Monday, January 03, 2011

Rural Modernism

Thanks to Marisa Midori, whose comment on my last posting led me to her blog Good Good that contains what might be already my favorite video of 2011. The video is taken from some unknown 1960s television performance. Googling inquiries have led to no leads as to the identity of the dancers or the TV show. It's the choreography of Dave Brubeck's 1961 hit "Unsquare Dancing."

The video represents an interesting 1920s/30s American tradition that tapped conservative agrarian rural life for radical cosmopolitan hipness. Consider, for instance, the paintings of Charles Sheeler that were inspired by vernacular architecture, my absolute favorite being "American Interior" (1934) at the Yale Art Gallery:

The greatest manifestation of this propensity is, of course, Martha Graham's choreography of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring from 1944, with minimalist sets designed by Isamu Noguchi. Appalachian Spring is the subject of Studio 360s American Icons, see here for podcast.

And since, we are on the subject of rural modernism, one of the first books on my 2011 reading list is R. Tripp Evans' new biography Grant Wood: A Life. The creator of the iconic American Gothic (1930) at the Chicago Art Institute seems to have engaged in journeys of homo-eroticism that his conservative fans would never approve. See NYT review here. I'm glad that Grant Wood's Arnold Comes of Age (1930) is included in the National Portrait Gallery's exhibit, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, which I'll be visiting with my students at the end of the month.


Marisa Seguin said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the video! Really interesting context and connections.

Ted said...

Man, this is just what I needed returning home after teaching sophomores. It's so beautiful, I want to cry but I don't have time.



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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States