An estimated 225,000 works were commissioned during the depression era under president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project (WPA), a program designed to put artists to work in paying jobs and to bring art to public places like schools, libraries and post offices where people congregate. Comprehensive records were never kept but artwork done under the program keeps popping up occasionally during building construction, as recently happened at the University of Vermont. In other cases a concerted effort, like that described in the book Art For The People: The Rediscovery And Preservation Of Progressive And WPA-Era Murals In The Chicago Public Schools, 1904-1943 (2002) which brought to light approximately 450 murals in 70 public schools across the city. Artists in every state from Alabama to Washington and Puerto Rico to Hawaii benefitted from the Program.
To address the lack of a complete database of WPA funded art, Gray Brechin, a historical geographer at UC Berkeley founded the Living New Deal project. Like a New Deal Wikipedia they are seeking contributions from anyone who discovers artwork or has documents of any kind related to this great social and cultural moment in American History.
One of San Francisco’s most enigmatic figures, the artist known simply as Jess (1923–2004) quietly forged a body of work that privileged the mystical, whimsical, and absurd. Organized around three guiding themes—mythos (story), psyche (soul), and eros (desire)—this exhibition pairs Jess’s paintings and collages with pieces by other California artists, who together reflect the West Coast’s unusual romantic legacy.
In the early twentieth century, inspired by modern science such as Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, an emerging avant-garde movement sought to expand the “dimensionality” of modern art, engaging with theoretical concepts of time and space to advance bold new forms of creative expression. Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein illuminates the remarkable connections between the scientific and artistic revolutions that shaped some of the most significant works of the time, from Alexander Calder’s kinetic sculptures to Marcel Duchamp’s early experiments with Conceptual art. Others were inspired by emerging research into interstellar and microscopic spaces, while expanding knowledge of quantum mechanics transformed many artists’ views of the world, leading to new approaches to understanding the nature of everyday reality.
The exhibition title derives from the Dimensionist Manifesto—a 1936 proclamation calling for an artistic response to the era’s scientific discoveries, which was signed by many of the artists in the exhibition and reflected the artistic interests of many others on both sides of the Atlantic. Dimensionism brings together rarely seen works by artists such as Joseph Cornell, Barbara Hepworth, Wassily Kandinsky, Helen Lundeberg, Man Ray, André Masson, Roberto Matta, Joan Miró, László Moholy-Nagy, Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi, Pablo Picasso, Yves Tanguy, and Dorothea Tanning, along with poetry and other ephemera associated with the Dimensionist movement. This unprecedented exhibition invites visitors to reconsider work by some of the most important artists of the twentieth century in a fresh historical framework that emphasizes their engagement with the world of science—a powerful influence on the trajectory of modern art. By illuminating this forgotten history, Dimensionism reveals that major swaths of avant-garde art can never fully be understood unless contextualized within the social and scientific upheavals that shaped them.
Modern and contemporary art created in the American West, manifesting an independent spirit and embodying unique ideas, has been largely written out of the mainstream narrative of art history or placed in unhelpful contexts. Collecting on the Edge, featuring work by 172 artists from the collection of the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art at Utah State University in Logan Utah, aims to correct that situation. Texts accompanying each artwork, by eighty-one critics, art historians, curators, gallerists, artists, and collectors, provide illuminating insights into the works and their creators.
In an introductory essay art critic Michael Duncan exposes the provincialism and regionalist thinking that has dictated mainstream views of modernism: “Many of the nation’s most daring, innovative, and iconoclastic works have been ignored…simply because they were made on the wrong side of the Mississippi.” This extensive catalogue also includes a substantial interview with visionary collector George Wanlass, who amassed these works over a thirty-year period, providing a rare glimpse of his philosophy and practice. An inclusive rewriting of the traditional narrative, with new perspectives on artists both familiar and unfamiliar, Collecting on the Edge is a must-have resource featuring material unavailable online or through any other publication.