Sunday, December 14, 2008

Day 177: Art of War

Brochure Veteran’s Art Center, c. 1941–45 [EMH I.3.o], Museum of Modern Art Archives

There is a tiny archival exhibition in a hidden mezzanine of the MoMA called The Museum and the War Effort: Artistic Freedom and Reporting for "The Cause". It is an odd little exhibition consisting entirely of historic documents, letters and brochures placed within glass cases. There are no examples of work made under the Veteran's Art Center hanging on the wall or screenings of films that were shown in conjunction with the military during the war. Still, reading the letters and seeing the programs displayed is quite eye-opening. Basically, the Museum worked closely and in total agreement with the military during World War II. Their mandate was, "Under its [the Museum’s Armed Services Program] auspices, exhibition and film programs designed to rally support for the war and solidify America’s image as a society interested in spreading democracy and freedom were added to MoMA’s roster." This involved soliciting artists to make war posters, screening films to the public made by the military, and servicing veterans when they returned.

I definitely missed not having in a meta-communication on whether, in retrospect, the Museum felt like this was good thing to have done, whether they would do it again, or if they feel like they are doing anything like this now- and why? But, there wasn't any commentary about this and without actual visual examples of the work made and shared at the Museum during those years it was little hard to make much of an assessment for oneself. The idea of having an art center for veterans, basically serving as art therapy, certainly seems like a good idea. Although, the veterans program was concluded in 1944 in response to what was public stated as a desire to return to "the Museum’s prewar standard of aesthetic excellence, which many members of the staff felt had been abandoned during the war years."

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