A new exhibit that looks at the hugely popular Art Deco movement that marked a historic shift in culture and society between the two World Wars opens at the Wichita Art Museum on February 12.
The traveling exhibit, “American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918-1939,” does more than showcase the now familiar artwork and designs of that era. Through approximately 140 objects that also include clothing, furniture, glassware and even hood ornaments, the exhibit highlights the glamor and optimism of the 1920s and the impact of the Great Depression in the 1920s. 1930.
“It’s all kinds of super cool stuff,” said WAM manager Patricia McDonnell, who is a huge fan of the era.
“American Art Deco” will remain at WAM until May 29 and is a specially ticketed exhibit not included in the museum’s general admission prices or its free Saturdays.
The traveling exhibit was co-organized by the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, and curated by Catherine Futter, who had been with the Nelson-Atkins for 18 years and is now senior curator of decorative arts at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
The art deco movement occurred in the period between the two world wars, marking a period of considerable social, political and cultural change. Cars became a big part of the culture, the term nightclub was coined, speakeasies featuring dancing and banned booze became a form of escapism, crafting abilities intensified, and there there have even been social advancements for women and people of color.
Much of the “dynamism, buoyancy and effervescence” of the Roaring 1920s gave way to a more gloomy period of the Great Depression, but many characteristics of the style remained in the 1930s, McDonnell said. .
Art deco is experiencing a small comeback. “Art Deco-inspired styles are back in vogue again,” McDonnell noted.
“As we navigate a global pandemic, returning to a time that was more carefree — or at least memories of it are more carefree — can be a comfort,” she said.
WAM has five pieces in the exhibit, including an 18-inch display model of Ceres, Roman Goddess of Agriculture, sculpture that tops the art deco Chicago Board of Trade building. WAM will incorporate images of this building to showcase the small model. The iconic sculpture created by John H. Storrs at the top of the building is much larger: it stands approximately 30 feet tall.
In addition to the building’s mural, museum staff also create other aspects that will help highlight the works in the exhibition, such as art deco-inspired plinths and stenciled designs.
“This will be one of the most spectacular designs of my tenure,” said McDonnell, who, after nearly 10 years at the helm of WAM, will retire on April 1.
The traveling exhibit has also inspired smaller complementary exhibits at both WAM and the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum.
“Putting on the Glitz: Art Deco Fashion,” which opened January 8 at WAM and runs through May 8, combines clothing from the period with prints and paintings of fashionable women in the city. The objects come from both the WAM collections and historical museums.
Among the items on loan from the historical museum are flapper dresses and two velvet evening dresses, including one that belonged to Mary Pearl Allen Murdock, whose husband, Victor, was a politician and the son of pioneering journalist Marshall Murdock. The other evening gown, purchased in Chicago by a Wichita woman for her wedding trousseau, is “very lavish,” said Jami Frazier Tracy, curator of the historical museum’s collections.
For its related exhibit, the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, 204 S. Main, pulled out even more clothes from its collections closet for display. Several of the items in “Art Deco on the Plains” have ties to Wichita, such as a sweater sold at Innes Department Store. In addition to glamorous dresses, the exhibit will include other garments, such as sportswear and afternoon wear, including swimwear and shoes.
“Art Deco on the Plains” opens Feb. 12, the same date as WAM’s traveling exhibit, and runs through at least October. Regular Historical Museum admission prices apply, with free admission on Sundays.
The special events linked to the art deco-inspired exhibitions are:
“American Art Deco” Opening Day Events at WAM, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, February 12. The event will include a marching band, dance demonstrations and lessons by the Wichita Swing Society and a 1:30 p.m. travelogue by architect Dean Bradley and fine art photographer Larry Schwarm about art deco architecture in Wichita. Some significant local art deco buildings include the current home of the Kansas Aviation Museum and the United States Courthouse. While the original WAM building was considered an art deco gem, the building has been sheathed and incorporated into the current WAM facility, so very little of that style remains.
Art History Lecture on Harlem Renaissance artist and Topeka native Aaron Douglas and writer James Weldon Johnson, 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24 at WAM. The Harlem Renaissance period coincided with the Art Deco movement. Free to attend in person; conference will be recorded and later broadcast on the WAM YouTube channel.
Guided tour of the “American Art Deco” exhibition, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 27. Admission is $15, free for WAM members.
Wednesday Senior Lecture: “Art Deco on the Plains,” 10:00 a.m. March 23, Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum. Museum Director Eric Cale and Collections Curator Jami Frazier Tracy will talk about what was happening locally during the Art Deco period. The conference will be broadcast on a screen in the museum’s auditorium, followed by a visit to the exhibition of the same name. Admission is $2; make the necessary reservations at 316-265-9314 or [email protected]
Artist Talk: “Art Deco and Its Life in Lettering,” 6 p.m. Thursday, March 31 at WAM, featuring recently retired Wichita State graphic designer and longtime teacher Jim Hellman, on the styles of typography and illustration of the time.
“American art Deco: Designing for the people, 1918-1939” exhibition at WAM
What: a traveling exhibition that looks at art deco, the very popular architecture and design movement, at a historic time for society. An opening day event (February 12), lectures, and smaller related exhibits, both at the Wichita Museum of Art and the Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum, will coincide with the exhibit.
Or: Wichita Museum of Art, 1400 W. Museum Blvd.
When: From February 12 to May 29, museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.-5 p.m.; closed on Mondays
Tickets: Admission Tuesday through Friday and Sunday is $15, $10 for ages 60 and older, $3 for students with ID and youth ages 5 to 17, and free for children under 5 years and WAM members; Saturday admission is $10 for all adults, $3 for students with ID and youth ages 5-17, and free for children under 5 and WAM members. Tickets for the “American Art Deco” exhibition include all WAM exhibitions.
More information: wichitaartmuseum.org or 316-268-4921
This story was originally published February 6, 2022 03:17.