Thursday, July 3, 2014

Cedar Rapids: Who'd a Thought It?

I have just returned from 10 days in Iowa visiting family. Each time I go, I try to take in a cultural gem that I haven't seen before. This bank I had seen from the exterior, but finally was able to experience it from the inside: Louis Sullivan's 'Jewel Box' bank in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The building functioned as a bank until 2008, when it sustained major damage in the flood of that year. Nearly $1 million had been spent on its restoration in 1991. Its fate was uncertain until it was bought in 2012, restored again, and is now an Italian restaurant/bar called Popoli. Most of the original fixtures remain, as well as the murals and stained glass. The main vault, with a 22-inch thick round door, is now a private dining room, and a smaller vault is the wine cellar. My sister, brother-in-law, and I had dinner there on June 19 and the food was excellent. If you are ever in Cedar Rapids, it's worth a visit, as is the Museum of Art (see below)

Cedar Rapids also has a very good, small art museum. It's virtues include a large Grant Wood collection (he was from here), and an entire wing dedicated to the print maker and teacher Mauricio Lasansky (to be covered in my next blog).

The museum was showing of Grant Wood's early work, before he developed the trademark style he is known for. This earlier painting belongs to the American Impressionist movement, as he was heavily influenced by the French Impressionist art he saw on his three trips to Europe in the early 1900's. However, on his last trip in the late 20's, he visited Germany and was exposed to both Northern Renaissance painting and the current art movement called New Reality; when he returned home to Iowa he began painting in the style with which we are most familar, as in this painting called 'Young Corn':

His earlier work in the American Impressionist style is quite accomplished, and often overlooked:

Van Antwerp Place, 1922-23

Gate in the Wall, 1920

Yellow Door, St. Émilion, 1924

Amber (Indian Creek – Fall), 1927

To be continued...

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