The Addison’s Currents/Crosscurrents Virtual Gallery Talks Prompt Audience Members to Reflect on Importance of Art History

With landscape trees as common subjects, Morton Livingston Schamberg and Arthur Dove’s oil and charcoal paintings stood side-by-side—Schamberg’s modernism and precisionism contrasting Dove’s charcoal impressionistic modernism. Using nonrepresentative colors and abstraction, both paintings depicted the overarching theme of defying early 20th century norms. 

In an email to The Phillipian, audience member Blakeman Hazzard Allen AA ’66, reflected on the artworks from the Addison Gallery of American Art’s Virtual Gallery talk. 

“As talks progress from 1850 to 1950 through ‘Currents/Crosscurrents,’ the presenters’ depth of knowledge frames tightly curated choices. While demonstrating a range of styles and artists’ perspectives, the artworks also embody historical and cultural contexts that backstop the talks. The talks that showcase the ‘Currents/Crosscurrents’ 1850-1950 collection represent the enduring nature of art,” wrote Allen.

On February 10, the second session of the chronological three-part “‘Currents/Crosscurrents: American Art 1850–1950’ with Gordon Wilkins” explored American artwork created between 1900 and 1930, featuring artists such as Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, and John Singer Sargent. According to Allen, the Addison’s commitment to educational outreach and public service is sustained through the virtual talks.

“Since inception, the Addison Gallery of American Art has served as a touchstone: both within the Andover community and more broadly. With the complexities of the pandemic, the Addison’s pivot to amplify the collection through virtual events connects the audience and richness within gallery walls,” wrote Allen.

After attending the first Virtual Gallery talk in January, Bob Marshall ’64 returned to hear Wilkins’ insights once more. Identifying the Addison’s American art collection as one of the most important in the world, Marshall was especially interested in learning about inter-collection connections.

“[Wilkin’s] talk and this exhibition rely heavily on connections, and making connections is an important part of a secondary education. ‘Compare and contrast’ is a cornerstone of the intellectual process,” wrote Marshall in an email to The Phillipian.

Extending the search for connections beyond the collection, audience member Evalyn Lee ’23, identified society influences in the artworks’ subject. Specifically, in “Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair” by John Sloan, Lee believes that the depiction of the lower class was commercialized and filtered in order to appeal to wealthy buyers. 

“The women drying their hair [help] us see our own elitism in ways where our institution is elitist and excludes other people,” said Lee. “It is important to learn about art history today, because it helps us see patterns. Art is sort of an artifact of history in [the] sense that it captures what was going on in the time period. It’s all reflected through the art.” 

According to Allen, the talk further prompted her to consider how times of dissonance and upheaval affect creativity. Ultimately, she hopes the connections formed through this exhibition can reach a global audience.

“Although an America-centric collection, the Addison provides teaching and learning resources with universal applications that span the globe, [which are] especially relevant at this time. Its message transcends boundaries,” wrote Allen.