New Forms

New Forms

The Avant-Garde Meets the American Scene, 1934–1949, Selections from the University of Iowa Museum of Art

Powered by Google
Get permissions

In this fascinating exhibition catalogue, the authors discuss how 1930s and 1940s American modernism was a diverse blend of styles, artists, and points of views. Addressing a core of the University of Iowa Museum of Art collection, from Jackson Pollock’s 1943 Mural and other gifts from collector Peggy Guggenheim, to works by Grant Wood, the essays provide a broad cultural overview of the terms and motivations of American Modernism, with specific focus on Iowa as a hotbed of controversy and innovation, a place where the American Scene clashed with the avant-garde in ways that were central to the ongoing national debate over the future of American art.

Hardly a provincial regional outpost, the University of Iowa was uniquely positioned as a nexus of the modern art world, with prominent individuals and events that helped define the era and set aesthetic and ideological standards for the decades that followed. During this remarkable period, the University was simultaneously the center of the Regionalist art movement, with Grant Wood as its most prominent and exemplary spokesman, and an emerging hub of the most progressive forms of modern art. In the early- to mid-1940s, new professors and students (Lester Longman, Horst W. Janson, Philip Guston, and Mauricio Lasansky), set different standards, positioning Iowa’s art collection as the repository of some of the most significant images of the twentieth century.

Seminal paintings by Pollock, Guston, and Mark Rothko are discussed in  detail, as are the influences of New Deal art projects, surrealism, and the print workshop Atelier 17. An exhibition list of more than ninety objects is included.

This catalog was published by the University of Iowa Museum of Art and is distributed by the University of Iowa Press.


Kathleen A. Edwards is chief curator of the University of Iowa Museum of Art and former director of The Print Center in Philadelphia. She has curated over 75 exhibitions, including Lil Picard and Counterculture New York and Acting Out: Melodrama and Contemporary Photography. Erika Doss, art historian and head of American Studies at Notre Dame University, is the author of Benton, Pollock, and the Politics of Modernism and Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America, among other books, chapters, articles, and essays. University of Iowa School of Art and Art History professor Joni L. Kinsey is the author of the award winning books Thomas Moran’s West: Chromolithography, High Art, and Popular Taste and Plain Pictures: Images of the American Prairie. With Edwards, Kinsey is co-curator of the New Forms exhibition.