Modernism: Designing a New World 1914–1939

An exhibition that proves that the effect of modernism is ubiquitous.

Modernism wasn't just another artistic movement, said Joanna Shaw-Eagle in The Washington Times. Though the 20th-century revolution in aesthetics began among avant-garde painters, it soon influenced architects, filmmakers, and industrial designers. This sprawling and spectacular exhibit at the Corocoran Gallery of Art brings together an astounding 390 artworks, posters, chairs, teapots, photographs, designs for buildings—and one automobile. Taken together, this vast sweep of objects 'œmakes it clear that modernism wasn't a single style but rather a utopian vision aimed at the wholesale transformation of societies plagued by war, corruption, and disease.'

But all these 'œhigh-priced consumer goods' provide a warped view of modernism, said Jeffry Cudlin in Washington City Paper. By in effect turning the Corcoran into the world's greatest Ikea, the exhibit leaves the inaccurate impression that most modernists were happy capitalists. In fact, they were far more likely to be communists or even fascists. The very first Italian modernists were bellicose nationalists who later worshipped Mussolini. Russian avant-gardists, too, became creatures of the state. Vladimir Tatlin's grandiose Monument to the Third International, a scale model of which is included here, would have stood 1,300 feet tall had it actually been built. 'œClearly, whether modern artists were agitating on the left as they did in Russia or on the right as they did in fascist Italy, their efforts to remake the world were not benign.' Eventually, both communist and fascist governments suppressed avant-garde artists, but Modernism does museumgoers no favors by whitewashing modernism's early history.

The Washington Post

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