‘Made in the USA’ examines the evolution of American art

BY Frank Carlson  April 23, 2014 at 1:34 PM EST


Phillips Collection curator Susan Frank discusses “Made in the USA,” a new exhibit showcasing works by more than 120 American artists from 1850 to 1970. American masters like Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper are represented in the exhibit, as well as under recognized works from African-American artist Jacob Lawrence and many more.

What does an 1886 oil painting share with an abstract mobile made of sheet metal and wire in 1950?

They both belong to “Made in the USA,” an exhibit at Washington, D.C.’s Phillips Collection that chronicles how American artists evolved — from romantic depictions in the 19th century, to dealing with urbanization and its discontents in the 20th, to abstract expressionism following World War II.

Spanning a vast period — 1850 to 1970 — the show relies on the tastes of the museum’s founder, Duncan Phillips, who sought out works that he believed worth protecting, as its filter.

“Our founder spent his entire career, 50 years of collecting, really trying to identify American artists who were at the beginning of their careers, and assembling what he believed to be the very best American art,” says exhibit curator Susan Frank.

Through more than 200 works, the collection showcases artists from very different backgrounds and periods as they wrestled with and interpreted their sense of place in a vast and changing America, in settings both rural and urban.

The exhibit runs through August 31, 2014.

Video Image Credits: Arthur Dove, Red Sun, 1935. Oil on canvas, 20 1/4 x 28 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1935 © The Estate of Arthur G. Dove, courtesy Terry Dintenfass, Inc.; Walt Kuhn, Plumes, 1931. Oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1932; William Glackens, Bathers at Bellport, c. 1912. Oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1929; Duncan Phillips, founder of The Phillips Collection. Photo by Clara E. Sipprel, ca. 1922.; Rockwell Kent, The Road Roller, 1909. Oil on canvas, 34 1/8 x 44 1/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1918. Courtesy of the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, State University of New York, Rockwell Kent Gallery and Collection; Winslow Homer, To the Rescue, 1886. Oil on canvas, 24 x 30 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1926; Edward Hopper, Sunday, 1926. Oil on canvas, 29 x 34 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1926; Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series (1940-41) Panel no. 57 “The female workers were the last to arrive north.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 18 x 12 in. Acquired 1942. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC; Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel no. 1: During World War I there was a great migration north by southern African Americans, between 1940 and 1941. Casein tempera on hardboard 12 x 18 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1942 © The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY; Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel no. 45: The migrants arrived in Pittsburgh, one of the great industrial centers of the North, 1940-41. Casein tempera on hardboard, 12 x 18 in. Acquired 1942. The Phillips Collection, Washington DC;
Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series (1940-41) Panel no. 3 “From every southern town migrants left by the hundreds to travel north.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 12 x 18 in. Acquired 1942. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC;
Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series (1940-41) Panel no. 1 “During World War I there was a great migration north by southern African Americans.” Casein tempera on hardboard, 12 x 18 in. Acquired 1942. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC; Thomas Eakins, Miss Amelia Van Buren, c. 1891, Oil on canvas, 45 x 32 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1927