Modernist Personas

Modernist Personas

A massive retrospective of the great Georgia O’Keeffe opens at the Brooklyn Museum. The survey is exactly 90 years since her first solo exhibition in 1927. The show, entitled, Living Modern offers new perspectives on O’Keeffe’s radical ownership of her identity, as both an artist and a woman. It is run as part of the museum’s A Year of Yes, a 12-month programme of events that reimagines feminism.

Art, jewellery, fashion and accessories come together to demonstrate the artist’s unique mindset. Portraits from photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Philippe Halsman, Yousuf Karsh, Todd Webb, Cecil Beaton, Bruce Weber and Annie Leibovitz illustrate the way O’Keeffe employed photographic sittings as a way to both construct and reinforce the persona. Key paintings, alongside never before exhibited selections from her wardrobe, testify to the ways in which she fashioned her status as firstly a pioneer of modernism, and secondly as a style icon.

Living Modern takes a chronological approach to O’Keeffe’s life and career, opening with the advent of her signature style, which she began to craft when she was at high school, dispensing with the conventional style of bows and thrills. Four distinct sections survey her talent and legacy. The first segment takes the 1920s to the 1930s as its central focus, examining her life with Alfred Stieglitz and his serial portrait project, which ultimately established O’Keeffe as one of the most photographed American artists in history. These years also contributed to the understanding of photography’s power to shape and enhance public image, a concept that would be paramount to her success. The following strands survey years spent in New Mexico and the colour infused compositions created there, the influence of Asian aesthetics in her personal style and portraits from the post-Stieglitz era. Each element of the exhibition builds upon O’Keeffe’s unique practice, a pioneering stance which paved the way for other women both past and present.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, Brooklyn Museum, New York, from 3 March – 23 July.

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1.  Alfred StieglitzHands (1918).