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Saturday, January 4, 2014

The book on the exhibit

A few weeks ago, I visited the New York Historical Society's Armory Show exhibit. Though it opened in 2013 for the 100 year anniversary, you can still catch it until February 23, 2014 (and if you're a Bank of America credit card holder you can get in free, January 5 and February 2 courtesy of the Museums on Us program)

 There is an audio guide for the exhibit, but it is really difficult to take in all the details of the politics behind the show from that information. It became much clearer when I read Elizabeth Lunday's The Modern Art Invasion: Picasso, Duchamp, and the 1913 Armory Show That Scandalized America.The books clarifies the differences in various types of modern art and the reactions they aroused.

 One of the things I found striking was how responses spread in 1913, through poetry, of all things. Lunday explains (p.80) that it would have been the "Twitter" of the day. "Where today's individual tweet and caption photographs in response to popular events, in the 1910s they wrote poetry -- vast reams of it, on every subject from the weather to fashion, foreign wars to the suffrage movement." The number of rhymes devoted to the Armory Show made it the equivalent of the subject an internet "'meme'" today. The book includes a few examples of such rhymes.

While the subject is the Armory Show, the book follows up on development in the modern art world throughout most of the 20th century and touches on major figures in American art whose fame came laer. One figure who currently looms large in the art world and did sell a painting through the show is Edward Hooper. But it wasn't the show that made him a success. He didn't sell another painting until another decade had passed. Lunday follows up on him briefly, as well as other artists whose names have became associated with modern art -- or the reactions against it.

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