Bruce Silverstein Gallery is pleased to present Seven Americans, a rendition of Alfred Stieglitz’ eponymous 1925 exhibition, which showcased seven of the most important American artists working during the period: Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Arthur Dove, Charles Demuth, Paul Strand, and Stieglitz himself. It was through this seminal show that Stieglitz, playing the role of both artist and curator, sought to define for the art world a uniquely American modern vision, which he indentified in the shared aesthetic and ideological tenets of this group of artists. Bruce Silverstein Gallery has chosen to reunite these seven artists with the intent of re-examining this crucial moment in the history of American art and its continued relevance toward exploring the abstract and symbolic nature of art. Through generous loans from both public and private collections, the gallery has assembled a selection of masterworks by each of the seven artists.
The original Seven Americans exhibition, held at the Anderson Galleries, was a twentieth anniversary celebration of the founding of Stieglitz’ 291 Gallery. The exhibition included collage works, paintings, watercolors, found objects, and photographs, and was one of the largest exhibitions Stieglitz organized. Notably, it was only the second time Stieglitz combined both photographic and non-photographic artworks besides that of his O’Keeffe / Stieglitz exhibition in 1924. Realizing the power of a group effort, it was the first time Stieglitz gathered these important artists to form a single voice that addressed, as stated in his catalogue essay, an “integral part of America today.”
Bruce Silverstein’s interests in restaging this exhibition are reflected not only in the selection of artworks, but also in the installation itself. This contemporary rendition of the original exhibition focuses exclusively on works that explore abstraction via nature, as this subject was a primary concern of all seven artists. Stieglitz saw abstraction as the “true medium.” In his own work and in his promotion of other artists, he sought to prioritize visual and metaphorical abstraction—artworks which communicate the artist’s inner vision and lived experience though a universal, intuitive and spiritually expressive language. In addition, given the gallery’s concentration on the photographic medium, the works selected largely employ the modern visual syntax of the “closeup,” a formula derived from the burgeoning photographic vision developing in art at this period, evidenced in both Strand and Stieglitz’s influence on the work of the painters. Last, the gallery’s decision to integrate the works of all seven artists via the installation (Stieglitz originally installed each artist’s work on a separate wall) can further Stieglitz’ prescient vision to combine these seven artists and unify their efforts as a movement, speaking to the contemporary art world’s interest in the integration of artistic media.
The gallery has published a catalogue to accompany the exhibition, featuring an essay by Carol Troyen, Curator Emerita of American Paintings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.