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arts exhibits

Eskenazi Museum of Art to organize curator-led tour of Stuart Davis exhibition for March 6

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The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art will lead a curator-guided tour of “Swing Landscape”: Stuart Davis and the Modernist Mural exhibition at 3 p.m. on March 6 on the museum’s first floor. 

Though this tour has reached its maximum capacity of 10 people, the exhibition’s curator Jenny McComas said she will lead two more guided tours on April 8 and April 22. Guests must register on the Eskenazi museum’s website

McComas said she will be organizing a Zoom symposium about the exhibition from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on March 24. During the event, art historians Greta Berman, Emma S. Warner, Jody Patterson and Harry Cooper will each speak on different aspects of Davis’ work. IU art history faculty members Jeffery Saletnik and Melody Deusner will conclude the symposium with a panel discussion. 

Davis was a modernist painter, who McComas said tried to Americanize popular European art styles within his work. She said she considers his work to be a precursor to post-WWII abstract expressionism. 

McComas said Davis’ 1938 mural ‘“Swing Landscape” is considered by many art historians to be one of the most important American paintings of the 20th century. The abstract mural, named in homage to the swing music that was popular at the time, depicts an urban landscape made from brightly colored shapes. 

While the mural was originally commissioned for the public Williamsburg Housing Project in Brooklyn, New York, it arrived at IU in 1942 after being rejected from the site for aesthetic reasons, according to Eskenazi’s website.

The exhibition is organized into three different sections, McComas said. The first section will examine the mural’s relation to Davis’ artistic work in the 1930s. The second will explore the Williamsburg Housing Project, and the third will delve into the work of similar abstract mural artists of 1930s New York. 

Within the third section of the exhibition, works will be featured from Davis’ contemporary artists Fernand Léger, Ilya Bolotowsky, Lee Krasner and Rosalind Bengelsdorf Browne, McComas said.

During the tour, McComas will discuss Davis’ inspiration from popular culture at the time, and how his personal politics influenced the work. She said looking at “Swing Landscape” energizes her. 

“It's very frenetic, and your eye keeps moving,” McComas said. “There's so much to explore in that composition. Even though I've been studying it for years now, there's always something new and different that comes to light.”

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