'Georgia O'Keeffe and American Modernism' opens at McNay Art Museum

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'Georgia O'Keeffe and American Modernism' opens at McNay Art Museum
Georgia O’Keeffe, Summer Days, 1936. Oil on canvas. Collection of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Calvin Klein 94.171. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

SAN ANTONIO, TX.- Opening Friday, January 21, at the McNay Art Museum, Georgia O’Keeffe and American Modernism presents a wide-ranging view of the American Modernist movement through 65 diverse artworks from the McNay’s permanent collection, the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Foundation for the Arts, and rare loans from across the country.

“At this time of great transformation in our country’s history, social norms and boundaries were challenged, and conventions on class, gender, religion, and race were increasingly blurred and redefined,” said Liz Paris, McNay Collections Manager and co-curator of the exhibition. “American artists were inspired by the diversity of immigrant cultures, and in many cases, their own experiences as first-generation American citizens.”

Known as the “mother of American Modernism,” Georgia O’Keeffe emerged as a prominent artist in the movement through paintings and watercolors that applied contrasting styles of abstraction and realism to scenes of everyday life. Like her contemporaries Arthur Dove, Betty Tseng-Ecke, and Helen Torr, O’Keeffe blurred the natural and human-made, rendering landscapes, flowers, animal skulls, and rocks with the same precision as her images of houses, barns, and skyscrapers—at times reducing subject matter to fundamental shapes or focusing on individual elements with a wash of vibrant color.

Georgia O’Keeffe and American Modernism combines key loans from the Blanton Museum of Art; the Dallas Museum of Art; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Foundation for the Arts; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the San Antonio Museum of Art; the San Diego Museum of Art; Alice Simkins; The Tobin Theatre Arts Fund; and the Whitney Museum of American Art with works from the McNay collection. O’Keeffe is the thread through the exhibition that evokes the spirit of American Modernism in its diverse subject matter and unique style.

“American Modernists found unity in the disarray of this transformational time in history,” said Lyle W. Williams, McNay Curator of Prints and Drawings, Curator of Modern Art. “The diversity of the work they produced reflected this chaotic, rapidly evolving period.”

On view through May 8, 2022, the exhibition includes a dynamic selection of women artists, LGBTQ+ artists, artists of color, and Texas artists not typically championed as part of the art historical canon. The exhibition layout focuses on nature and abstraction in three Frost galleries, and includes a painting by artist Ida O’Keeffe, Georgia’s younger sister. The exhibition continues in the Lawson Print Gallery with a broader and more inclusive cultural view of American Modernism through groupings of portraits and still lifes.

A free virtual presentation by Sue Canterbury will be held Tuesday, February 8 at 6 p.m. to explore the life and art of Ida O’Keeffe, including recently rediscovered artworks. Canterbury is the Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, and curator of the 2018 exhibition Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow.

Georgia O’Keeffe and American Modernism is organized for the McNay Art Museum by Lyle W. Williams, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Curator of Modern Art; and Liz Paris, Collections Manager; with René Paul Barilleaux, Head of Curatorial Affairs; and Lauren Thompson, Assistant Curator.

Major funding is provided by the Elizabeth Huth Coates Foundation of 1992 and the McCombs Foundation. Additional support is provided by Frost Bank, Joanie and JR Hurd, Alice Simkins, and The Tobin Endowment.

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