Friday, 4 January 2013

Culture Shock 1913

A hundred years ago, 1913, art was shaken up, fractured, broken and made disturbing to the public and patrons. The decade before in Europe a movement in ideas, music, literature and profoundly in art had been growing and it was in 1913 that these paintings and sculptures were exhibited in New York at the Armory.

This past weekend while working I was listening to one of my favorite radio programs Studio 360,  there was a review of a broadcast on WNYC by Sara Fishko. The program titled Culture Shock 1913 goes back and listens to and looks at the impact The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, the atonal music of Arnold Schoenberg and the shocking exhibition of modern art at the Armory. 

The ideas discussed were how the forms of music and art had changed. The discussion particularly looks at the painting "Nude Descending A Staircase" by Marcel Duchamp. How the fractured and angular tonal shapes shocked everyone. Comments were: "Where's the nude?', "Who can spot the nude," from visitors and journalists. It challenged many on so many levels, one idea that you can title a painting and have little actual reference to the subject, another that a figure can be so broken. It challenged many on the position of a nude which in 19th century academic painting was allowed to stand or recline, but in motion? Filmic was the word used to describe it. It was the time also when film was an emerging art form, movement and storytelling were developing, editing was being invented, so in the context of the period is was a very new visual idea. It was considered "a misshapen nude woman-repellant from every angle." Today you can even ask was it a woman, could be a man.

These are other paintings that were exhibited at the Armory:


Natalia Goncharova

Morgan Russell

Umberto Boccioni

1300 artists and sculptors exhibited there, many have had profound influence on our visual imaginations over the past 100 years, Cezanne, van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Whistler, Hopper, Malevich and the list goes on. The room where the cubist paintings were hung was called the Chamber of Horrors.  Another aspect of the exhibition, that today is quite ordinary, the exhibition was organized by artists and sculptors and held in a building that was an armory, not a gallery, museum or an exhibition hall. Think of the edgy exhibits today in old factories or warehouses, you might ask so edgy?

It is a thoroughly entertaining broadcast, listen to it while you are doing a task: Culture Shock 1913 and let me know what you think.

Happy New Year!

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