CHICAGO, IL.- To celebrate the opening of the Modern Wing, two departments at the Art Institute have organized exhibitions in their respective galleries in the 1893 Allerton building that draw on the vast collections of the Department of Photography and the Department of Prints and Drawings. Both exhibitions showcase modern and contemporary works and complement the works on display in the museums new Modern Wing.
Photography on Display: Modern Treasures
Photography on Display: Modern Treasures is the debut exhibition of Matthew Witkovsky, who joined the Art Institute in January 2009 as chair of the Department of Photography. This exhibition, on view through September 13 in Photography Galleries 14, showcases approximately 130 works by 70 modernist figures, including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Albert Renger-Patzsch, demonstrating the range of photographys spaces of display. During the first half of the 20th century, photography in all its manifestations came to be considered arteven the most modern of all the arts. The radicality of that idea lay as much in the new spaces for visual display that photography opened up as it did in the kinds of images created for those varied spaces.
Organized in four sections, this selection of treasures from the Art Institute and other outstanding Chicago collections begins with photographs from the early 1900s, in the world of amateur salon exhibitions and professional studios. The second section is devoted to museums and galleries, where photography began to be shown as art during the 1910s and 1920s. The exhibition turns in section three to the printed page; with the expansion of the illustrated press after 1920, artistphotographers quickly came to treat magazines, books, and even postcards as spaces for photographic display. The fourth and final section features some of the boldest experiments in modern photographyworks revealed first in the privacy of artists living rooms, or even in the darkroom, before becoming the foundation of artistic study at art schools such as the Bauhaus and its Chicago successors.
The Art Institute of Chicago has long been celebrated for its holdings in modern photography. The Alfred Stieglitz collection, donated to the museum by Georgia OKeeffe in 1949, includes nearly 250 works by Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, and other luminaries of American modernism. The Julien Levy collection, acquired in 1979, added a transatlantic strength, with signature images from Europe and the United States by Ilse Bing, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Man Ray among its more than 300 photographs. The Art Institute also followed the careers of important mid-century artists while they were active, exhibiting and collecting the works of Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Brassaï, and Harry Callahan, among others. Work by all these major figures are included in this exhibition.
Modern and Contemporary Works on Paper
The Department of Prints and Drawings celebrates the new Modern Wing by focusing on rarely seen modern and contemporary works on paper in the permanent collection. Modern and Contemporary Works on Paperon view through September 13, 2009, in the Jean and Steven Goldman Prints and Drawings Galleries in the Richard and Mary L. Gray Wingis a true prelude to the Modern Wing, presenting approximately 80 works that, due to their inherent sensitivity to light, are rarely exhibited. The exhibition, organized by Mark Pascale, Curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings, explores how modern artists have used drawingwhether to create highly finished works of art or to make notations or diagrams.
Highlights include compositions by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and other School of Paris modernists, as well as modern German artists such as Max Beckmann, Lovis Corinth, Otto Dix, and Ernst Kirchner. Further, a selection of Dada and Surrealist works from the collection are shown with ephemera and artists books from the rich holdings of the Mary Reynolds Collection in Ryerson Library. Post-War artists such as Arshile Gorky, Lee Krasner Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock are displayed to demonstrate how American painters expanded the vocabularies of their European precursors. The exhibition concludes with the work of artists who matured after 1950, including Jasper Johns, and with Roy Lichtensteins Alka Seltzer, a stunning image that the artist never repeated in another medium. Displaying major works by many of the artists that will be featured in the permanent galleries of the Modern Wing, this exhibition showcases the Art Institutes long-held commitment to collecting and exhibiting the art of our time.