Peculiarly American: Grant Wood at the Whitney

Emilio Comay del Junco at The Point:

Grant Wood wanted to make art American. As with so many attempts to make things American, what this meant was distilling a particular region into the essence of the United States. New England and the Deep South are strong contenders, but the Midwest is perhaps the most plausibly all-American region. The visual and cultural tropes of the Midwest are the commonplaces of American kitsch—corn fields, barns, apple pie, churches, Main Street. By choosing to remain in his native Iowa, Wood was well positioned to do what he wanted, without having to forego success. The current Wood retrospective on view at the Whitney (closing June 10th) is hardly the first time his work has received sustained attention from the highest levels of the American art world. The Whitney itself held its last retrospective in 1983, and during Wood’s lifetime he was arguably the most famous artist in the United States. The current show acknowledges that one of Wood’s paintings dominates all other. The exhibition simply uses the name of American Gothic, adding, appropriately, “and other fables” after the obligatory colon.

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