The Jazz Age: Amer­i­can Style in the 1920s

The Week (US) - - Arts 23 -

In the 1920s, ground­break­ing ideas about art, fash­ion, and decor “sluiced back and forth across the At­lantic like iced gin in a cock­tail shaker,” said Steven Litt in the Cleve­land Plain Dealer. A “sprawl­ing, gor­geous” ex­hi­bi­tion in Cleve­land is re­viv­ing that “sexy, ebul­lient” era, invit­ing vis­i­tors to revel in flap­per dresses, high-so­ci­ety jewels, ram­pant sky­scraper wor­ship, and art deco or­na­men­ta­tion. Just don’t ex­pect the phrase “art deco” to ap­pear in any wall text. The cu­ra­tors de­cided that so many cur­rents con­trib­uted to the ar­rival of dis­tinc­tively mod­ern de­sign that one la­bel shouldn’t be al­lowed to over­shadow all else. Again and again, the ob­jects on dis­play yield un­ex­pected jux­ta­po­si­tions that “crackle with en­ergy.”

The show, though en­joy­able from start to end, “doesn’t quite prove its point,” said Roberta Smith in The New York Times. After an open­ing sec­tion that show­cases the staid or­na­men­tal style that the wealthy still fa­vored at the start of the 1920s, art deco rushes in and seizes our eyes and imag­i­naRuth tion. The ini­tial wave arrives from Paris in high-end pieces like a gon­dola-shaped up­hol­stered sofa made of rose­wood. Next comes an ar­ray of nightlife ac­ces­sories, in­clud­ing be­jew­eled cig­a­rette cases and Glo­ria Swan­son’s di­a­mond-and-plat­inum Cartier cuff bracelets, all con­jur­ing a

Fe­her’s or­na­men­tal screen: Paris meets Cleve­land.

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