of patronage but as a way to serve their country by creating art that would inspire a beleaguered nation. These years would prove to be a uniquely rich period in American art, giving rise to a style referred to as Social Realism. Examples in the exhibition that reflect social conditions, every day life or political protest include: Walter Quirt’s The Future Belongs to the Workers; Abraham Harriton’s 6th Avenue Unemployment Agency; Clyde Singer’s Barn Dance; Reginald Marshand’s Mad Men of Europe; Charles Burchfield’s Memorium.

The period leading up to and during the Second World War was characterized by unparalleled industrialization, mass production and a population that had become increasingly mobile. Significant shifts in the art world were also beginning to take place in response to the rapidly changing pace of American life. New European modernist art movements such as Surrealism and Abstraction began to influence American artists. Examples of Surrealist artworks represented in the exhibition include George Ault’s The Stairway and Detroit artist ZoltanSepeshy’s Driftwood. The paintings Still Life with Pitcher by Leon Kelly and Movement by Stuart Walker are some of the works that demonstrate the movement towards abstraction.

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