The new installation welcomes several “old friends” that have been in storage through the winter, including Mark Rothko’s No. 210/211 (Orange) and Joan Mitchell’s large gestural painting Untitled. We are also adding several new works to the mix: some recently acquired, and others going on view for the first time (you can read more about these in our press announcement here).
With the new installation, we continue in the chronological vein of the other permanent collection galleries, but we have added another level of interpretation by linking the artworks and movements to the historical and cultural events of their times. By doing this, we hope to emphasize how powerful the connection is between works of art and the time and place of their making. Art is not just a mirror that reflects its time, however. Artworks and artists are among the many forces that help to shape that time, as well. It’s a lens that gives us perspective: both at the time of its making and today when we look at historical works and add yet another layer of meaning and understanding to their stories.
One example of is the new juxtaposition in this gallery of Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter with Janet Sobel’s Hiroshima. Rosie was created in 1943, in the midst of World War II. She is a patriotic icon of strength and surety, presented at a difficult time when the country needed this sort of clarity of purpose. Hiroshima was painted in 1948, three years after the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan, ending the war but opening a new era of fear of nuclear annihilation. In this painting a very different feeling is conveyed: a swirl of color, with drips that seem to flow in every direction, lends a sense of chaos that seems about to overwhelm the vague face that emerges above. In contrast to Rosie’s solid assurance, is no surety here. The meaning of the work is a highly personalized one of interior turmoil—of trying to make sense of things in a world turned upside down by wartime devastation that far exceeded anything known to humankind before.
This pair of paintings nicely encapsulates the dramatic changes that came about, both in the art world and in American society, following World War II. Later in the gallery, the installation addresses the prosperity and commercialism of the 1950s and ‘60s, the rise of women artists, and the impacts of technology on our society and our artists, among other themes.
We hope you’ll visit the Museum soon to experience this new take on Crystal Bridges’ collection, enjoy the new artworks on view, and maybe even take a walk on the trails as spring begins to unfold all around us. What a perfect time of year to open a fresh perspective on American art!