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Milton Avery in Interior Lives: Modern American Spaces, 1890-1945

17 February—12 May 2024
Group Exhibition at The Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC, USA

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Through the lenses of interior scenes and material culture, Interior Lives explores the ways everyday Americans lived, worked, played, and evolved their identities in the first half of the 20th century. Homes, workplaces, and the spaces between were newly envisioned in response to socioeconomic and technological shifts. American artists, many of whom continued to work in a representational style, bore witness to the inception of a modern world and interpreted it as it manifested before them. The works on view in this exhibition — primarily portraits, genre scenes, and still lifes — are often modest in scale and humble in subject yet penetrating in their cultural and psychological implications.

The exhibition takes the 1890s as its starting point, a decade that encompassed the late Gilded Age and saw the beginnings of the Progressive Era reform movement. It extends through the end of World War II, when the United States entered a new period of global influence and when abstraction took over as the dominant artistic style. Over the course of these six decades, the widespread implementation of the telephone, the building of mass transit systems, and the proliferation of industrially manufactured goods inspired a new, rapid pace of life.

Interior Lives features more than 50 paintings, photographs, works on paper, and decorative arts, and is organized into four thematic sections: “How the Upper Half Lives,” “Labor, Leisure, and Liminal Space,” “Objects and Personas,” and “Faith, Family, and Community.” This multi-lender exhibition includes works by Milton Avery, Cecilia Beaux, Hilda Belcher, William Merritt Chase, Walter Gay, Edwin Harleston, Childe Hassam, and Richard Samuel Roberts, among others.