74th American Exhibition

The Art Institute of Chicago

In its 74th American Exhibition the Art Institute of Chicago, which began this series in 1888, continued its original goal of presenting (not discovering) significant trends in painting, sculpture, and related media, emphasizing recent works and suggesting “the cross currents operating in American art today, in order to convey a modicum of the excitement, volubility and energetic multiplicity of the moment” (all quotations are from the catalogue). So we had an exhibition that was American, pluralistic, and democratic (37 artists were included, in contrast to the 16 in the preceding American Exhibition in 1979). The exhibition provided an intelligent and balanced appraisal which suggested the vitality of American art in the face of the extensive critical attention paid to European painting during the last two years.

The coincidence of Chicago’s major contemporary exhibition with Documenta

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