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David Alvey – Guest Contributor
Oct 29 @ 12:48
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Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art 1910 - 1940

at Dallas Museum of Art thru Jan. 6, 2019

Did American artists at the turn of the 20thcentury embrace the Utopian ideal that technology would bring order to the modern world? Or would they rage against the machine? 

By 1910, Impressionism was already 40 years old. In America, many artists responded with Precisionism, rendering their subjects – from urban scenes to pastoral landscapes -- in crisp geometric shapes with clean, precise lines and smooth, fluid surfaces. 

Don’t worry. The “Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art 1910 - 1940,”an exhibit currently at the Dallas Museum of Art, is not a dry, scholarly exhibition. It is a lively celebration of a uniquely American response to the rapidly changing culture.

Featuring paintings by American precisionists such as Charles Sheeler, Morton Livingston Schamberg and Charles Demuth, master photographers Alfred Steiglitz, Margaret Bourke-White and Paul Strand, with sculpture by John Bradley Storrs, the exhibit incorporates innovative product design like a silver-plated zeppelin cocktail set, a “Nocturne” radio,and a 1937 Cord 812 Sportsman Convertible, truly a moving work of art.

Personally, one of the biggest surprises was the urban landscapes by Georgia O’Keeffe, who is most often associated with Southwestern landscapes and erotic still lifes. In the early 1900s, she shared a New York apartment with her husband, photographer Alfred Steiglitz. Each artist had a strong influence on the other’s works. 

Other memorable artworks included massive 90-inch-wide iron gates, a Shaker rocker, an Art Deco scale, an early model Eastman Kodakcamera with decorative box, a Shaker iron stove opposite a drawing of a similar stove and several magazines, including Charles Sheeler’s “Criss-Crossed Conveyors, River Rouge Plant, Ford Motor Company” on the cover of the October 1928 Ford News.

I enjoyed the exhibit so much that I returned a second time. The exhibit is varied enough to appeal to a wide audience. In fact, my 18-year-old son, who is bored with even the thought of going to a museum, went with me the second time and he thoroughly enjoyed it.

As a bonus, admission to the “Cult of the Machine” exhibit included entry to Günther Förg: A Fragile Beauty. I wasn’t familiar with Forg, but according to the DMA’s website he was closely associated with the Cologne scene of the 1980s, a group of irreverent artists who challenged the traditions of painting.The exhibit included many of his works on paper, large photographs, sculpture and mixed media works. I particularly liked a large black and white photograph of a descending spiral staircase. 

Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art requires a $16 ticket, with discounts for seniors, students, and military. DMA Members and children 11 and under are free.

General admission to the Museum is free every day. The museum is closed Monday, and open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. every other day except Thursdays, when the museum stays open until 9 p.m. For more info, visit https://dma.org