Legends Of America: Artists Who Have Left Their Mark

Saida Santana

From Hopper's nostalgic images to the sensual work of Georgia O'Keeffe, "American Legends" presents an overview of American art in the 20th century.


Currently at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, the exhibition American Legends: from Calder to O’Keeffe will be on view until October 19th, 2014. The artworks featured in the exhibit are drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection of more that 18,000 pieces, which includes the most iconic American artists of the 20th century.

With this show, the Whitney reveals works by artists from the first half of the 20th century and post-war figures that left their mark on the world art scene. Barbara Hakell, curator of American Legends, has selected pieces that the public has not seen in years, alongside more familiar works such as A Woman in the Sun by Edward Hopper, Circus by Alexander Calder, War Series by Jacob Lawrence and Summer Days by Georgia O’Keeffe.

Whitney Museum
EDWARD HOPPER. A Woman in the Sun, 1961.

During the course of the exhibition, a total of 15 artists will participate in the rotating display. Calder, Lawrence, Hopper and O’Keeffe, will be on view until May 24th alongside other artists such as Stuart Davis, Burgoyne Diller, William Eggleston, Morris Graves, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Elie Nadelman, Joseph Stella and Alice Neel. The next rotation, which will last from May through October, will feature all the artists, with the exception of Morris Graves, whose work will be replaced by Charles Sheeler´s. Another attraction of American Legends is that all the artists have had their own mini retrospective, giving the impression of attending several exhibitions in one.

Although the artists that make up this mega exhibit have developed very different styles, they have a common bond: a hallmark of modernity. While many welcomed the impact of European styles, they bring it to their own ground without neglecting their unique imprint or the American point of view, evident in the harsh landscapes, scenes of daily street life, pop art and social customs.

Whitney Museum
Exhibition View.

Some of the pieces on display are O’Keeffe‘s White Calico Flower (1931), where the flower almost seems to come out of the frame, and 10 paintings and works on paper by Davis that highlight the tactile and visual senses, as well as the written word. Davis’ display begins with New Mexican Landscape (1923) and ends with The Paris Bit (1959), where the vivid shapes, colors and words stimulate the viewer.

Also included are 18 of Calder´s works created between 1926 and 1956, which include the popular Circus as well as Wooden Bottle with Hairs. The iconic Early Sunday Morning is included among the 9 works representing Hopper‘s contributions to American art.

Whitney Museum
REGINALD MARSH. Why Not Use the “L”?, 1930.

Haskell has divided the artists into two categories: figurative, such as Hopper and Burchfield, and modernists featuring Stella and Bluemner, though, in their own way, all the artists featured in the exhibition have tried to create modern art.

Time will not be an impediment to enjoy these American legends whose works can be viewed at the Whitney until the fall. An exhibition of such duration will definitely allow us to organize a visit with time, and who knows? Perhaps we will even want to visit it again, later in the year.

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