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Media Contacts: Melanie Mathos / Hannah Nuccio
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Two Special Exhibitions Open December 19 at the Gibbes

Painters of American Life: The Eight and The American Scene on Paper: Prints and Drawings from the Schoen Collection

(September 23, 2008 -Charleston, South Carolina) - The Gibbes Museum of Art plays host to two traveling exhibitions from December 19, 2008 through March 22, 2009. Painters of American Life: The Eight will be on view in the Main Gallery and The American Scene on Paper: Prints and Drawings from the Schoen Collection will be showcased in the Rotunda Galleries. These two exhibitions complement each other because of their focus on early 20th century American life but in two different mediums: paintings and prints. We are fortunate to be able to bring both exhibitions to Charleston simultaneously, states Gibbes Executive Director Angela Mack.

Painters of American Life: The Eight
In 1908, eight American artists organized an exhibition at Macbeth Galleries in New York that became the talk of the town. Arthur B. Davies, William Glackens, Robert Henri, Ernest Lawson, George Luks, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan openly challenged the National Academy of Design, which they considered out of step with progressive American art, and organized their own group exhibition. In 2008, Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art of Nashville, Tennessee, organized this centennial exhibition that celebrates the many-faceted careers of the eight artists.

The Eight successfully staged an independent group show and launched the modern ritual of artistic rebellion in twentieth-century America. In the past, artists submitted their works to academic juries and experts before the public got a chance to see them. The Eight did away with the established hierarchy and sought a direct channel to reach audiences and market their work. They deliberately garnered the attention of the press which helped them orchestrate their exhibition as a media event. This form of independent group exhibition became a hallmark of modern art. Unlike other independent modern movements, The Eight did not pursue an exclusive program or aesthetic. After one hundred years, the group still stands out as a fascinating chapter in the history of modern art in America.

The 50 works included in Painters of American Life represent a cross-section of subjects that one would have encountered at Macbeth Galleries, from portraits and landscapes to scenes of urban life. Robert Henri was predominantly represented by portraits, the main pursuit of his career. Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson, and Maurice Prendergast showed paintings that were based on nature and landscape observation. The remaining four demonstrated their predilection for urban realism, including one “Street Scene” by Luks, views of urban entertainment, such as vaudeville, by Shinn, and a variety of places in New York, including Central Park and the Lower East Side, by Glackens and Sloan. The urban realism that characterized the works by Henri, Glackens, Luks, Shinn, and Sloan later garnered them the label Ashcan School painters. By 1908, when these artists joined forces, Modernism had not yet taken strong roots in the United States. In hindsight, The Eight truly pushed the American art world by promoting an eclectic range of expression, thereby raising the question of what American Modernism should look like.

Painters of American Life: The Eight is supported in Charleston by the volunteer organization Gibbes, etc and media sponsor ART magazine.

The American Scene on Paper: Prints and Drawings from the Schoen Collection
Organized by the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, this exhibition presents art that reflects the vast political, social and economic changes that occurred during the Great Depression and World War II. With images ranging from portrayals of the plight of the farm laborer to depictions of industry and the growing urban environment, The American Scene on Paper: Prints and Drawings from the Schoen Collection focuses on this important period in American art that has not had the attention it is due.

“The dynamic period of American art spanning the 1930s and 1940s is an era rich in complexity and diversity,” said Jason Schoen, collector of American art. “I was captivated by the interest the artists had in American subjects. The quest for what was uniquely American inspired the artist to depict the heroic, the ordinary and the novel.”

The approximately 50 prints, drawings and watercolors featured in the exhibition represent various manifestations of realism, whether magical, fantastic, social or romantic. Several of the artists moved from abstraction to realism as they searched for a distinctive, national voice. The art touches on the pulse of this nation with expressions that run the gamut from effusive appreciation of the beauty of place to sardonic commentary on politics and culture of the time. The diversity of style and subject suggests the astonishing energy and creative spirit that defined these years. The exhibition provides the opportunity to examine first-rate examples of the work of many of America’s most influential artists of those decades including Paul Cadmus, William Gropper, Joe Jones, Rockwell Kent, Martin Lewis, Millard Sheets and John Sloan.

Organized by the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia in Athens, this exhibition is supported in part by the Georgia Council for the Arts through the appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The Council is a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by the Landon Family Foundation, the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation, the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art, BNY Mellon Wealth Management, and Alfred Heber Holbrook Society members Mrs. M. Smith Griffith, George-Ann and Boone Knox, Mr. D. Jack Sawyer, Jr. and Dr. William E. Torres.

Established as the Carolina Art Association in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art opened its doors to the public in 1905 in historic Charleston, S.C. The Gibbes houses one of the foremost collections of American Art from the 18th century to the present. The Gibbes is currently undergoing major renovations and will reopen in the spring of 2016. The renovated museum will properly showcase its extensive collections and will feature an admission-free ground floor, providing a place to watch artists at work in studios and stroll through a world-class garden.

135 Meeting Street | Charleston, SC | 29401