Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Showcase of Art and the City; Cummer Presents 'Urban Realism'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Showcase of Art and the City; Cummer Presents 'Urban Realism'

Article excerpt

Byline: TANYA PEREZ-BRENNAN, The Times-Union

Everybody says that Jacksonville is an emerging city; downtown development is ongoing, and more and more people are moving here.

So in the spirit of witnessing our growing surroundings, it's interesting to see art that explores the theme of the city and urban renewal.

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens opens a new show, "Edward Hopper and Urban Realism," on Thursday as part of a traveling exhibition from the Whitney Museum of American Art's permanent collection. It will run through Sunday, May 23.

The exhibit presents the work of Hopper and 27 other artists who established a tradition of realism in American art in the early 20th century. The show examines Hopper's work alongside his peers, many of whom studied under Robert Henri, who was a leader in the "Ashcan" school and was part of a group called "The Eight."

"With Robert Henri in a leadership role, these artists were looking for the heroic in everyday life," said chief curator Jeanette Toohey. "Many of the artists were living this life. They were working people, and they lived and worked in cities."

The kind of art being championed at the time was a radical departure from the status quo, Toohey said. At the time, art was expected to define and uplift the classical, traditional standards of the day, not the surrounding reality. Depicting scenes of daily life in the city -- in crowded tenements and alleys -- was a way of reflecting the reality of the day, while at the same time documenting the vibrancy of change in the city.

"Here we're reminded this art was extremely difficult for people to see," Toohey said.

Many at the time did not see the beauty in elevating the dirty and smelly city streets, she said.

"I think Henri's charge to the younger generation was to find the real about life and elevate it to the realm of high art. It was, 'Let's make art that says something about the world we live in,' " she said.

The artists in the show include George Luks, Everett Shinn, John Sloan and George Bellows, and the 67 works presented highlight themes such as the changing architecture and growth of the city, along with the impact of technology and the influx of immigrants. …

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