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Modern Dialect: from the John & Susan Horseman Collection

July 13 - September 22, 2013


The exhibition Modern Dialect: from the John & Susan Horseman Collection is on view at the Flint Institute of Arts through September 22, 2013. This collection of paintings focuses on imagery from across the United States and chronicles the rapidly changing American scene between the years 1920's to the1940's. "Interestingly, the timing of this show and the period in our history it covers, correlates with the advent of the automobile era in Michigan. The FIA is the only Midwest venue for this remarkable collection of paintings and really should not be missed," said John B. Henry, Director.

In the early 20th century, as our society moved from an agrarian way of life into the machine age, both the visual and social landscapes changed dramatically. The country experienced a World War, followed by the Jazz Age -- a boom time of unprecedented growth and prosperity, and in rapid succession a Great Depression and World War II. The artists in this exhibit, representing a range of subject's and artistic styles, effectively capture the mood and spirit of those challenging times.

During the Depression, many artists were employed through the Roosevelt administration's New Deal Program, not as a form of patronage but as a way to serve their country by creating art that would inspire a beleaguered nation. These years would prove to be a uniquely rich period in American art giving rise to a style referred to as "Social Realism". Examples in the exhibit that reflect social conditions, every day life or political protest include: Walter Quirt's " The Future Belongs to the Workers," Abraham Harriton's "6th Avenue Unemployment Agency," Clyde Singer's "Barn Dance," "Mad Men of Europe" by Reginald Marsh and Charles Burchfield's "Memorium".

The period leading up to and during the Second World War was characterized by unparalleled industrialization, mass production and a population that had become increasingly mobile. Significant shifts in the art world were also beginning to take place in response to the rapidly changing pace of American life. New European modernist art movements such as "Surrealism" and "Abstraction" began to influence American artists. Examples of "Surrealist" art works represented in the exhibition include George Ault's " The Stairway" and Detroit artist Zoltan Sepeshy's "Driftwood." The paintings "Still Life with Pitcher" by Leon Kelly and Stuart Walker's "Movement" are some of the works that demonstrate the movement towards abstraction.

As a complement to the Horseman Collection the FIA will also have on view Great Lakes Painting: The Inlander Collection. These works, while representing the same historical period, are specifically by artists who lived and worked in the Great Lakes Basin. Both of these collections reflect the sentiment of the author John Dos Passos who in 1941 wrote, "We need to know what kind of firm ground other men, belonging to generations before us, have found to stand on."


Object labels from the exhibition


Wall panels from the exhibition:

America in Isolation
American Industry
Early Modern
Seeking Community
The Surrealist Influence
Toward Abstraction


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Resource Library wishes to express appreciation to Janice Henry and Ashley Phifer of the Flint Institute of Arts for providing images of texts presented in this article.

For biographical information on artists referenced in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Flint Institute of Arts in Resource Library.

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