The question of what is modern to contemporary societies can be very subjective because there are always new forms and mediums being invented by people all over the world; but, during the early 20th century, a time when more long-standing traditions reigned over popular culture, anything out of this bubble would have been shocking. The Armory Show of 1913 was just that, besides bringing new forms, shapes and interpretations of humans and nature to unsuspecting audiences, it was able to develop a definition of what was modern in artwork, a definition that still holds true today. While at first it seemed appalling to many audiences, the show contained pieces the truly transcend time because we can still look at them today and think they are modern.
Cubism was an avant-garde movement in art that was brought to American eyes for one of the first times by the Armory Show; it consisted of objects that were broken up and reassembled in an abstract form, so instead of presenting objects from one viewpoint, the artists can depict the subject of his painting from a myriad of view points. Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a staircase No. 2 exemplifies all the cubism criteria; it can be related to Earnest Hemingway’s In Our Time because his prose also has characteristics of a cubism painting. Taken individually, the vignettes of In Our Time hold their own merit, but taken collectively they give way to a whole new window of insight and meaning. We can view them as individual stories or as an aggregated collection of stories, like a Duchamp’s cubist painting it can be viewed from many different perspectives.
Prose and artwork, although seemingly different means of expression can often evoke the same emotional response; for example Kenneth Hayes Miller’s The Waste awakens the same type of themes found in T.S Elliot’s “The Waste Land”. Besides the fact that both audiences chose a similar title for their works, but they had the same sort of pessimistic outlook on the world which prompted them to create these mediums in the first place. Overall we see the same uncivilized, degenerative essence prevalent through Elliot’s pose and the way Miller captures a scene of destruction through the ominous clouds, disturbed landscape and the dispirited look on the woman’s face.
What is modern will shock, and looking through these galleries was not only shocking for the people of that time, but me, a contemporary audience too. There is something about these innovative works that commands attention, and seeing their resemblance to written works at that time is not surprising. Like the vignettes in Hemingway’s In Our Time each of these works has a story to tell individually, but put all together as The Armory Show, the meaning only gets richer and richer.