Posted on Friday, October 30, 2020

Many of us might feel a little out of sorts when faced with trying to understand modern and contemporary art. A little bit of knowledge can go a long way. Knowing about the artist’s motivation or the quality of the technique might make you think differently. Sometimes just looking closely at the details in the work can grow your appreciation. If nothing else, these short experiences are a nice diversion.

Here are ten bite-sized nuggets of info to give you something to think about when looking closer:

Retrospective, 2004–2006, La Wilson, (Corning, New York, 1924–2018, Hudson, OH), 2004–2006, Assemblage, 34 7/8 in. x 46 1/4 in. x 9 1/8 in. (88.58 cm x 117.48 cm x 23.18 cm), Purchased, by exchange, with funds from Mr. Lucien Q. Moffitt, 2006.34
  1. Wilson’s largest and most complex assemblage, Retrospective summarizes and celebrates the many different types of objects that she incorporated into her work over the course of more than fifty years.
Studio Interior with Flowers on Bench, Joseph O’Sickey, (Detroit, Michigan, 1918–2013, Kent, Ohio), after 1992, Oil on canvas, 42 x 36 in. (106.68 x 91.44 cm), The Mary S. and Louis S. Myers Endowment Fund for Painting and Sculpture, 2014.21

2. Joseph O’Sickey believed “The subject doesn’t matter… what the artist brings to it is the important thing.”

Tasman Sea, Ngarupupu, Hiroshi Sugimoto, (Tokyo, 1948 — ), 1990, Selenium toned gelatin silver print, 16 1/2 in. x 21 3/8 in. (41.91 cm x 54.29 cm), Knight Purchase Fund for Photographic Media, 1998.18

3. The photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto asked himself “What would be the most unchanged scene on the surface of the earth?”

Terremolinos, Louis Stettner, (Brooklyn, New York, 1922 — ), 1951, Gelatin silver print, 16 in. x 20 in. (40.64 cm x 50.8 cm), Gift of Mark Reichman, 2010.173

4. In this mysterious image, a lone figure draped in a flowing white garment seems to press into the wind as an ocean wave breaks in the background. Her bent pose is unusual and it is unclear why she has her hands clasped behind her head. Is she injured? Is she trying to take off her dress?

“Loose Leaf Notebook Drawings — Box 14, Group 4”, 1980–1982, Richard Tuttle, Watercolor on paper, 8 in. x 10 1/2 in. (20.32 cm x 26.67 cm), Gift of The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art, with generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2009.30.48 a-i

5. Realizing that works of art do not always need to be complicated or laboriously constructed, Richard Tuttle instead celebrates delicate slightness.

Morning Train, Thomas Hart Benton, (Neosho, Missouri, 1889–1975, Kansas City, Missouri), 1943, Lithograph on paper, 11 7/8 in. x 15 3/4 in. (30.16 cm x 40.01 cm), Bequest from the Irene and Emile Grunberg Collection, 1989.46

6. As a prominent participant in the Regionalist movement, Thomas Hart Benson portrayed scenes of rural America in a manner that appears visually stylized yet reflective of everyday reality. background. Her bent pose is unusual and it is unclear why she has her hands clasped behind her head. Is she injured? Is she trying to take off her dress?

Landscape with Yellow Clouds, William Sommer, (Detroit, Michigan, 1867–1949, Northfield Center, Ohio), c. 1915, Oil on composition board, 24 in. x 30 in. (60.96 cm x 76.2 cm), Purchased, by exchange, with funds from Mr. and Mrs. William J. Laub, Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Reed II and Mr. J. Frederick Seiberling, 2004.59

7. A longtime favorite across Northeast Ohio, William Sommer absorbed ideas from Cubism and other modern European art movements, adapting them to his distinctly Midwestern subject matter of farm scenes, landscapes, and portraits.

Market, Leroy W. Flint, (Ashtabula, Ohio, 1909–1991, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio), c. 1938, Etching and aquatint on paper, 13 in. x 10 in. (33.02 cm x 25.4 cm), Gift of the Art Department, Akron Board of Education, Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, 1948.15

8. In this scene from the Great Depression, a street vendor selling melons, pears, and other fruit contends with a dissatisfied customer.

To Uncertainty, Honoré Guilbeau, (Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1907–2006, Peninsula, Ohio), c. 1935, Lithograph on paper, 11 1/2 in. x 16 1/4 in. (29.21 cm x 41.28 cm), Gift of the Art Department, Akron Board of Education, Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, 1948.35

9. Honoré Guilbeau had early aspirations as a dancer, but soon after enrolling in classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, she shifted her focus to printmaking. Her thoughts were never far from dancing, however, and she often featured dancers and theater scenes in her works.

Crepuscule, Gaston La Touche, (St. Cloud, France, 1854–1913, St. Cloud), c. 1890s, Oil on canvas, 23 5/8 in. x 23 3/4 in. (60.01 cm x 60.33 cm), Gift of Mrs. Arthur McKee, 1959.89

10. This painting by French artist Gaston La Touche is an ode to dusk (“crépuscule” in French) and its subtle beauty of color and light.

Enriching lives through modern and contemporary art

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store