Contemporary Cadences: The Modernist Impulse in American Art (1911-2011)



Ferdinand Howald, a Swiss American engineer from Columbus, quietly and methodically built one of the finest collections of contemporary art in the country between 1914 and 1934. Shuttling by train between Columbus and New York, after years of managing coal mines in rural West Virginia, he trusted his discerning eye and the advice of a leading contemporary dealer in New York, Charles Daniel, to daringly embrace the best of the innovative art of his time. His extraordinary vision culminated in the collection that was to form the core of the newly built Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts upon his death in 1934. In the same year Gertrude Stein paid a visit to Columbus and praised the Howald Collection as one of the best in the country.

In the first two decades of the 20th century the future status of such current icons of European and American Modernism as Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Hartley, Demuth, Marin, Dove and Sheeler was far from secure and certainly not a matter for universal praise in the relatively conservative Midwestern town of Columbus. But Howald bought them anyway - sometimes literally by the dozen. It is with Ferdinand Howald's example in mind and in celebration of his adventuresome spirit that Tim and I feature this exhibition: Contemporary Cadences: The Modernist Impulse in American Art, 1911-2011.

Over the last 30 years Keny Galleries has exhibited, researched and sold the work of many of the modern masters collected by Howald and some that were not - namely Georgia O'Keeffe, Oscar Bluemner and Edward Hopper. Some of these works of art have entered the collections of the nation's finest museums including the National Gallery of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, High Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Still others have been placed in the collections of many of the fine museums throughout Ohio. Recently the Columbus Museum of Art purchased John Marin's New York Series, 1927 with our assistance. Tyler Green, in the Modern Art Notes article of April 2010 stated "The Columbus Museum of Art has acquired a John Marin watercolor: New York Series (1927). The acquisition makes Columbus' already strong collection of early American modernism - and Marin in particular - even stronger. . . . The Columbus painting is a superb cubist rendering of one of Marin's favorite subjects: New York City's skyline. It recalls how an unnamed Time magazine critic described Marin's watercolors in 1962: '[They] crumple into fragments, as if each scene he painted has jumped inside a prism. Everything was recognizable, but everything was also slightly out of place, tipped or distorted to give a sense of motion.'"

The gallery has chosen to feature in its current exhibition a few of the outstanding examples it has placed over the years in private and museum collections and to offer for sale 50 works by innovative American artists created between 1911 and 2011. The show includes work by artists active in the Columbus area who have produced modern art of national caliber. Contemporary Cadences opens October 14 and concludes November 7. The selection is diverse - from the Urban Realism of George Bellows to the Social Realism of Edward Hopper, from the Pop art of Roy Lichtenstein and Wayne Thiebaud to the Abstract Expressionism of Joan Mitchell and Sam Francis, from the Post modernism of Kara Walker to the Outsider art of Bill Traylor.

All of the objects are on paper and represent  a variety of media from watercolor, lithography, etching, serigraph, pastel, graphite and photography. Some of America's finest modernist statements were executed on paper - witness the groundbreaking watercolors of John Marin, Oscar Bluemner, Charles Demuth and Sam Francis - the pastels of Joan Mitchell and the original prints of George Bellows and Roy Lichtenstein. 

In 1911 the Ashcan artists were seen as revolutionary artists when they chose to depict the gritty underbelly of urban New York. George Bellows from Columbus, was arguably the greatest artist within the group. Keny Galleries has organized several exhibitions of  Bellows' work and was a partner in placing the distinguished Rifkin Collection of Bellows is lithographs in the Columbus Museum of Art's renowned collection. One hundred years later we celebrate his outstanding achievements and spotlight our ongoing interest in Modernist art and Ohio's link to that challenging form of visual expression.


Selected Modernist works placed in museum collections by Keny Galleries.
(pictured above)

Edna Boies Hopkins, Garden Flowers, c. 1915, color woodcut
Capital University, Schumacher Gallery, Columbus, Ohio

Romare Bearden, The Street (Composition for Richard Wright), c. 1977 ink on paper
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

William Sommer, Horse Drawn Cart in Thunderstorm, c. 1918, oil on board
Springfield Museum of Art, Ohio

John Marin, New York Series, 1927, tempera on paper
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio

Oscar Bluemner, Poor Farm, 1924, watercolor
Canton Museum of Art, Ohio

George Bellows, A Stag at Sharkey's, lithograph
Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio




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