The American dream sometimes seemed unatainable for lower classes of the 20th century. But the Regionalist movement of the early to mid-1900s showed common people that perhaps the American dream was already a part of their lives.
The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto chose to focus on this movement and its followers in their exhibit "Red, White and Blue in Black and White: The American Scene in Prints, Drawings, and Photographs," on view in the museum's Margery Wolf-Kuhn Gallery through May 4.
Culled from SAMA's permanent collection, the 35 works in the exhibit include much from the Regionalism movement of the 1920s to 1950s, but contains works from 1890 to 1991.
“Cradling Wheat” (1939) by Thomas Hart Benton, lithograph
"We have a pretty nice print collection - quite a bit of it from the '30s and '40s," said Scott Dimond, curator for visual arts at SAMA. "Prints were quite popular at the time - they were being marketed to regular folks.
"[Regionalism] was sort of a reaction to the modern art of the 1920s. There was sort of this 'back-to-basics' movement. All this great imagery came out of this time."
Dimond, who put the exhibit together, said he was looking for pieces which showed off a kind of typically American visual of the time. With that in mind, the exhibit features such scenes as laborers in a vast field, a well-dressed crowd gathering in a city street and a group of women riding a merry-go-round.
If you go
What: "Red, White and Blue in Black and White:
The American Scene in Prints, Drawings and Photographs"
Where: Margery Wolf-Kuhn Gallery at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Loretto, on the St. Francis University campus
When: Through May 4
Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday
"It's got a pretty good mix of stuff," Dimond said. "There's a lot of landscapes, some portraits and what you would call American archetypes. ... The one thing that links the show together is that it has to be in black and white and it has to depict something sort of iconic for the American experience."
The exhibit doesn't skimp on big names either. Two of the most famous Regionalist artists, Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, are represented in "Red, White and Blue in Black and White."
Benton was known for his depictions of colorful, statue-like characters shown engaging in typical American activities. Later, as a teacher at the Art Students League of New York, he mentored impressionist great Jackson Pollock.
Wood is best known for the painting "American Gothic," which depicts a dour looking farm couple, the bespectacled man holding a pitchfork.
The Benton works in the exhibit are among Dimond's favorites.
"I always like the Benton stuff," he said. "It's very expressive. It's also very much in the spirit of the times, I think."
The works depicting American scenes should appeal to a wide audience, said Bobby Moore, SAMA interim curator.
"I think it's a fantastic exhibition that depicts American history," she said. "Because at the time, the artist would create works that were representative of the period. ... And there's a variety of subjects depicted, as well."
"I think the material is certainly worth a look," he said. "It's got artistic value, educational value and gets you into the mindset of the times.
"It's the sort of thing where your grandparents might be able to talk about these things to their grandkids, as they're scenes that they would be familiar with."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.