Friday, March 27, 2015

Check It Out

The Armory Show at 100: Modernism and Revolution
by Marilyn Satin Kushner and Kimberly Orcutt, eds.
New York Historical Society, 2013
Call Number: N6448 A74 A76 2013

Available for four-week check out with your SWC photo ID card.

This volume was put together by the New York Historical Society to accompany their centennial retrospective of the Armory Show. Kushner says in her introduction that throughout the book an attempt was made to separate the legends about the show from the facts about it. (This meant that the writers started with critiquing material previously written about the show and then moved on to new research. She also states that by including essays written by authorities in various fields the editors attempted to view the show from perspectives not previously investigated. This was especially evident in the chapters which discussed the social issues New York was struggling with at that time and how they affected the show.

The essays are divided into six major categories:

  1. “ORGANIZERS” (a roughly ten page essay on each of the four major organizers of the show)  
  2. “NY and the US ca. 1913” (the historical and cultural context of the show, especially in New York)
  3. “THE EXHIBITION” (general introductions to the American and European art along with five to ten page essays on nine artists, one essay on drawings in the show, and another on prints)
  4. “RESPONSES” (of both critics and the public) Example: “An elderly gentleman `suddenly became vociferous and almost violent in his efforts to keep a friend from looking at a Picasso’”
  5. “TRAVELING VENUES” (the differences between the Armory Shows in New York, Chicago, and Boston)
  6. “LEGACY” (both short and long term legacies for art dealers, collectors, and the course of American art). 
The book is elegantly laid out and contains over 350 gorgeous illustrations. Despite having over 500 pages including the bibliography and appendixes, the book is very readable and flows easily from one subject to another. It gives the reader a much better understanding of various aspects of the Armory Show by connecting causes to results. Aside from the chapters on the cultural, artistic, and historic context of the show, this is especially true in the essays on the organizers. These chapters foster a better understanding of their personalities and the impact of each on the show.

Ken Johnson, in The New York Times Holiday Gift Guide 2013 states that “It [the book] conveys a good idea of how and why an exhibition that happened a century ago is still worth thinking about."

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