In this fascinating exhibition catalogue, the authors discuss how 1930s and 1940s American modernism was a diverse blend of styles, artists, and points of views. Addressing a core of the University of Iowa Museum of Art collection, from Jackson Pollock’s 1943 Mural and other gifts from collector Peggy Guggenheim, to works by Grant Wood, the essays provide a broad cultural overview of the terms and motivations of American modernism, with specific focus on Iowa as a hotbed of controversy and innovation, a place where the American Scene clashed with the avant-garde in ways that were central to the ongoing national debate over the future of American art.
Hardly a provincial regional outpost, the University of Iowa was uniquely positioned as a nexus of the modern art world, with prominent individuals and events that helped define the era and set aesthetic and ideological standards for the decades that followed. During this remarkable period the University was simultaneously the center of the Regionalist art movement, with Grant Wood as its most prominent and exemplary spokesman, and an emerging hub of the most progressive forms of modern art. In the early-to-mid 1940s, new professors and students (Lester Longman, Horst W. Janson, Philip Guston and Mauricio Lasansky), set different standards positioning Iowa’s art collection as the repository of some of the most significant images of the twentieth century.
Seminal paintings by Pollock, Guston, and Mark Rothko are discussed in more detail, as well as the influence of New Deal art projects, surrealism and the print workshop Atelier 17. An exhibition list of over ninety objects is included.