A fresh suite of artworks quietly debuted earlier this month in a small gallery, on the second floor of the House. As hallmark pieces of the museum’s American art collection shipped off to Tokyo for To See as Artists See: American Art from The Phillips Collection, and with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in mind, Installations Manager Bill Koberg thought to fill the space with a few choice pieces of New York abstraction from the 1930s-50s.
Gandy Brodie’s undated painting Fragment of a City (1957) anchors the East side of the room, opposite Loren MacIver’s New York (1952). A subtler MacIver, The Window Shade (1948) and Berenice Abbott’s modern consideration of the city as landscape Canyon: Broadway and Exchange Place (1936) hang on the North wall across from Aaron Siskind’s photograph New York 6 (1951) and Ralph Flint’s undated colored pencil drawing Metropolis (undated), acquired by the Collection in 1931. The Flint work brings with it some mystery — unframed prior to its recent hanging, Koberg is uncertain if it’s ever graced the walls of the Phillips. Limited research casts Flint as primarily a critic and writer associated with Alfred Stieglitz, rather than as an artist himself. [Keep an eye out for an in-depth post about Flint’s relationship to Phillips and the art world of the early 20th century, coming soon to The Experiment Station.]
The Phillips showed three rooms-worth of New York City-themed art in December 2001, according to Koberg, and some of the paintings currently up were included in that installation. Koberg pointed out that two paintings currently on view in the House stairway, passed on your way to see the little gallery upstairs, happen to be New York works as well; the World War I-era pieces — Gifford Beal’s On the Hudson at Newburgh (1918) and George Luks’s Blue Devils on Fifth Avenue (1918) — were installed, in part, to mark the museum’s participation in the Blue Star Museums Initiative over the summer. Arguably, these paintings don’t celebrate or consider New York as place and subject directly as the works upstairs do. Beal’s is an upstate scene, and both focus on the stateside impact of World War I. Nonetheless, from the stairs on up, the House is irrefutably in a New York state of mind.
-Piper Grosswendt, Museum Assistant/Marketing Intern