Allison Smith: American Pre-Modern, April 26, 2014, The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Erica Gannett. © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art, New York

How do colonial-era American craft and modernism go hand-in-hand? Both art movements were furthered by the Rockefeller family, who built Colonial Williamsburg from 1927 onward, and MoMA from 1929 onward. Both projects were concerned with a search for what is distinctively American. The recent MoMA exhibition American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe touched upon MoMA founding Director Alfred H. Barr’s interest in developing genealogical narratives for American art. He and others asked the essentialist question: Is there such a thing as a uniquely (North) American art? For Barr, the narrative of American art began with folk art. This two-day workshop looks at the period of 1790–1840, locating a pre-modern precedent for American art not in the representational, accessible folk art paintings that Barr favored, but in everyday things created by people who did not consider themselves artists or designers (but who perhaps should be by today’s standards). These artists also sought to stake out an American creative quality apart from that of Europe, but they did so through three-dimensional objects and all-encompassing domestic interiors: ceramics, textiles, furniture, floor coverings, lighting fixtures, and other forms of interior decoration. This course asks participants to consider even earlier forms of sculpture, installation, and social practice: American pre-modern.

Artists Experiment is an initiative in the Department of Education that brings contemporary artists into dialogue with MoMA educators to develop innovative and experimental approaches to public engagement. The artists who participated in past years of Artists Experiment are: 2017–18
Michael Rakowitz
Emily Spivack 2014–16
Nina Katchadourian 2013–14
Paul Ramirez Jonas
Allison Smith
The Office for Creative Research 2012–13
Raúl Cárdenas Osuna
Kenneth Goldsmith
Xaviera Simmons
Caroline Woolard

  1. Sunday, April 27, 2014,
    12:304:30 p.m.

    Education Center, Mezzanine
  2. Saturday, April 26, 2014,
    12:304:30 p.m.

    Education Center, Mezzanine
This event is part of Artists Experiment.