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An Era That Offered More Than Modernists

(Ken Johnson, The New York Times) Three puzzling artworks welcome visitors to “Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties,” an expansive and exhilarating exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. A large self-portrait by Thomas Hart Benton pictures the bare-chested, muscular artist standing heroically at the beach with his wife sitting before him, Jane to his Tarzan, in a black one-piece bathing suit. On a pedestal nearby is a sandstone sculpture of a nude male torso by Cecil de Blaquière Howard that could be mistaken for an ancient Roman artifact. And on a wall adjacent to the Bentons is a grisaille painting of a 1928 Ford Trimotor airplane, its body of corrugated metal rendered in Precisionist style by Elsie Driggs.

Just how appropriate this odd threesome is as an introduction to the show becomes clear to viewers who have read the informative catalog essay by Teresa A. Carbone, the curator of the exhibition and of the museum’s American art collection.