Youth & Beauty: Art of the American Twenties
Dallas Museum of Art
March 4 through May 27, 2012
Today, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) opens Youth & Beauty: Art of the American Twenties. This is a wonderful exhibit with over 130 paintings, sculptures and photographs by 60 American artists. The works cover a wide range of subject matter as the twenties were preceded by World War I and ended with the Great Depression. Youth & Beauty was organized by the Brooklyn Museum and is on view through May 27, 2012.
That is how I usually open a review of any exhibit, giving the reader the quick lowdown. What I really want to say is that Youth & Beauty is a breath of fresh air at the DMA. The last few exhibits (Luc Tuymans and Mark Bradford) in the main gallery and adjacent galleries have been stifled with too much of the wrong thing. I’m sure a handful of either Tuymans or Bradford’s works would have been enough, but five galleries is way too much, especially for works that leave viewers, like me, behind.
Youth & Beauty is full of paintings, sculptures and photographs to see, appreciate and learn from. It’s not everyday we get to take a time-machine back to the last century, but we do at the DMA. I really like the twenties. I don’t usually read a lot of novels, but when I do, I settle for something that I should have read in high school. I’m a sucker for books like The Sun Also Rises and The Great Gatsby.
Youth & Beauty brought a smile to my face around every corner. In one gallery I saw photographs by Alfred Stieglitz and I quickly looked to see if his model was artist Georgia O’Keeffe. In the main gallery I saw Aeroplane (1928) by Elsie Driggs and was reminded of Charles Lindbergh’s flight in the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927. In another gallery I saw a painting reminiscent of American Gothic (1930) by Grant Wood and found out it is actually Woman with Plants (1929) by the same artist, done a year earlier.
There are so many great works to see by artists Georgia O’Keeffe, Thomas Hart Benton, Alfred Stieglitz, Charles Sheeler, Imogen Cunningham, Man Ray, Ansel Adams, Grant Wood and Edward Hopper.
I really enjoyed the underlined theme of the exhibit that artists started using the human body as a design element or landscape. Works like Reclining Nude (1927) by Morris Kantor make it easy to image the body of any person becoming the mountains and valleys in any American landscape, just in a different color.
Make not mistake, there are plenty of nude or partially nude bodies to see in Youth & Beauty. How could there be an exhibit like this if there weren’t? But there is nothing out of place at the DMA. Youth & Beauty is no more risque than The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. In fact, it may be tamer given the naughtiness of that Frenchman.
I hope you visit the Dallas Museum of Art and enjoy Youth & Beauty: Art of the American Twenties as much as I did. I’m already planning a return visit to take in even more art and history.
Below are a few images from Youth & Beauty. These few images only scratch the surface of the wonderful works on-hand at the DMA. Click to see larger images.