Modern art exhibit paints a scene of the early 1900s for campus


A wide variety of vibrant and influential art can be found just up the stairs at Peeler Art Center. In collaboration with Syracuse University, DePauw University presents its newest art exhibit, “Modernist Prints 1900-1955.”
“These prints reveal the diversity and energy of the style that changed the way pictures were made and looked at,” said Craig Hadley, curator of exhibitions and university collections.
Since 2012, DePauw has been working with Syracuse to bring these pieces to Greencastle.
“Syracuse curates a wide selection of traveling exhibitions from their permanent collection and allows other museums and galleries to borrow artwork for display,” Hadley said.
The exhibition includes work from American artists Stuart Davis, Milton Avery and Morris Blackburn, as well as European artists Pablo Picasso, Vasily Kandinsky and Joan Miro, among others.
“Visitors have a rare opportunity to see artwork by some of the most notable and forward-thinking artists of the 20th century,” Hadley said.
All the pieces on display are prints, a medium that gained popularity largely due to some of the artists featured in the exhibit. Prints are created by transferring ink through a screen to a piece of paper. All of the pieces in the exhibit were created between 1900 and 1955. Most are smaller prints in simple silver frames and vary in subject matter and appearance.
Alexander Calder’s work, “Flying Fish,” features thick dark lines, childlike colors and unrealistic sea life. This is in contrast to pieces like “Rain and the Sea” by Karl Schrag, composed entirely of thin straight lines that represent the rain falling into the curling waves of the sea.
Some prints tend to feature more natural scenes, like Gustave Baumann’s “Colorful Trees in Aspen.”
Many works in the exhibit display people while others portray entirely abstract scenes. All of the works, though different in composition, are part of the modernist movement.
“The prints illustrate the diversity of modern graphic art from impressionism through abstraction to pure non-objectivist designs,” said Hadley.
The exhibit, largely composed of work from Syracuse’s collection, also contains five pieces from DePauw’s permanent collection, which exceeds 4,000 works of art.
“I think it’s awesome being able to see art we wouldn’t normally have access to,” said first-year Laurel O’Rourke, who visited after class on opening day. “It’s just an awesome opportunity that people should take advantage of.”
Other students were markedly less enthusiastic like junior T’Kia Williams who also visited the exhibit the day it opened.
“It’s not really my style,” said Williams.
For those interested in forming their own opinions about the art, Dr. Michael Mackenzie, associate professor of art and art history, will be giving a lecture on Modernism during the week of April 7. The pieces will be on display in the upper level University Gallery at the Richard E. Peeler Art Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until May 8.
“Modernism provides us with a very specific window to the world of Western art history that spans pre-World War I to post-World War II,” Hadley said. “The intellectual struggle that the viewer must often negotiate with Modernist art is often crucial to understanding and appreciating the development of contemporary art in our own time.”