CHICAGO — A century after The Armory Show made a sensational splash on the Chicago art scene, the DePaul Art Museum examines the historical moment with an exhibition that opens April 4.
Titled “For and Against Modern Art: The Armory Show + 100,” the exhibition reunites some of the prints, drawings and paintings from the exhibition that introduced a stunned America to avant-garde European art, said Louise Lincoln, director of the DePaul Art Museum and curator of the exhibition.
An opening reception will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 5 at the museum, located at 935 W. Fullerton Ave., just east of the CTA’s Fullerton ‘L’ stop. The museum is free and open to the public every day. The exhibition, which runs through June 16, is made possible in part by funding from the Terra Foundation for American Art.
“Post-Impressionism, Cubism and abstraction seem unremarkable now, but the intensity — and polarity — of the critical reception had ramifications in the Chicago art world for decades,” Lincoln said. “Although it was in Chicago for only 23 days, it drew 189,000 visitors — more than the attendance in New York or Boston, its final venue. But it was in the Windy City that the most intense reaction to the new art occurred.
Dubbed the Armory Show because it was first held in New York City’s 69th Regiment Armory, the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art was the first large exhibition of modern art in America. The exhibition went on to show at the Art Institute of Chicago and The Copley Society in Boston, where, due to lack of space, all work by American artists was removed.
“Cartoonists had a field day with abstract painting and art students protested against Henri Matisse; shops advertised ‘cubist’ dresses and restaurants offered ‘cubist’ food,” Lincoln said. “For those few winter days in 1913, when throngs crowded into the Art Institute, the challenging art they saw divided them into ‘For and Against.’”
Guest curator Mark Pohlad, associate professor of the history of art and architecture at DePaul, said the exhibition encourages a more nuanced and generous attitude by inviting visitors to respond to direct quotes about specific objects from visitors and critics of the 1913 show.
Images of the human body, both nude and clothed, were a flashpoint of critical and audience response to the Armory Show, and ranged from vague discomfort to joking to outrage. “For and Against” probes the shift in how the (usually female) body was represented, drawing on commentary in the popular press by artists and by local and national critics.
Works in the exhibition, which come from Midwest museums and private collections, will offer various approaches to the human form, starting with the academic tradition: life drawing and modeling. The core of the exhibition will be about 20 images concentrating on figural representation and including the more radical European artists as well as progressive American artists. Among the artists featured in the exhibition are Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch, Odilon Redon, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
“The 2013 centenary offers the opportunity not only to draw attention to this remarkable episode in Chicago’s history, but also to examine issues about art that are challenging or offensive to some viewers,” Lincoln said.
In conjunction with the exhibition, a number of programs will be held at the museum to encourage a dialogue on the topics. Programs include:
● “The Armory Shows: Modernity as Pathos,” April 5, 6:30 p.m. Lecture by Jean-Michel Rabaté, professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Pennsylvania and Vartan Gregorian Professor in the humanities.
● “For and Against: Re-evaluating the 1913 Armory Show and Revisiting Chicagoans’ Responses,” April 24, 6 to 8 p.m. Lecture by Laurette McCarthy, independent scholar and curator.
● “It’s a Rube Town,” May 1, 6 to 8 p.m. Lecture by Mark Pohlad, associate professor of the history of art and architecture and guest curator of the exhibition.
A full list of programs and events related to the exhibition is online at http://museums.depaul.edu/news/calendar/.
This is the DePaul Art Museum’s second year in its new home. The museum is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 773-325-7506 or visit http://museums.depaul.edu.