Take a trip down to the Cincinnati Art Museum and be transported back in time to the roaring 20s. This year, the museum kicks off its exciting 2011-2012 exhibition calendar with Art Deco: Fashion and Design in the Jazz Age.
After World War I and the opulence of the Art Nouveau period, Art Deco emerged in France as a modern, streamline and exuberant new way to look at the world. It permeated through all aspects of life including architecture, fashion, the arts and much more.
“Art Deco is an interesting movement at an interesting time in history as the United States and Western Europe emerge from World War I and people are yearning for modern living. Art Deco is really all about cleaner, faster, more efficient modern living,” Museum Curator Cynthia Amneus said.
The 1920s come alive from the moment you enter the exhibit. Swinging jazz tunes greet your ears, while vibrant colors, patterns and sequins arrest your eyes. Exquisite fashion plates from French magazine Le Gazette du Bon Ton line the walls, a stunning period dressing table and stool stand as a shrine to American designer Paul T. Frankl and gorgeously detailed sequined dresses grace mannequin after mannequin. Amneus recreated this period in the museum by combining fashion, textiles and decorative arts from the museum’s permanent collections with recently donated items.
Cincinnati native Betty Colker laid the groundwork for this exhibition by donating 30 pieces of her personal dress collection to the museum in 2009/2010. Amneus handpicked 19 of these day and evening dresses to emphasize the beautiful geometric beadwork and newfound boyish sheath silhouettes of the 20s.
“I think fashion … is fascinating. It is sculpture on the body, yet it speaks to the economic, social and political ideas of its time. It is especially revealing in terms of women’s role in society,” Amneus said.
The strength, spirit and modernity in these gowns attest to the newfound autonomy of women in the 1920s. Scandalous flappers of the 20s abandoned their corsets for sheath dresses, bobbed their hair, shaved their legs, learned to drive and finally gained the right to vote. They drank copious amounts, were more promiscuous and sensually danced the Charleston, Black Bottom, Shimmy and Tango.
The exhibit also highlights Harlem Renaissance artists, entertainers and writers. In one section of the exhibit, video of Josephine Baker’s iconic dances play on loop along with pictures of other famous Harlem Renaissance names like Langston Hughes.
Cincinnati Art Museum Director Aaron Betsky spoke of Art Deco’s mark on the city of Cincinnati.
“This jazzy exhibition is going to remind us all of the great era when Cincinnati built the Carew Tower and Union Terminal, when women gained rights, and when art joined the party,” Betsky said.
The exhibition, Art Deco: Fashion and Design in the Jazz Age, is running until Jan. 2. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m until 5 p.m. Admission is free everyday and parking is $4.
The museum is located at 953 Eden Park Dr. in Cincinnati. For more information about the exhibit call (513) 639-2995 or visit the museum’s website at www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org.