Villa America: American Moderns, 1900-1950
The years between 1900 and 1950 witnessed some of the most tumultuous events in modern history. Industrialization, economic strife, social upheaval, and two world wars formed the complex background for an extraordinarily fertile and innovative period in American art. The divergent stylistic movements that arose in the United States eventually resulted in New York eclipsing Paris as the art capital of the western world.
Over the past thirty years, Myron Kunin, a Minneapolis native and the founder of Regis Corporation, has assembled a collection of art from this transformative period. One of the most important private collections of American Modernism from the first half of the 20th century, it covers the diverse artistic styles and movements of the time, with innovative American modernists included alongside celebrated American realists. That the story of American art can be told so thoroughly and so engagingly through this slice from a much larger collection is a credit to Mr. Kunin's eye and to his great love of the chase after great art.
Forging a New American Art
The quest for a style quintessentially American in approach and theme, and discussion of the purpose of art (art for art's sake versus art with a social agenda), shaped aesthetic debate. Preeminent American artists had always sought their credentials abroad in the art schools of Europe, but a new generation argued that a truly American art required rejection of European art training and stylistic trends. To ensure the purity of their artistic inspiration and expression, some artists, such as Georgia O'Keeffe, even refused to travel abroad.
Raising symbolic barriers against foreign influence, however, was like trying to stop a transatlantic tidal wave of contemporary trends. Many American modernists were immigrants who brought new ideas to the melting pot of American aesthetics. More visible was the arrival of contemporary European trends and artists through watershed events such as the International Exhibition of Modern Art (the "Armory Show"), held in New York in 1913. There, many American artists first encountered the cubism of Picasso and Léger.
The struggle of artistic ideologies persisted through the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s; consequently, the story of the American moderns resists unfolding in simple, linear fashion. The Villa America exhibition is therefore presented under five overarching themes: American Moderns, The Artist's Portrait, In the Studio, Return from Bohemia, and The American Scene.