Urban, rural America at St. John's exhibit

October 22, 1998|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Urban America and rural America have been slugging it out for primacy of place in our national character since the dawning of the republic.

To Alexander Hamilton it was the propertied, industrially bound urban class that would become the backbone of the new America. To Thomas Jefferson, it was the yeoman farmer.

In truth, ours is a dichotomous urban and rural culture, a point made beautifully by an exhibit of 50 works of graphic art by 20th-century American artists at the Mitchell Gallery in Annapolis. "American Prints, 1925-1945" will be on display at the museum on the campus of St. John's College through Dec. 12.

The exhibit examines a 20-year period that was extremely important to the development of the graphic arts in America. The Regionalists and the Urban Realists are represented.

The Regionalists were printmakers seeking to create a uniquely American pictorial style in their images of rural life. Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry and Grant Wood (of "American Gothic" fame) were a few of the artists working to convey the courage and dignity of the average American in their renderings of farmers and country landscapes. Wood's lithograph "Approaching Storm" is a telling example of the genre.

By contrast, Urban Realists such as Reginald Marsh, Isabel Bishop, Martin Lewis and Peggy Brown found the essence of America in their views of New York and other urban centers.

These artists wore a social conscience on their sleeves, especially in works that convey the harsh realities of life during the Great Depression.

The exhibit includes lithographs, dry points and etchings. The strong narrative component of these works on loan from the Syracuse University Art Collection tells a revealing story of who we are.

For information about events associated with "American Prints, 1925-1945," call 410-626-2556.

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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