Thursday, September 15, 2016

“Icon of Modernism: Representing the Brooklyn Bridge, 1883–1950”

William Louis Sonntag Jr., Brooklyn Bridge, ca. 1895

Opening this Saturday and on view through December 11, “Icon of Modernism: Representing the Brooklyn Bridge, 1883–1950” is a rich survey of paintings, watercolors, works on paper and photographs that all take the Brooklyn Bridge as a subject and were created between the completion of the bridge (1883) and the mid-20th century. “Icon of Modernism” aims to show how artistic representations of the structure evolved over time even as it symbolized modernity for different generations. From American impressionism to abstract expressionism, the details of how artists presented the bridge may have changed, but its ability to stand for the modern era remained.

“Icon of Modernism” features 42 works of art, including from painters Joseph Stella, John Marin, Yun Gee, Georgia O’Keeffe and Reginald Marsh and photographers Edward Steichen, Walker Evans, Weegee and Consuelo Kanaga. Four works in the exhibition come from the museum’s own collection, but the remainder are on loan from museums, corporate collections and private collections across the country.

Glenn O. Coleman, Bridge Tower, 1929
“When it opened, the Brooklyn Bridge was a phenomenon, and many commemorative objects featuring the bridge were produced. Other museums have shown the wide variety of these objects, but we decided to focus on the aesthetic portion alone,” explains Sarah Kate Gillespie, the museum’s curator of American art, chose Gillespie, who was tasked with organizing the exhibition when the museum hired her in 2014.

Many of our visitors and readers will be surprised to hear of the connection between a structure so tied to New York City and Athens, Georgia. As it turns out, direct descendants of John A. Roebling, who designed the bridge, lived in Athens for many years, and portraits of Roebling's son and daughter-in-law, Ferdinand William and Margaret Allison Roebling, have been on view in the museum’s permanent collection galleries.

In addition, the museum’s collection overlaps strongly with the span of time the exhibition covers; an exhibition of related works that shows the city in the same time period from that collection, titled “Man’s Canyons: New York City on Paper,” will be on view through December 31 in the adjoining Boone and George-Ann Knox Gallery I. An illustrated catalogue, published by the museum and available at the Museum Shop, accompanies “Icon of Modernism,” with scholarly essays by Gillespie, Janice Simon (Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of Art History in the Lamar Dodd School of Art, UGA), Meredith Ward and Kimberly Orcutt, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art of the Brooklyn Museum.

Related programs include:

• 90 Carlton: Autumn, the museum’s quarterly reception (free for members of the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art, $5 nonmembers)
Friday, September 16, 5:30–8:30 p.m.

• Brooklyn Bridge Film Series: 'Neath Brooklyn Bridge”
Thursday, October 6, 7 p.m.

• Tour at Two: public tour with curator Sarah Kate Gillespie
Wednesday, October 12, 2 p.m.

• Gallery talk by curator Sarah Kate Gillespie and Stephan Durham, associate professor in the UGA College of Engineering
Thursday, October 13, 5:30 p.m.

• Brooklyn Bridge Film Series: It Happened in Brooklyn”
Thursday, October 13, 7 p.m.

• Brooklyn Bridge Film Series: “Brooklyn Bridge”
Thursday, October 20, 7 p.m.

• Emerging Scholars Symposium, co-organized with UGA’s Association of Graduate Art Students, October 21 and 22, with Richard Haw as the keynote speaker on Friday, October 21, 5:30 p.m.

• Brooklyn Bridge Film Series: “Kate and Leopold”
Thursday, October 27, 7 p.m.

• Family Day: Building Bridges
Saturday, November 5, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (as part of UGA’s Spotlight on the Arts festival).

All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated.

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