This year is all about Grant Wood in Cedar Rapids. It’s celebration of the 125th birth-year anniversary of both Grant Wood and Marvin Cone and in honor, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art has a comparative exhibition of both artists’ work on display. Though their collection of these artists is extensive, this exhibition focuses on both artists’ landscapes, barns, and farms.
There is something wonderfully familiar about the art in this exhibition. The Iowan landscapes displayed are particularly easy to fall in love with. CRMA has a few of Wood’s smaller-scale, brush-y layered, impressionistic landscapes displayed. Three such landscapes depict a familiar place we know and love: Indian Creek. Wood’s Indian Creek is painted in oil in three seasons: a pink and blue spring, a deep humid green summer and a flaming orange and red fall. The colorful layers of these landscapes was enough to make a visit to the gallery worthwhile.
There are paintings in the exhibition that were already familiar, too. One painting visitors will definitely recognize is Wood’s well-known “Young Corn” (1931). This is one of those of rolling Iowan hills,“Seuss-ical” trees, and budding corn crops. People from outside of Iowa may think of this state as being as a flat-Kansas, but if you’ve ridden a bike or seen a Grant Wood, you know this Iowa. Whenever I see hills like those “Young Corn,” I take a flash-back to cresting a huge hill on Ragbrai and looking out over the Iowan countryside to hills are far as the eyes (connected to a body connected to terribly pained legs) could see.
CEDAR RAPIDS MUSEUM OF ART Grant Wood, “Young Corn,” 1931. Oil on Masonite panel, 23.75 inches by 29.75 inches. Collection of the Cedar Rapids Community School District, on loan to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. L220.127.116.11.
The “Barns” section of the exhibition was a really well-done comparison between Grant Wood and Marvin Cone. Wood paints barns as these really intimate, quiet and shade-filled scenes. The viewer is positioned, at eye-level, low to the ground and you can imagine that you’re lounging beneath a tree just on the side of the barn. But Marvin Cone’s barns are like huge cathedrals. Cone gets the whole barn in the frame, plus the house next to it, and the road, and feet of sky, and the people who are doing farm work around it. Those who are familiar with the Marvin Cone depiction of Lil’Bo will recognize that as the style of these barns.
CEDAR RAPIDS MUSEUM OF ART Marvin Cone, “From Iowa,” 1941. Oil on canvas, 16 inches by 32 inches. Bequest of John B. Turner II. 83.1.7.
Marvin Cone and Grant Wood didn’t just paint farm landscapes, of course. They both painted industry, new agricultural technology, animals, portraits, and more. But it’s the landscapes and the barns that I feel fondly about as we move into another Iowan summer. Katherine Kanau, CRMA Associate Curator, said of the exhibit “Wood and Cone were both Iowa natives, and I believe their most enduring contribution to the art world was their belief that the Iowa landscape was worthy of artistic attention. Both artists had a deep love for the land and people of their home state, and this exhibition celebrates the ways in which they depicted this love through their art.” This exhibit feels very “heartland” and any native of the Corridor will love seeing an Iowa they recognize in this exhibition. It makes me wonder, who’s painting the landscape of Iowa nowadays? If you know, leave us a comment below!
The exhibit is open through May 15, 2016, so see it before it’s gone!
Of course, CRMA is a huge space with a wide variety of exhibitions currently on display from prints to ceramics to paintings to photography. And opening June 4th, is a visiting exhibition of Rodin sculpture that is promised to be world-class. The museum has very accessible hours, including Saturday 10-4pm, Sunday noon-4 and Thursday evenings until 8pm. The metered parking outside the museum (just next to Green Square) is free on weekends. If you haven’t been to CRMA, or you haven’t been recently, there is definitely enough there to entertain for a couple of hours at least.
Featured photo from #IowaBrag.