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Local News / Entertainment

Monday, 7 April, 2008 0:28 AM

'Life's Pleasures' Exhibit is Now Open at the DIA

Courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts, Founder’s Society purchase.

McSorley’s Bar, John Sloan, 1912, oil on canvas, 26 x 31 in.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

DETROIT -- A group of friends gathered at a restaurant. A man sitting in the chair with a guitar on his shoulder. People dancing in a café. At a carnival with a ferris wheel lit up. Ice skaters at Rockefeller Center. Kids sledding at Central Park. These are some of the paintings inside the new Life's Pleasures: The Ashcan School’s Brush with Leisure exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts. A total of 80 paintings by American artists are on display from now until May 25.

Life's Pleasures is divided into six sections: Bars & Cafes, Performances & Shows, Sporting Events, City Parks, Central Park -- New York City and Beaches & The Country.

A special video titled "What was happening in Detroit?" is located within the Central Park area of the exhibit. Some of the pictures that are shown during the video include Electric Park near Belle Isle (1910), racing bikes at the Detroit Athletic Club, racing cars at the Michigan State Fairgrounds, auto show at Wayne Gardens (1910), among many others.

“Visitors will find these painting[s] by America’s first modern painters truly engaging,” said Graham W. J. Beal, DIA director. “The overall picture is one of zest for life and delight in the pleasures of modern urban America—very different from the grim and grimy images of downtrodden immigrants often associated with the Ashcan circle.”

Life's Pleasures is a touring exhibit that has already made stops in Nashville and New York. It will be on view at the DIA from March 2 until May 25. All of the paintings were created between 1895 and 1925. The Ashcan school refers to a group of artists centered around artist/teacher Robert Henri, who instructed his students to “paint what is real.” These artists were men of their times, fully engaged with the urban environment; they painted what they lived.

Within the Bars & Cafes portion of the exhibit, there is a painting called "Café Madrid". It was done by Guy Pène du Bois in 1926. The viewer is able to see a man and a woman dressed up and sitting comfortably at a table with two wine bottles and a deep blue background. Another interesting painting from this exhibit is "McSorley's Bar." This one was created by John Sloan in 1912. The viewer is in the position of observing a bar that was founded in 1854. It was a male-only bar operated by a friend of the artist.

Another painting that caught my attention was "Pedro" (1920) by George Luks. A man is sitting on a chair smoking a cigarette with a guitar on his shoulder in this painting. One painting that I also enjoyed is "Café in Paris" (1901) by George Luks. People are shown sitting inside a restaurant in this art piece.

Within the Performances & Shows portion of the exhibit, there is a painting called "Le Bal Bullier" (1901) by Alfred Maurer. The painting is titled after the name of a dance hall in Paris. The ladies on the right side of the painting were dancing. Meanwhile, ladies on the left side of the painting were waiting for a dance partner.

Another painting that I enjoyed was "The Children's Theatre" (1925) by Jerome Myers. The viewer is able to look inside a hall with people in the audience and a clown on the stage. I also liked the art piece "Outside the Big Tent" (1912) George Bellows. A carnival with a ferris wheel is shown lit up in the nighttime.

Within the Sporting Events section of the exhibit, there is a painting called "Skating Rink, New York City" (1906) by William Glackens. In this painting, the viewer sees people skating on the rink in Rockefeller Center with others watching from the sidelines. Another interesting painting from this exhibit was "Golf Course -- California" (1917) by George Bellows. At the top of the panting is mountains, with hills in the middle and people are shown golfing at the bottom.

Another painting that caught my attention was "Polo Game" (1914) by Watt Kuhn. Flags from different countries are shown at the top. The audience is in the middle. The polo game is taking place at the bottom of the painting. Participants are shown riding horses.

Within the City Parks part of the exhibit, the is a painting called "The Battery" (1902-4) by William Glackens. The viewer gets a view of Battery Park, a former military fort in south Manhattan. It was turned into a public park for outings.

Another painting that I enjoyed was "Spring, Madison Square" (1905-6) by John Sloan. Trees are shown in the foreground. Antique cars are parked behind them. In the far back, viewers will see buildings and a skyscraper.

Within the Central Park section of the exhibit, there is a painting called "Central Park, Winter" (1905) by William Glackens. In this art piece, viewers will see kids sledding down a hill with parents watching by their side.

Another painting that caught my attention was "A Day in June" (1913) by George Bellows. People are gathered in Central Park with trees in the background. The viewer sees the Plaza Hotel towering above.

Within the Beaches & The Country part of the exhibit, there is a painting called "South Beach Bathers" (1907-8) by John Sloan. People are talking to each other along the beach. Some are shown playing volleyball while others are swimming.

Another painting that I enjoyed was "Low Tide" (1895-7) by Maurice Prendergast. Viewers will see kids on the beach with a ship docked on the sand.

A special gift shop is located at the end of the exhibit. Matted prints from Life's Pleasures are available for $14.95. Postcards from the exhibit are 75 cents. A hardcover catalog is available for $45 or a soft cover version is available for $29.95. There are also souvenirs on sale at the DIA from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

CafeDIA is serving ale from McSorley’s Bar, shipped in specially from New York.

I was greatly impressed by Life's Pleasures at the DIA. I consider it the best exhibit at the art museum since Annie Leibovitz's American Music exhibit in 2006. These paintings show the happy and exciting times of life. All of done were created by American artists so it's very patriotic too. I'd like to encourage you to bring your friends and family down to the DIA to see this new exhibit.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is located at 5200 Woodward Avenue near the campus of Wayne State University. Museum hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for ages 6-17, and DIA members are admitted free. For membership information call 313-833-7971.

 

Courtesy of Detroit Institute of Arts, Founder's Society Purchase.

A Day in June, George Bellows, 1913, oil on canvas, 42 x 48 in.

 

Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, St.Petersburg, Florida. Bequest of John Hinkle (1990.8)

Café Madrid, Guy Pène du Bois, 1926, oil on canvas.

 

Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. John Wallace

Central Park, Everett Shinn, 1920, oil on canvas, 17 x 19 x 2 in.

 

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