American Art on Paper: Labor and Leisure

October 20, 2010—March 6, 2011

Location: Nelson-Atkins Building, Gallery 214

Admission is free.

Much of our daily lives are spent engaged in either labor or leisure, so it is no surprise that artists frequently draw inspiration from the universal themes of work and play.

This rotation features more than 100 years of American art on paper that explores various ways we have earned our living and spent our free time. Brought to life through prints, watercolors and gouache as well as drawings in ink, pencil and charcoal, industrial workers toil in the shadow of belching smokestacks, a farmer plows his unruly field and a judge deliberates on the bench, while a crowd marvels at a death-defying stunt at a county fair, a boy fishes on a lazy river and girls spin on a Coney Island carousel. This installation also highlights the subtle intersections of labor and leisure—such as the circus or a popular nightspot—where one person’s job is another’s entertainment.

The Nelson-Atkins American art collection has some 600 works on paper by many of the country’s most revered artists. Installations in this gallery rotate every six months in order to display the variety of the collection and to protect it from overexposure to damaging light.

Showcasing a compendium of media, techniques, styles and themes, these rotating installations convey the engaging possibilities of art on paper. In many instances, the work displayed in this gallery illuminates additional dimensions of multifaceted, prominent American artists whose paintings are also among the treasures of the Museum’s American collection.

This installation is underwritten by Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield.


Image:   Paul Raphael Meltsner, American, 1905–1966. Industrial Landscape, ca. 1935. Lithograph on paper. Gift of Oscar Serlin,  40-2/1.

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