Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties

Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties, a new exhibit of 138 paintings, sculptures, and photographs by 67 of the greatest artists of their time has opened at the Brooklyn Museum’s Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 5th Floor. The exhibit, which runs to January 29, 2012, is begin billed as the first wide-ranging exploration of American art from the decade between the end of World War I and the onset of the Great Depression.

How did American artists represent the Jazz Age? This exhibition brings together for the first time the work of sixty-eight painters, sculptors, and photographers who explored a new mode of modern realism in the years bounded by the aftermath of the Great War and the onset of the Great Depression. Throughout the 1920s, artists created images of liberated modern bodies and the changing urban-industrial environment with an eye toward ideal form and ordered clarity—qualities seemingly at odds with a riotous decade best remembered for its flappers and Fords.

Artists took as their subjects uninhibited nudes and close-up portraits that celebrated sexual freedom and visual intimacy, as if in defiance of the restrictive routines of automated labor and the stresses of modern urban life. Reserving judgment on the ultimate effects of machine culture on the individual, they distilled cities and factories into pristine geometric compositions that appear silent and uninhabited. American artists of the Jazz Age struggled to express the experience of a dramatically remade modern world, demonstrating their faith in the potentiality of youth and in the sustaining value of beauty. Youth and Beauty will present 140 works by artists including Thomas Hart Benton, Imogen Cunningham, Charles Demuth, Aaron Douglas, Edward Hopper, Gaston Lachaise, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Luigi Lucioni, Gerald Murphy, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, and Edward Weston.

The exhibition was organized by Teresa A. Carbone, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art, Brooklyn Museum.

Photo: Nickolas Muray (American, 1892-1965). Gloria Swanson, circa 1925. Courtesy George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, New York.

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