American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918-1939 opens October 8

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Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975). Construction, 1923. Oil wash on canvas, 27 3/4 x 23 3/4 in. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Artist’s bequest, F75-21 / 42. © TH Benton and RP Benton Testamentary Trusts / UMB Bank Trustee / Authorized by VAGA to the Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Frist Art Museum presents American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918-1939, an exhibition that offers an in-depth examination of an international style that manifested itself in the United States in decorative arts, fine arts, architecture and design in the 1920s and 1930s. Co-organized by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, and the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, American Art Deco will close the Frist’s 20th anniversary year and will be on display in the Ingram Gallery from October 8, 2021, until ” on January 2, 2022.

John Henry Bradley Storrs (American, 1885-1956). Ceres, approx. 1928. Molded terracotta, nickel-plated, 20 1/4 x 4 3/4 x 3 7/8 in. (Wichita Art Museum, museum purchase, Friends of the Wichita Art Museum, 1987.7. © Estate of John Storrs)

Appropriately presented in the art deco interior of the Frist on the occasion of the museum’s 20th anniversary, the exhibit examines not only the glamor and optimism of the 1920s, but also the impact of the Great Depression in the years 1930. Approximately 140 works of art, including paintings by Thomas Hart Benton, Aaron Douglas and Grant Wood; a 1930 Ford Model A; and a wide range of decorative items – furniture, glassware, vases and jewelry – as well as an audio tour including music and imaginary conversations will immerse guests in the dynamic interwar period.

As evidenced by iconic structures like the Chrysler Building in New York, the Delano Hotel in Miami, and the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, architecture was one of the most common idioms in which the art deco style was used in United States. The Frist Building, Nashville’s former post office, was built in 1933-1934 by local firm Marr & Holman and funded by the US Treasury Department’s Construction Office. The lobby contains examples of colorful Art Deco-style marble and other geometric stone shapes on the floor and walls, as well as cast aluminum doors and grilles depicting symbols of local industry.

“We hope our building will provide the perfect setting for this exhibition which reflects this complex era of American zeal and loss,” said Frist Art Museum Senior Curator Katie Delmez.

The years between the two world wars saw great social, political and cultural changes in the United States.

Paul T. Frankl, designer (American, born Austria, 1887-1958); Warren Telechron Company, manufacturer ((Ashland, Mass., 1926-1992). Modern Clock, 1928. Chromed and enamelled metal, molded bakelite and brush burnished silver, 7 3/4 x 6 x 3 1/2 in. Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art Collection, Denver, Gift of Michael Merson, 2010.0670. Image courtesy of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, Denver. Photo: Wes Magyar

“Hundreds of thousands of African American families have left the South for economic opportunities and hopes of racial equity in cities across the North, Midwest and West; women gained the right to vote through the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1920; and artists have adopted modern, streamlined styles developed in Europe using new production technologies and new materials, ”explains Delmez. “The range of works in this exhibition allows the public to consider both the optimism and the glamor of this moment in our country’s history as well as the devastation and discrimination that also prevailed.”

Take a look at home for the first time: American art deco online tour – a closer look at some of the artwork currently at the museum. Spend thirty minutes in the company of docents and other art lovers. Thursday, October 21, 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Zoom; free; registration compulsory, also Thursday, October 28, from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursday, November 18, 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. visit FristArtMuseum.org/events to register.

Do not miss Mary Sibande: Blue Purple Red, also until January 2, 2022. Johannesburg-based Mary Sibande creates hyperrealistic figurative sculptures, photographs and virtual reality installations that address inequalities of race, gender, politics and economics in Africa postcolonial South.


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