The Dallas Museum of Art will present the first large-scale traveling exhibition in over 20 years to look at early 20th-century American culture’s love affair with technology and mechanization that influenced architecture, design, and the visual arts.
The Dallas Museum of Art will present the first large-scale traveling exhibition in over 20 years to look at early 20th-century American culture’s love affair with technology and mechanization that influenced architecture, design, and the visual arts. Hailed as “illuminating” upon its opening at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art “captures that other era when Americans were obsessed with new technology.” The DMA is pleased to be the only other venue to present this well-received and revealing exhibition that includes 14 superb examples of Precisionist painting, photography, and silver work from its permanent collection by such well-known masters as Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, Gerald Murphy, Paul Strand, Walter Dorwin Teague, and William Waldo Dodge, Jr.
On view from September 16, 2018, through January 6, 2019, Cult of the Machine features works with an artistic style born from the rise of technological advancements and industrialization during the Machine Age in America. The streamlined geometry and austere structures of the artworks on view illustrate the rise of modernism and invite visitors to explore the past, present, and future of technological progress.
Cult of the Machine presents key paintings by American Precisionists including Charles Sheeler, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Charles Demuth, and exemplary works by experts of straight photography such as Paul Strand, Berenice Abbott, and Edward Steichen. Also integrated into the exhibition are clips from culturally significant films such as Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, decorative arts objects, and other industrial works from this era, including a prominently displayed vintage automobile—a 1937 Cord 812 Supercharged “Sportsman” Cabriolet Coupe—an icon of streamlined, futuristic design that appealed to the era’s fascination with speed made possible by mechanical advances. Created during a time of significant economic and social change in the 1930s and 1940s, these objects show the responses to a technologically shifting environment by the art world, pop culture, and the public.
“While this presentation is a telling reflection of our past, it is equally relevant today—especially in Dallas, a city on the forefront of an ever-transforming technology industry,” says Dr. Agustín Arteaga, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “This glimpse into a comparable time of mechanization from nearly a century ago suggests a larger exploration of how our culture and society are situated in the ripples of modernism, where technological innovation is headed next, and how we might position ourselves in the midst of change as our daily lives are affected.”
The revolutionary artists represented in this exhibition include pioneers of Precisionism, a style influenced by European Cubism, Purism, and Futurism that arose between the First and Second World Wars. During this time, industrialized bridges, factories, and skyscrapers began to reshape American landscapes, and many of the extraordinary Precisionist works on view in the exhibition depict such scenes of booming mechanical progress. With harsh lines, bold structures, and a “machined” aesthetic, these works capture both realist imagery and abstracted forms, and touch upon the parallel attitudes of excitement to revolutionize and the uncertainty associated with replacing the need for human labor with machinery. A rigid elegance that resonates with the efficiency-obsessed cultures of then and now is inherent to the themes of these pieces.
Image: Gerald Murphy, Watch, 1925, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the artists, 1963.75.FA, © Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly, Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
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