How do colonial-era American craft and modernism go hand-in-hand? Both art movements were furthered by the Rockefeller family, who built Colonial Williamsburg from 1927 onwards, and MoMA from 1929 onwards. Both projects were concerned with a search for what is distinctively American. The recent MoMA exhibition American Modern: Hopper to O'Keeffe touched upon MoMA founding Director Alfred H. Barr's interest in developing genealogical narratives for American art. He and others asked the essentialist question: Is there such a thing as a uniquely (North) American" art? For Barr, the narrative of American art began with folk art.
This 2-day workshop looks at the period of 1790–1840, locating a pre-modern precedent for American art not in the representational, accessible folk art paintings that Barr favored, but in everyday things created by people who did not consider themselves artists or designers (but who perhaps should be by today's standards). These artists also sought to stake out an American creative quality apart from that of Europe, but they did so through three-dimensional objects and all-encompassing domestic interiors: ceramics, textiles, furniture, floor coverings, lighting fixtures, and other forms of interior decoration. This course asks participants to consider even earlier forms of sculpture, installation, and social practice: American pre-modern.
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Image: Allison Smith. Dyed Wool, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. 2013. Archival pigment print on linen, 24 x 32"; frame: 25 x 33 x 2". Edition of three. Courtesy of the artist and Haines Gallery, San Francisco. Photo credit Monique Deschaines