The Vorticists: Rebel Artists in London and New York, 1914-1918

The Vorticists: Rebel Artists in London and New York, 1914-1918

September 30, 2010 – January 2, 2011
Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University*
Co-curated by Mark Antliff, Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University, and Vivien Greene, Curator of Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

*Exhibit will travel:

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice [January 29 – May 15, 2011]
Tate Britain in London [June 14 – September 18, 2011]

“The Vorticists: Rebel Artists in London and New York, 1914-18” is the first museum exhibition devoted to this Anglo-American movement to be presented in the United States or Italy. It is also the first to attempt to recreate the three Vorticist exhibitions mounted during World War I that served to define the group’s radical aesthetic for the public. An abstracted figurative style, combining machine-age forms and the energetic imagery suggested by a vortex, Vorticism emerged in London at a moment when the staid English art scene had been jolted by the advent of French Cubism and Italian Futurism. Absorbing elements from both, but also defining themselves against these foreign idioms, Vorticism was a short-lived but pivotal modernist movement that spanned the years of World War I (1914-1918).

This seminal exhibition is co-curated by Mark Antliff, Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University, and Vivien Greene, Curator of Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. The exhibition will showcase approximately 90 works (paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, photographs and related ephemera) by members of the Vorticist movement drawn from public and private collections throughout Europe and North America. Vorticism will introduce visitors to such artists as Wyndham Lewis, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Helen Saunders, Edward Wadsworth and other members of the Vorticist group. The group took its name from “Vortex,” a term coined by the American expatriate literary great Ezra Pound in 1913, when describing the “maximum energy” he and his colleagues wished to instill among London’s literary and artistic avant-garde. The Vorticist painters created compositions activated by zigzagging, diagonal forms and—in contrast to the Cubists and Futurists—more fully embraced geometric, abstract imagery, while not abandoning three-dimensional space. They harnessed the language of abstraction to convey the industrial dynamism they associated with the “vortex” of the modern city.

Among historians of modernism, Vorticism has been traditionally treated as an insular British art movement. “The Vorticists: Rebel Artists in London and New York, 1914-18” will overcome that myth by identifying the movement as a distinctly Anglo-American endeavor developed in 1914 as an avant-garde response to the impact of French Cubism and Italian Futurism on artists and writers in London and New York.

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