“Georgia O’Keeffe and American Modernism” opens at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio

by Jessica Fuentes January 19, 2022

It’s a banner year for O’Keeffe in Texas: Georgia O’Keeffe Photographer closed earlier this week at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and this Friday, January 21, 2022, Georgia O’Keeffe and American Modernism opens at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio.

An abstract painting by Georgia O'Keeffe. The rectangular canvas is oriented horizontally. Across the bottom of the canvas are stripes of colors, brown, red, and orange that resemble a horizon line. Above that horizon, are arched colors starting with yellow and radiating out to include orange and red.

Georgia O’Keeffe, “From the Plains I,” 1953, oil on canvas. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of the Estate of Tom Slick, 1973.22. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The McNay’s exhibition roots American Modernism in the work of O’Keeffe, who is often referred to as “the mother” of that artistic movement. Where the exhibition diverges from the typical presentation of American Modernism is that it includes artists who are often left out of the art historical canon, including women artists, LGBTQ+ artists, artists of color, and Texas artists. 

A painting by Paul Cadmus. The rectangular, horizontally oriented canvas is filled with nude figures. The figures on the left are engaged in creative acts such as building, playing music, reading, and drawing. On the right the figures seem lethargic. In the background there are hints of violence with fire and smoke in the sky. In the bottom right corner, a figure with a skull in place of it's head sits in a dugout grave and covers its face.

Paul Cadmus, “What I Believe,” 1947-48, tempera on panel. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin, 1999.86 © Jon F. Anderson, Estate of Paul Cadmus/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

In a press release, Liz Paris, the McNay’s Collections Manager and co-curator of the exhibition, stated, “At this time of great transformation in our country’s history, social norms and boundaries were challenged, and conventions on class, gender, religion, and race were increasingly blurred and redefined. American artists were inspired by the diversity of immigrant cultures, and in many cases, their own experiences as first-generation American citizens.”

A painting by Yasuo Kuniyoshi. In the foreground of the painting are two women dressed as waitresses wearing black dresses with white aprons. They walk outdoors with a dark red building behind them to the left. On the right, the background extends into the distance and includes a dirt path, green grass, rock formations, distant mountains, and an ominous sky with gray and black clouds.

Yasuo Kuniyoshi, “Waitresses from the Sparhawk,” 1924-25, oil on canvas. Collection of the Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Mari and James A. Michener. 1991.252.

Georgia O’Keeffe and American Modernism includes works from the McNay’s permanent collection, the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Foundation for the Arts, and loans from collections across the United States. Some institutions of note who are loaning works include the Whitney Museum of American Art; the San Diego Museum of Art; the Detroit Institute of the Arts; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Dallas Museum of Art; and the Blanton Museum of Art. 

The exhibition will be on view from January 21 through May 8, 2022. 

Through the support of H-E-B and the Dickson-Allen Foundation, admission is free to the museum and the exhibition Thursday evenings from 4 pm to 9 pm, and the first Sunday of each month. With support from the USAA Foundation, Inc. admission is always free for active military members. Additionally, through the Museums for All cooperative, recipients of SNAP, WIC, and MAP are granted free admission.

Sue Canterbury, the Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, will host a free virtual talk via Zoom on Tuesday, February 8 at 6 pm. In the lecture, titled Georgia and Ida: The O’Keeffe Sisters, Ms. Canterbury will discuss the life and artwork of Ida O’Keeffe, Georgia’s younger sister. Email [email protected] to register for the talk. 

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