Modern Art, Explored in Context

These three exhibits take root in the twentieth century

NYC’s top museums are serving up incredible exhibitions this spring, paying homage to women artists of the twentieth century, artists influencing social issues during the Civil Rights Movement, and the great “American Legends” of the first half of the twentieth century.

At MoMA, women’s roles as designers, patrons, performers, and educators during the twentieth century are highlighted through objects drawn entirely from MoMA’s own collection.  In the exhibit Designing Modern Women 1890-1990, expect a vast survey of graphics, posters, kitchenware, furniture, and textiles, all demonstrating the important contributions made by women of this era.  Highlights include a conserved kitchen from a post-WWII housing project in France, a display of 1960s psychedelic concert posters, and a selection of posters and graphic material from the punk era.  Up until last month, the gallery’s “graphics corner” explored the changing role of women between 1890 and 1938; now, in commemoration of the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, it has shifted to Women in War, an examination of the varied roles women play in time of conflict. (Through September 21, 53rd St. nr. 6th Ave.)

The Whitney Museum is also delving into its vast holdings of American artwork from the first half of the twentieth century to present American Legends: Calder to O’Keefe.  The rotating exhibit includes works by thirteen leading artists, offering what amount to mini-retrospectives of each artist’s works and contributions to art of the prewar era.  Artists on view include Alexander Calder, Burgoyne Diller, William Eggleston, Morris Graves, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Jacob Lawrence, Roy Lichtenstein, Elie Nadelman, Alice Neel, and Georgia O’Keeffe.   (Through October 19, Madison Ave. nr. 75th St.)  

At the Brooklyn Museum, Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties offers a focused look at how paintings, sculpture, graphics, and photography responded to the political and social turmoil of the era, and also how these artistic works helped influence its direction.  During this volatile period in American history, artists working in all forms of media and representing all races and ethnicities aligned themselves with the growing Civil Rights Movement.  They addressed issues using a wide range of aesthetic approach, including abstraction, assemblage, figural work, Minimalism, Pop art and photography.  The debut exhibition is particularly timely as it celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a pivotal moment in the fight for racial equality.  Catch it now before it embarks on a National Tour! (Through July 6, 200 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn)