Smart features American art

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Assistant to the Editor

The Smart Museum is hosting an exhibit of American art, “The Land Beneath Our Feet,” through Aug. 25.

The show, located at 5550 S. Greenwood Ave., will feature around 80 works by 34 artists — including photographer Walker Evans and painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler — spanning the second half of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th. The photographs, prints, paintings and sculptures are part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Curator Anne Leonard said she “felt it was time for an American exhibition,” citing the museum’s lack of permanent collection 19th century American works on display: “We have really no place in our permanent collection galleries to show the pre-1900 works.”

Leonard also remarked that it was “fortunate” that the exhibit — which has been in planning for more than a year — will take place on the 100th anniversary of the Armory Show, a high-profile 1913 three-city exhibition of modern U.S. works.

“Several of the artists in [our] exhibition were involved in organizing the Armory Show and/or were very influenced by the modern art that they saw there,” Leonard said.

The exhibit includes survey photos, etchings and depression-era photography, as well as paintings from the 1893 and 1933 Chicago World’s Fairs.

According to Leonard, the collection emphasizes “space,” “place” and “American identity,” and includes U.S.- and foreign-born artists.

Many of the exhibit’s artists “have a dual relationship to America and some other country, often in Europe. So that’s a really powerful link, I think, and it just speaks to the diversity of our country and the many, many stories that fed into this notion of American identity,” Leonard said.

Leonard added, “It was quite remarkable to be reminded of the importance of travel, displacement and so on in the careers of many of these artists.”

Two events will take place at the museum in conjunction with its exhibit, a July 13 Family Day collage-making event and an Aug. 25 curator tour of the gallery.

For more information on the free show, call 773-702-2100 or visit smartmuseum.uchicago.edu.

j.bishku@hpherald.com