Friday, October 26, 2007

Societe Anomyme: Frisky at the Frist

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2007 at 12:01 PM

click to enlarge socanon_signboardlg.jpg

Yesterday, a small group of brave Scene travelers trundled over the Demonbreun Street bridge to the Frist Center for the media preview of their new touring exhibition Societe Anonyme: Modernism for America.

As we learned from our very knowledgeable tour guide—spending six years curating one collection does that to a person—this assemblage of art and artists was the brainchild of Katherine Dreier, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray. They hoped to bring contemporary art, specifically the energy of modernism, to American audiences. They organized exhibitions, concerts, performances and lectures over the course of more than 20 tumultuous years encompassing The Great Depression and World War II.

What was most impressive about the exhibit—which has a permanent home in the Yale University Art Gallery—was its range. There is no unifying aesthetic, and works by veritable unknowns hang next to Kandinskys and Stellas. There was also a palpable sense of whimsy. The first room was a re-creation of the group's first show in 1920, right down to the blue walls and the paper doilies around the pieces.

This was art chosen and organized by artists, not curators. The collection felt no need to fit into a cohesive narrative. And you can sense the organizers' enthusiasm—they really thought art could change the world. It kind of makes you want to be a part of something larger than yourself. I'll have to make a new Facebook group later today....

Societe Anomyme runs through Jan. 28, 2008.


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