Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sarasota Trifecta, Part 1 - American Moderns at the Ringling Museum

How often do you plan multiple events for a given day that all end up being terrific?   The stars just aligned last Sunday when Susan, Steve, and I headed to Sarasota for a day of art, theater, and--of course--food.  Our first stop was the Ringling Museum to see "American Moderns, 1910-1960:  From O'Keefe to Rockwell."   All of the works in the show are on loan from the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which I've come to realize is a vastly underrated institution.  Susan and I allotted an hour to see the show, which consists of 53 paintings and four sculptures.   The exhibit has so many great works that that was not nearly enough time.

Detail from The Visit
by Max Weber (1919)
We plunged into the first room of the show and found a docent with a small group looking at Max Weber's The Visit.   She had a fun and casual attitude lacking in many docents that invited an exchange of ideas.  You won't be surprised to hear that this portion of the show dealt with Cubism and Picasso's influence on artists of the period.  I am always drawn to faces and love the fellow on the left who looks like he's ready to hit the jazz clubs with his hat and cane.  The beaded necklace that his companion is wearing is a nice touch.  We talked a bit about the symbiosis of art and music and took a look at Weber's The Cellist before moving on.   There were some other fantastic works in this room, including Henry Alfred Maurer's Head of a Girl, that I would love to spend some time with.

The Sand Cart by George Bellows (1917)
Our stop in the room organized around the theme of Modern Structures focused on George Bellows' The Sand Cart.   I missed exactly how this work fits into the theme but Bellows is certainly known for his gritty urban scenes.  (Think The Art of Boxing.)   Seeing the show with Susan, who's an artist, was lots of fun.  She gets her nose right up to the painting to study the brush strokes and colors.  She pointed out how Bellows used a couple of well-placed strokes of yellow to give the sense of sunlight reflecting off the green boat and marveled over the colors of the paints (which weren't just squeezed out of a tube at that time).   It would have been interesting to look closely at every painting with her, but time was short and Georgia O'Keefe was calling.

Green, Yellow and Orange
by Georgia O'Keefe (1960)
Two O'Keefe works appear in the portion of the show focusing on Nature Essentialized.   While O'Keefe's painting Two Yellow Leaves is the work the Ringling chose to publicize the show, I prefer the aptly named Green, Yellow and Orange.  As people talked about what it reminded them of (an egg yolk?  an embryo?), the docent shared that O'Keefe intended this to be a view from an airplane of her home in New Mexico and the winding roads surrounding it.   The colors in O'Keefe's painting shimmer and give the work a sense of movement.   Some of the works in the exhibit were done in an impasto style, with heavy layers of paint giving a sense of texture.   There are many thin layers of paint in O'Keefe's work, with the effect being one of translucence rather than texture.

The Tattooist by Norman Rockwell (1944) and
the model for the work
The show includes a lone Normal Rockwell painting, The Tattooist.  I am not the biggest Rockwell fan (although the Rockwell Museum is a must see if you're in the Stockbridge, MA area).  His work, especially from The Saturday Evening Post, is often too "motherhood and apple pie" for my taste. (Having said that, Rockwell's later works include a surprising amount of social commentary.  How can you not be bowled over by Rockwell's The Problem We All Live With that features an African American girl in Detroit being walked to school by U.S. Marshals?)  The Tattooist is a fun work, however, and harkens back to a time when it was actually unusual for people to have tattoos.  

With that, it was time to head off to Florida Studio Theater to see South Beach Babylon.   There are many works in the exhibit that I would love to see again.  Happily, I might have the chance, since the American Moderns show is running through September 8th.  Perhaps I'll see you there.


  1. Rockwell, to me, has always blended the American Dream with simple, forthright, and innocent expressions. I could spend all day in that museum! We may have different tastes, Nanette, but that's what makes the world go round!
    Blessings, and thanks for sharing!

  2. Nanette, Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I am going to have to get in the car and head north to Sarasota. I'm finding all sorts of treasures and things to do when I read your blog.


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