Woody Internship at the Phillips Collection: Week 9 in Review

An advertisement for Edith Halpert’s galleries


An advertisement for Edith Halpert's galleries.

An advertisement for Edith Halpert’s galleries.

On Wednesday I met with Suzanne Hudson, an Associate Professor of Art History and Fine Arts at the University of Southern California completing a fellowship at the National Gallery’s  Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA). Suzanne (who is a colleague of Anne) is working on a project about the precedents of Process Art. Put succinctly, “Process Art” as an idea asserts that the process of a work’s creation holds more significance than the final artwork. Suzanne is proposing that the American tradition of Process Art originated in the colonial era, evolving over the centuries and culminating in folk art of the pre-industrial period before it was rediscovered by modern artists. Her project will feature a series of case studies of premodern Process Art.
While at CASVA, her research concerns the Index of American Design (which is housed at the National Gallery). Compiled between 1935-1942, the Index was an effort by the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project which employed artists to create paintings of American folk art decorative objects (including furniture, crafts, textiles, etc.). The initiative not only created jobs for artists, but also yielded an illustrated encyclopedia of American design from the colonial period through the 19th century. Folk art and the Federal Art Project, itself, can be interpreted through a Process Art perspective.
Betty Jean Davis, Pennsylvania German Hanging Salt Box, c. 1939, from the Index of American Design

Betty Jean Davis, Pennsylvania German Hanging Salt Box, c. 1939, from the Index of American Design

I am helping Suzanne this/next week by researching Edith Halpert’s involvement in the folk art scene, complementing the research I’ve already conducted for Anne (regarding Halpert’s involvement with Horace Pippin and the modern art scene). In 1931, Halpert opened the American Folk Art Gallery with Holger Cahill on the second floor of the Downtown Gallery, selling to many prominent clients including Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (founder of Colonial Williamsburg’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum).
I’ve been looking through Halpert’s correspondences and exhibition archives in the Archive of American Art’s digitized collection. I am particularly interested in records of her involvement with the Federal Arts Project (serving as a Consultant on the Federal Exhibition Project in 1936) and her links to the Index of American Design project.
In other news, one day this week I went to George Washington University’s Gelman Library to look through a compilation issues of the ART gallery magazine from 1967-1968. Two of the issues mentioned the contemporary art scene in Los Angeles which could (maybe, possibly, potentially) offer insight for Anne’s research on that period.
It’s hard to believe that next week will be the final week of my internship!