Dodge’s Spirit of "the New" Delivers Modernism to New York: Intimate Memories

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Title

Dodge’s Spirit of "the New" Delivers Modernism to New York: Intimate Memories

Subject

Art, Modernism, and Bohemia

Description

Dodge’s Spirit of the New Delivers Modernism to New York

Dodge was passionate about the idea of basically “new” anything. If the work or the person was doing something not done before, Dodge was excited. More than just excited by it, she wanted to be part of it. Therefore, it’s only fitting that Mabel Dodge took on a crucial orchestrating position in New York City’s first Modern Art exhibition, the Armory Show. Dodge’s role in the assembling the show speaks to her importance as a common connection point among radical artists. Her work on the exhibition also displays Dodge’s role serving as a bridge to a more public audience that would eventually take the more radical perspectives to mainstream conversation. Dodge’s reflections on the art that would be incorporated into the Armory show illustrate her comprehension of the ground breaking nature of the works she was viewing. Dodge’s writing displays how her calculated and skillful the associations she made between people were. She not only understands the art but also was able to connect individuals who would be able to bring the show together and make the deliverance of Modern Art into 20th century New York City possible. Though because she was a female she was only ever titled “Honorary Vice President” of the exhibition, it is clear from her own accounts the multifaceted role Dodge held in making the show possible (American Studies Department).

When Dodge hears about the exhibition, she not only attends meetings and spreads the word; Dodge purposefully inserts herself at the center of the conversation about Modern Art even though she has no background in the material. Dodge tactfully uses her social prowess to provide Gregg and Davies with information in order to get herself ‘closer to the action’. This action conveys how Dodge might not always be the most formally educated, but she is tactful and precise at being part of spreading knowledge about ‘the new’. She describes connecting the work of modernists outside the United States to modernism in the city as she describes, “I knew that only one man in America had ever done anything for the young artists who were trying to break away from the academic conventions, and that was Alfred Stieglitz… he had a couple of rooms where he exhibited modern artists and it took courage in those days” (Luhan 2528). Here, Dodge uses her vast connections to build a more diverse exhibition and a "new" for herself among the artists.

Dodge expresses in multiple instances her own comprehension of the gravity and historical importance the first modern art exhibition in America. Dodge recognizes that the Armory Show is not just another art show — the exhibition displays ideas that would come to manifest in all forms of art in the city and would come to spark new methods of thought. Modernism as a whole was coming to light in the Americas. Dodge comments on the ground breaking nature of the show, saying, “The American public was still strongly protected twenty-five years ago, and only a comparative few saw these rebel painters” (Luhan 2530). Dodge connects “The American public” as the next step for the progression of this historical movement in art. She describes how the world was very “protected” prior to the Armory, which displays how a figure like Dodge can bring the au van Grande to the forefront of mainstream society. By using the term “protected,” Dodge is also drawing attention to how art can prompt the people to more contemplative thought.

After she establishes herself among the male dominated organizing committee of the Armory show, Gregg actually seeks out Dodge’s advice, which illustrates her ability to quickly become the center of movements making history. Dodge accounts, “'You know Gertrude Stein,' he [Gregg] said, announcing it. 'Couldn’t you try an article about her? It will fit in with the exhibition'" (Luhan 2531). Dodge’s effort to incorporate Stein into the show would make Stein’s piece (Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia) the only nonvisual art piece at the show (American Studies). By incorporating a literary work, Dodge enabled the show to communicate an artistic movement’s ability to straddle different mediums. Dodge is actively establishing art as more of a concept than a strict form like painting or sculpture, which is a revolutionary change that will persist through subsequent artistic movements in the 20th century. Susan Hegeman of the New York Historical Society would later explain that Dodge’s role in the Armory Show ultimately foreshadowed “the emerging importance of advertising and public relations to the arts and letters of the twentieth century” and continued to describe how “Dodge helped create an enduring link between Stein’s writing, cubism, the Armory Show, and herself, as a modernist muse.”

American Studies Program at the University of Virginia. "The Part Played by
Women." The International Armory Show. Ed. American Studies Program at the
University of Virginia. University of Virginia, May 2001. Web. 8 June 2016.

Hegeman, Susan. "Gertrude Stein and the Armory Show." The Armory Show at 100.
Ed. New York Historical Society. New York Historical Society, 8 Oct. 2013.
Web. 8 June 2016.

Luhan, Mabel Dodge. Intimate Memories: The Autobiography of Mabel Dodge Luhan (Kindle Locations 2526-2540). University of New Mexico Press. Kindle Edition.



Creator

Mabel Dodge

Source

Intimate Memories

Publisher

University of New Mexico Press

Date

Publication 1999, Written ca. 1913

Contributor

Lois Rudnick

Format

Written Memoir

Language

English

Type

Memoir

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

“James Gregg was the principal publicity man for the big International Show. What he told me was that he and Arthur Davies, with others helping, were arranging a mammoth show of modern art from Europe, to be brought to the Sixty-ninth Regiment Armory early in 1913. The public had never seen any really modern painting and sculpture and it was time they did, he said. I knew that only one man in America had ever done anything for the young artists who were trying to break away from the academic conventions, and that was Alfred Stieglitz. At 291 Fifth Avenue, upstairs, he had a couple of rooms where he exhibited modern artists and it took courage in those days. He had plenty. He showed John Marin, [Andrew] Dasburg, Arthur Dove, and others there and people came and gaped, or looked impressed, or wiped smiles off their faces. The American public was still strongly protected twenty-five years ago, and only a comparative few saw these rebel painters. Kenyon Cox and Royal Cortissoz were the outstanding art critics of the day, and they were poised at the Gate of Free Painting with flaming swords. Winslow Homer and George Inness had been the idols of the art columns and still were. Gregg found me listless—Ariadne with the tide low. “You know Gertrude Stein,” he said, announcing it. “Couldn’t you try an article about her? It will fit in with the exhibition.”
I soon found they talked about that exhibition with creepy feelings of terror and delight. It was an escapade, an adventure. I, grown familiar in Florence and Paris with Cézanne—whose apples and things were met with in a reassuring friendly way on Loeser’s walls—and Picasso and Matisse, familiars at Leo Stein’s apartment, perceived that here in this other world they were accounted dynamite. These gentle men like James Gregg and Arthur Davies proposed to dynamite America, so they evidently believed. Revolution—that was what they felt they were destined to provide for these States—and one saw them shuddering and giggling like high-spirited boys daring each other."

Luhan, Mabel Dodge. Intimate Memories: The Autobiography of Mabel Dodge Luhan (Kindle Locations 2526-2540). University of New Mexico Press. Kindle Edition.

Original Format

Written Memoir