Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida
to Present “America at Work”
Posters and Prints Communicate Earlier Generations’ Responses to Economic Highs and Lows
GAINESVILLE, Fla. —At a time when the nation is struggling to recover from an economic recession, the Harn Museum of Art presents a timely exhibition examining the American workforce from a previous generation. Opening June 8, America at Work: Art and Propaganda in the Early-20th Century will feature approximately 50 graphic works related to labor issues and demographics, popular culture, immigration trends and national identity during the first half of the 20th century. The exhibition will feature iconic work incentive posters produced by Mather and Company, as well as WPA prints.
“Work is a dominant concern for most Americans today, just as it was during key periods in our past,” said Dr. Rebecca Nagy, director of the Harn Museum of Art. “With America at Work, the Harn is able to connect people with history through works of art and design that remain relevant today. I think our visitors will find these posters and prints just as engaging as they were more than fifty years ago.”
The exhibition will include a group of 30 Mather Work Incentive posters from the mid-1920s, designed to motivate workers, improve productivity, and strengthen morale. The lithographs address workplace behavior with bright, bold graphics and messages such as “Don’t make excuses, make good,” and “Let’s play to win.” At a time when the workforce was undergoing profound change, these posters also functioned as vehicles of propaganda to promote solid American values such as integrity, loyalty, efficiency and teamwork.
Complementing the posters is a selection of about 20 prints created during the Great Depression of the 1930s and 40s. During this period, the Federal Art Project—a division of the Works Progress Administration—provided work relief and materials for unemployed artists. Among the artists featured in the exhibition are key figures in American printmaking such as Don Freeman, Jacob Kainen, Leonard Pytlak, and Joseph Vogel. Some of the selected prints, such as Vogel’s Another Day, address negative aspects of work, unemployment and homelessness. Others, such as Freeman’s Money Magnet, present themes drawn from everyday life and humorous situations, reinforcing the idea that life goes on in spite of great economic hardship.
“The powerful and engaging works in this exhibition provide visual testimony of a period in American life that witnessed both economic success and upheaval” said Dulce Román, curator of modern art. “They convey messages celebrating and reinforcing American morale and values that are especially relevant today.”
America at Work will be on display until Sept. 5. The exhibition is made possible by the Sidney Knight Endowment. The Mather Work Incentive Posters are on generous loan from the family of Ronald, Elizabeth, and Lauren DeFilippo.
Admission to the Harn Museum of Art is free. For more information visit www.harn.ufl.edu or call 352-392-9826.
Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art
Founded in 1990, the Harn Museum of Art is an integral part of the University of Florida. The Harn contributes to an interconnected, international community by integrating the arts and culture into curricula throughout the university’s system of colleges and centers. Its holdings include nearly 7,000 works in five main collecting areas: Asian art, African art, photography, modern art of the Americas and Europe, and contemporary art. In addition to rotating installations drawn from its permanent collection, the Harn organizes traveling exhibitions, public lectures, panel discussions, academic symposia and educational programs for adults, students and children. In 2011, the Harn will open the 26,000-square-foot David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing, which will feature two levels of galleries, curatorial and conservation space, and a series of outdoor Asian gardens.
The Harn Museum, at Southwest 34th Street and Hull Road in Gainesville, Fla., is part of the University of Florida’s Cultural Plaza, which is also home to the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is open until 9 p.m. the second Thursday of every month for Museum Nights. The Camellia Court Café is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information call 352-392-9826 or visit www.harn.ufl.edu.
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