Out of the Kokoon: Modernism in Cleveland before the Armory Show

Henry Adams, professor of American art, Case Western Reserve University. Although one of the grayest of American cities, Cleveland was one of the earliest places in the country to embrace the colorful, ultra-modernist art of the Fauves and the Blue Rider group—doing so even before the Armory Show in 1913. Much of this activity came about through the activities of the Kokoon Club, whose members formed the city’s first radically modern art group, the Cleveland Secession, and also staged an annual masked ball, whose outrageous posters and costumes—or lack thereof—that not only ran afoul of the vice squad but also introduced the entire city to modern art. In this lecture, recorded on June 16, 2014, as part of the Works in Progress series at the National Gallery of Art, Henry Adams explores the emergence of ultra-modern artists in Cleveland, their surprising links with movie posters and commercial art, the ways in which they challenged the artistic and social mores of their time, the demise of this group during the Great Depression, and the lasting impact of this movement on several noted figures in American art, as well as, more widely, on the imagery of American popular culture.

Released: June 24, 2014