Indiana State Museum, NiSource Gallery, through Sept. 11.
Surprises abound in this refreshing, vibrant exhibit of art we don’t often experience. Curator Rachel Berenson Perry provides ample background in the accompanying catalog essay and exhibit labels.
Representational painting—“documenting the land, cities and people as [the artists] saw them” during the period between World War I and II brings Indiana to life during a time when a “resurgent patriotism” motivated artists away from subjective Modernism toward fundamental Midwestern ideals. Federal programs during
The Depression celebrated artists as essential to the American way of life and “the general public could relate to…realistic documentation of people in their own communities.” What makes these paintings so special is their striking difference from the better-known art we have come to associate with the “American impressionist style, practiced by T.C. Steele (1847-1926) and the Hoosier Group as well as the later Brown County artists.”
Stopping us in our tracks was the inclusion of Harry A. Davis, best known to us for his amazing architectural exteriors. Here we find a couple skating off the canvas and a family in the midst of a robust “Harvest Dinner” along with the 1945 “Passing of an Era” which can serve as a marker for his life-long preservation of buildings in paint.
You’ll view landscapes, cityscapes, still lifes, and portraits by a dozen other painters including Robert Edward Weaver’s animated circus clowns, Floyd D. Hopper’s eerie “Night Train” and Edwin L. Fulwider’s somber “Receiving News of Pearl Harbor.”
The exhibit is worthy of return visits to grasp all the nuances of a seemingly simpler life.