George K. Morris, (American, 1905–1975), Precision Bombing, 1944, Oil on canvas, The Alfond Collection of Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College 2015.15.4
May 24–December 12, 2018

Forging Modern American Identities

Recent Acquisitions

What does it mean to be modern? At the turn of the twentieth century, artists working in the United States grappled with tremendous economic and societal changes. Some, like Frank A. Rinehart, recognized that rapid industrialization threatened the already marginalized native populations and rushed to document them. These photographs contributed to a construction of Amerindian identity which resonated for years in American art among painters active in Taos, New Mexico, among other places. Other artists, many of whom were exposed to European art movements like Cubism, or benefitted from experimental education environments like Black Mountain College, embraced abstraction. These forward-thinking artists ushered in a new identity for American art and encouraged the generations that followed to develop their own visual languages of abstraction. Lastly, the emergence of powerful artistic voices resisting oppression in the twentieth-century American cultural landscape testify to a spirit of resilience and a willingness to challenge the status quo.

On view for the first time, the works in this exhibition are recent gifts to the collection from Rollins alumni Barbara and Theodore Alfond. New acquisitions often complement existing works, or serve to fill in gaps, changing the way in which an institution presents salient narratives. While art of the United States is a strength of our Museum’s collection, early twentieth-century abstraction had remained elusive. The major works presenting abstract languages in several media displayed here change that. The photographs revealing an important moment in American history enrich our burgeoning photography collection, while the gouache by Jacob Lawrence and the prints by the under recognized Emory Douglas feel transformative within recent efforts to expand and diversify the collection of African American artists. Together, the works in this exhibition allow the Museum to share a more dynamic and multifaceted history of twentieth-century art produced in the United States.

Forging Modern American Identities: Recent Acquisitions is funded in part by the Rachel and Kenneth Murrah Exhibition Fund; and the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture. The Cornell Fine Arts Museum is generously funded, in part, by Rollins College, Winter Park, FL

Leo Amino, (American, 1911-1989), Triumphant Warriors, 1951, Mahogany, The Alfond Collection of Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College 2017.15.3. Image courtesy of Julie Amino

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