"The Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America"; UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

By Troy, Nancy J. | Artforum International, October 2006 | Go to article overview

"The Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America"; UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles


Troy, Nancy J., Artforum International


WHAT SHAPE might the narrative of modernism in the visual arts have assumed in the absence of New York's Museum of Modern Art? Would we envision the history and evolution of modern art differently if we had not been guided for decades by the famous flowchart that MOMA director Alfred H. Barr Jr. prepared to explain the organization of his 1936 exhibition "Cubism and Abstract Art"? Here, for the first time, Barr crystallized MOMA's paradigmatic vision of modernism as a progressive, formalist development across the European avant-gardes that could be traced along a dense network of intersecting pathways beginning with various forms of Post-Impressionism in the 1890s and culminating by the mid-1930s in "geometrical" and "nongeometrical" abstract art. So convincing was the apparent logic of this model that for many years it effectively obliterated all other versions of how the history of modern art might be told. In the past quarter century, however, some of the powerful institutional forces that enabled MOMA'S narrative to become authoritative have been exposed, and alternative histories are now emerging to challenge the singular perspective that for so long dominated the field. Curated by Yale University Art Gallery's Jennifer R. Gross with assistance from Susan Greenberg, the current traveling exhibition of works of art and related ephemera drawn from the Societe Anonyme Collection housed at Yale University is a compelling instance of this revisionist trend, offering a distinctly different standard for appreciating the artistic and collecting practices through which modernism was initially constructed and explained to American audiences during the first half of the twentieth century.

Formally constituted as the Societe Anonyme, Inc., the organization founded in 1920 by the artist Katherine S. Dreier together with Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray was dedicated to supporting and exhibiting the work of contemporary artists from America and throughout Europe. Based in New York City, the Societe Anonyme was conceived almost a decade earlier than MOMA as a vehicle for educating a broad (if largely uninterested) American public about modern art through exhibitions, publications, and programs that included lectures and musical performances; although it eventually amassed an impressive collection of well over a thousand works by more than one hundred artists, collecting was not its purpose. In its early years the organization actively recruited critics, museum directors, art patrons, and artists to become members, but eventually the activities of the Societe Anonyme were concentrated around the eighty-five one-person and group exhibitions, including several ambitious traveling shows, that Dreier would organize between 1920 and 1941, often with substantial help from Duchamp and occasional advice from other artists. As archival documents in the current exhibition and essays in the accompanying catalogue make clear, the animating force of the Societe Anonyme was the shared commitment of Dreier and Duchamp--an unlikely pair, if ever there was one.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The daughter of affluent German immigrants, Dreier was a theosophist committed to modern art as an expression of spiritual and moral values. It was as a founding member of the Society of Independent Artists in 1916 that she first came into contact with Duchamp, the Dadaist whose infamous Fountain she voted to reject (on the grounds that it lacked originality) when it was submitted for exhibition the following year. Dreier very quickly regretted that decision and within a short time was pursuing a more congenial relationship with Duchamp, her junior by ten years. She painted figurative as well as abstract portraits of Duchamp in 1918, the same year in which she commissioned what was to be his last oil painting, Tu m', one of many works by Duchamp (including his Large Glass, 1915-23) that she owned during her lifetime. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"The Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America"; UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.