The Armoury Show (& John McGeoch…)
I came across this site recently. You can click on the tree at the top if you want to go back to the explanatory home page, but in essence it is a virtual recreation of one of the Twentieth Century’s most influential art exhibitions, certainly in America and arguably the world…
If you had been in New York City nearly 100 years ago in 1913, then between February 17th and March 13th you would have had the opportunity to visit what has come to be known as The Armoury Show.
Spread out across 18 galleries in the US Army’s 69th Infantry Armoury building at 25th and Lexington were over 1250 works of art by over 300 artists, the names of which read like a who’s who of Modern Art: Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, Brancusi, Cezanne, Duchamp, Gauguin, Epstein, Van Gogh, Monet, Munch…. virtually every key Contemporary European painter and sculptor from the early Twentieth Century was there…
The exhibition was organised by the newly formed Association of American Painters and Sculptors, and its intention was to showcase some of the big names of American Art against the rising stars of Europe, men and women who were at the forefront of what would come to be known as Modernism. With a roughly equal share of gallery space, the rather academic and stayed realist and impressionistic works of the Americans however looked dated and out of step with the more cutting edge European trends, and although not to everyone’s taste (President Roosevelt famously said of the contents “that’s not art”) the impact of the show on the US cannot be underestimated, influencing as it did many of the following generation(s) of American Modern painters.
What I find amazing is that although the exhibition was held only 7 years after Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (often cited as the first truly modernist painting) the variety, diversity and quality of work on show was staggering: from the early Cubist work of Braque, to the stylised Futurist dynamics of Picabia and from the sensual sculptures of Brancussi through to the wholly abstract colours of Kandinsky. An unbelievable collection of work, with many of the next decades key ideas and styles already in evidence.
If I only had a time machine etc. etc. etc…
By the way, this post shouldn’t be confused with the other Armoury Show, Richard Jobson’s follow on band from The Skids. I saw The Armoury Show play in Leeds (at The Warehouse I think) in the mid Eighties, and although I went because I was a Skids fan, it was the mighty John McGeoch who left the biggest impression.
Sadly he died a few years ago, but he was one of the most influential (if criminally underrated) guitarists ever. As well as being the backbone of The Armoury Show, his instantly recognisable big guitar sound can be heard gracing the likes of Magazine, Public Image Limited and of course Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Check out Ju Ju if you don’t believe me…. Spellbound (obviously), but Monitor still sounds pretty good.
That’s John below, with the shades on to the right of Richard Jobson, Mr Skids himself)