The Academic and the Avant Garde: Artists of the 1913 Armory Show at Vizcaya
On View in Vizcaya’s Exhibition Room, October 19, 2013–March 31, 2014
It would be easy to conclude that Vizcaya’s creators looked solely to the past. But this exhibition demonstrates the more complex reality that Vizcaya is a place where diverse aesthetics converged, and where European traditions and American modernism thrived side by side.
During the construction of Vizcaya, between 1915 and 1921, James Deering commissioned five artists to create site-specific works for his Miami winter home. Three of these artists, Robert W. Chanler (1872–1930), Charles C. Rumsey (1879–1922), and Gaston Lachaise (1882–1935), had recently exhibited in the Armory Show in New York City. The 1913 Armory Show became legendary for signaling a break from the traditions and constraints of the French art academies and for paving the way for avant garde artists in America.
The Academic and the Avant Garde gathers objects and archival materials to illustrate how these artists served as a bridge between past and present. The exhibition also sheds light on the eclectic taste that shaped Vizcaya and, more generally, early twentieth-century architecture and design in America.
Robert W. Chanler, known for his fantastical decorative work at prominent New York homes and clubs, created two exceptional painted elements for Deering: the Vizcayan Bay screen and the ceiling of the Swimming Pool grotto. Charles C. Rumsey was commissioned to create a fountain on Vizcaya’s South Terrace, which he did by embellishing an eighteenth-century marble basin with frogs and lizards of his own design. And Gaston Lachaise created sculptural peacocks to sit atop eight decorative spiral columns in the Marine Garden, which served as an entrance into the lagoon gardens formerly at the southern end of Vizcaya’s property. A printed brochure provides a self-guided walking tour of these objects the three Armory Show artists made for Vizcaya.
Included in the exhibition are Chanler’s narrative, five-fold screen; one of Lachaise’s evocative peacocks paired with an oversized blueprint of its design; and a selection of archival materials documenting Rumsey’s playful fountain.