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Graphic Eloquence: American Modernism on Paper from the Collection of Michael T. Ricker

American modernism in the visual arts has garnered sustained interest among scholars and general audiences in recent years, though typically with a focus on modernist painting. This exhibition seeks to expand that narrow emphasis, highlighting an array of techniques and a range of artists who explored modernism’s myriad forms through paper-based media.

“Graphic Eloquence” consists of approximately 150 works by 70 artists selected from a single private collection, many of which are promised gifts to the museum. Artists working in modernist modes shared challenges regardless of location, and the exhibition brings out these commonalities as it focuses on regional centers that embraced and supported modernist trends. The exhibition will examine the impact of influential associations and artist groups, including Atelier 17, American Abstract Artists and the short-lived Vanguard. The exhibition considers the role of museums and contemporary critics in shaping the fledgling approaches to modernist abstraction among American artists and cites inspiration for these works in a wealth of sources, ranging from music to movies, literature, popular publications, theater, art history and philosophy. Many of the works in the exhibition also employ lesser-known artistic media, some of them new technical discoveries and others reimaginings of old approaches, from casein and cellocut to pastel and pochoir. Unlike more exclusive accounts of modernist painting, the story of modernist works on paper provides a broader, more democratic view of American modernism that highlights the contributions of many lesser-known artists to this important 20th-century history.
Relevant research areas: North America

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