Review: State Museum's 'Indiana Realities'

"The Circus" by Edmund Brucker

4 stars

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.


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