In Chicago, you become familiar with the color, symbolism and style of Marc Chagall (1887-1985), because the Russian-born artist’s blue stained-glass “America Windows” resides at the Art Institute of Chicago and his “Four Seasons,” a cheerful mosaic wall of couples, suns, flora and fauna sits downtown on Dearborn Street.
However, as familiar as Chagall seems, unexpected windows open into the artist’s life and present a broader mosaic of his works and influences in “Chagall: Beyond Color,” an exhibition now at the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas through May 26.
Co-organized by La Piscine Museum in Roubaix, France and the Dallas Museum of Art, ‘Beyond Color’ ranges from an impressive array of costumes and backdrop for “Aleko,” a Ballet Theatre of New York production that premiered in Mexico, to the pre-Columbian and Hopi kachina doll influences reflected in Chagall's ceramics and later costumes.
The ‘Aleko’ costumes, worn by mannequins on a stage where visitors can watch the ballet on small video screens, have not been seen in the United States since performed in New York after a 1942 Mexican premiere. Unfortunately, the exhibition that includes these costumes is only on view in Dallas and Roubaix.
“As the only American venue for ‘Chagall: Beyond Color,’ we’re especially pleased to present several works that illuminate Chagall’s previously underexplored engagement with the artistic traditions of Mexico and the American Southwest,” said DMA Director Maxwell L. Anderson.
It was an unexpected influence, according to Olivier Meslay, the DMA’s Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs and the show’s Dallas curator.
“As we assembled this exhibition, we were surprised to discover several works by Chagall that reference the kachina dolls of Hopi culture and Mexican pre-Columbian pottery,” Meslay said.
Better known is Chagall’s Jewish heritage. There are several sketches connected with work he did for the Russian Jewish Theater.
Indeed, even with the inclusion of several paintings and ceramics, the exhibit focuses on Chagall’s ties to theater.
He designed the costumes, curtains and backdrops of the American Ballet Theater’s 1945 production of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird" which reflect the kachina influence.
Chagall also did opera motif canvases for the Paris Opera ceiling, installed in 1962 over the original circular mural.
The exhibit touches on the influences of cubism, surrealism and avant guard movements in Paris when Chagall was there before and after WWI.
Considered a European modernist, Chagall often melded all three movements in his work. Cubist swaths of color in “The Cemetery,” a 1917 oil and pencil depiction relating to his Vitebsk birthplace, are similar to a style adopted by American modernist John Marin (1870-1953). His style is considered a forerunner of abstract expressionism.
Details: Museum admission Free, "Chagall: Beyond Color" now through May 26, 2013, is only US venue. Special exhibition tickets $16 with discounts for students, seniors and military. For more information call 214-922-1200 and visit Dallas Museum of Art. The Dallas Museum of Art is at 1717 N. Harwood St., Dallas, TX 75201.