Georgia O’Keefe: Exploring A Modern Sensibility

Hailed as the Mother of American Modernism, Georgia O’Keeffe was no stranger to the avant-garde. Her sensuous floral paintings, relentless work ethic and gender-non-confirming personal style were as shocking in the early 1920s and 30s as they remain today. Now, more than 100 years later, her provocative aesthetic is being explored in a limited national exhibition, “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern,” scheduled for August 18 – November 19, 2017 at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art.

Organized by the Brooklyn Museum, the exhibition presents a new and different perspective on the unified modernist aesthetic of O’Keeffe’s dress and art through paintings, photographs and selected items from her personal wardrobe never before exhibited. Reynolda House is one of only three venues to host the exhibition, and the only venue south of New York.

The exhibition is scheduled as part of Reynolda’s year-long celebrations in honor of its centennial as an estate and its fiftieth anniversary as a museum.

Built in 1917 as a country home for R.J. and Katharine Reynolds, Reynolda Estate has long been home to one of the finest collections of American art.

In 1967, the family established Reynolda House as a non-profit, public museum showcasing a premier collection of American art, beginning with nine paintings including works by Frederic Church, Gilbert Stuart, Albert Bierstadt, William Harnett, and William Merritt Chase. The collection now boasts paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculpture dating from 1755 to present.

The visiting exhibition, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, explores how the artist’s modern sensibility saturated her art, her life, her homes, and her carefully fashioned public (and private) personas.

In addition to a number of carefully chosen paintings by O’Keeffe, as well as photographs of her and her homes by Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Todd Webb, Phillippe Halsman and others, the exhibition will feature selected items from her personal wardrobe that highlight her preference for compact masses, organic silhouettes, and minimal ornamentation.

O’Keeffe considered her clothed body as another canvas on which to proclaim her modernism. Freshly conserved and shown in this exhibition for the first time, her understated and carefully designed garments dating from the 1920s to the 1980s will be presented alongside key paintings and photographs of her at various points in her career.

The exhibition will be organized to explore key themes that place O’Keeffe’s self-fashioning within the history of artistic identity, women’s culture, and modernist consumer design. It will look at the ways she confronted and incorporated “masculine” austerity in her wardrobe as well as her deep and abiding appreciation for Asian fashion and aesthetics. Of particular interest are the various “uniforms” O’Keeffe invented throughout her life so that she would look distinctive without spending much time planning her ensemble.

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