Artists of Utah is excited to announce the launch of a new program, Before Now. In more than one sense, it’s an old program.
What we are gathering together under the rubric “Before Now” has existed in various preliminary forms throughout our twenty-year history: most prominently in the long-running series of articles on historical Utah artists written by the late Tom Alder, which ran as Alder’s Accounts from 2006 to 2012; but as well in various articles dealing with historical issues that have cropped up through the years (see here and here); and most recently in the series of articles on the influence of women in Utah’s art world, written by Emily Larsen in 2020. Before Now continues and reinvigorates this publication history, but will embrace other opportunities such as exhibitions, symposia, sponsored historical research and more.
Especially during July and August, but also continuing with less regularity throughout each year, in 15 Bytes we will run a series of articles exploring the history of Utah’s art world. Researched in a scholarly manner, but written in such a way as to be pleasing to those outside an academic setting, the articles will explore large artistic trends, individual artists, and the sociological and political factors that influenced our art community in the past. Some might be very short, while others will exceed the length of the articles we normally publish in these pages. Most will be dominated by a narrative thread or analytical thrust, but in an effort to encourage and facilitate further research, we will also publish items that will seem preliminary or might take the form of a simple inventory (to which we can add from time to time).Of necessity, and frequently by design, the articles from any given time period will overlap, one piece elucidating or expanding on something brought up in another, so that the resulting collage of articles will present as deep and rich an examination of the period as possible.
We have chosen as our first area of focus the post-war years of the mid 20th century. Firstly, because it has been an area of focus little studied in the past. Secondly, because he post-war period was a pivotal one in Utah’s art history, marked by the struggle within the art community between conservative trends and more modern ones, as well as by the public’s struggle to understand and accept (or ignore) those new trends. To set the scene and provide fuller context, in some of these articles we will reach back to the pre-war period, but most of our focus will be on what happened after the Centennial Exhibition of 1947, which served as a sort of belated Armory show for the state of Utah.
In upcoming articles we’ll be exploring Utah’s first nonobjective artist (it’s not who you think); and the second, a Japanese-American from Oasis, Utah, who spent two years at the Manzanar internment camp, served in World War II, and brought home a San Francisco version of abstract expressionism; we’ll be looking at some modernist experimentation by female artists like Grayce Cutler Solomon, Elaine Michelsen, Florence Drake and Myra Powell; we’ll explore the battle over the modern at the big public exhibitions, and the critics and gallery scene that propelled the movement; and we’ll also dive into technical developments, like the serigraph, and social trends, like the prevalence of African-Americans as models.
Opening August 24 and continuing through May of 2023, the Springville Museum of Art’s exhibition, Mixed Reviews: Utah Art at Mid-Century will provide an opportunity to view art from the period and explore some of the issue that affected the community at that time.
We encourage scholars and writers interested in participating in Before Now, whether with regard to our current mid-century project, or with something else in mind, to please contact us.
Below is a not-exhaustive list of artists from this period we are interested in. If you have any information regarding these artists (or others from the period), and especially if you are willing to share images of work by these artists for research and/or publication purposes, we would like to hear from you.
For all inquiries in regard to Before Now you can contact 15 Bytes editor Shawn Rossiter at email@example.com.
Arlen S. Marks
J. Gordon Bailey
Florence B. Drake
Elaine S. Michelsen
Jean “Hy” Huling
Richard “Dick” Sears
Grayce Cutler Solomon