Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Dance in the Madhouse

George Bellows, 1917

Looks like I'll be seeing this exhibit
every week until it closes:

Modern in America" Works on Paper 1900-1950's

I get the feeling that the prints,
drawings, and watercolors were chosen
for maximum kick-butt impact,
and that is what Americans tend to be good at.

And I love it.

But now that we've had a century
to become used to the "Modern World",
is it still worth all that aesthetic attention?

The large-scale technology driven commercialism and urbanization.

Isn't it all just -- "A Dance in the Madhouse" ?

"The artist as a young man was an intimate friend of the family of the superintendent to the great State Hospital in Columbus. For years the amusement hall was a gloomy old brown vault where on Thursday nights the patients indulged in "Round Dances" interspersed with two-steps and waltzes by the visitors. Each of the characters in this print represents a definite individual. Happy Jack boasted of being able to crack hickory nuts with his gums. Joe Peachmyer was a constant borrower of a nickel or a chew. The gentleman in the center had succeeded with a number of perpetual motion machines. The lady in the middle center assured the artist by looking at his palms that he was a direct descendant of Christ. This is the happier side of a vast world which a more considerate and wiser society would reduce to a not inconsiderable degree."
-- George Bellows


Just realized that the "Dance in the Madhouse"
shown at the top was a charcoal drawing,
while this lithograph, which was made five years later
and is much better known,
was hanging next to it in the show.

How much has been changed!

And none of it for the better!

It seems that Bellows wanted
his lithograph to be more dramatic
and sensational.

But I think it's just cruder and uglier.


Here's some more highlights from the show:

Jose Orozco

Continuing the theme of madness,
I love these little "Demons seated at a table" (1944)

The demons are ugly,
but every color and line is beautiful.
(which distinguishes this from
most other graphic demonology)

And I think I'm becoming a fan
of Charles Demuth.
This is his "Vaudeville Singer" of 1918.


Anonymous marly said...

The demons are so very sketchy, and the mugs (demon-sized) and table cloth with its elaborate ruffly-fringe bottom are so solid and bourgeois. Funny!

Bellows has a Hogarthian feel...

February 23, 2010  
Blogger chris miller said...



Chicago has plenty of seedy looking taquerias - and this is exactly how their interiors look when seen through the greasy windows.

I've never been hungry enough to walk inside.

February 24, 2010  
Anonymous marly said...

Oh, all right--but it looks rather grandiose to my eye. Froufrou!

February 24, 2010  

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