Extra-Ordinary: The Everyday Object in American Art brought together more than seventy paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, and sculptures from the Whitney Museum of American Art. the works challenged traditional definitions of art while documenting twentieth-century American culture.
The exhibition began with early constructions made from everyday objects by Man Ray and Alexander Calder—works that underscored the influence of Dada “readymades” and Surrealist forms on a succession of twentieth-century American artists.
In the early 1950s, Robert Rauschenberg incorporated found objects into painting, as Jasper Johns employed the familiar icons of the target, alphabet, numbers, and the American flag as the subject matter for paintings and prints. These pioneers made way for the next decade of Pop artists, including Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and Roy Lichtenstein, whose works reflected America’s booming consumer culture, with imagery drawn from merchandise packaging, advertising, comic strips, and everyday domestic items.
Artists of the 1980s and beyond, including Jeff Koons and Fred Tomaselli, continued to broaden the dialogue between art and American culture with wry humor and artistic ingenuity. In the 1990s, photographers such as David Levinthal and James Casebere created and photographed fictional scenes, often still lifes of vernacular objects, that required the viewer to use memories from popular culture to understand them. Casebere’s intention “to transform the mundane, familiar, domestic nature of contemporary life … in order to find the extraordinary in the everyday” summarizes the spirit of this exhibition.
This exhibition was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.