Television as Art: NSU Art Museum presents the unexpected connection

‘Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television’
‘Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television’ pulls together two cherished pillars of American culture: television and art. Pictured: Kurt Weihs, Designer, William Golden, Art Director, ’Concentric Eye,’ Fortune, February 1955
(Image credit: Courtesy of the NSU Art Museum)

Television and art are not often regarded as being remotely in the same league, but the NSU Art Museum (opens in new tab) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is proving the influence that avant-garde art had on television in its nascent years. Organised together with the Jewish Museum (opens in new tab) in New York and the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (opens in new tab) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, ‘Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television’ pulls together two cherished pillars of American culture.

Spanning the late 1940s to the mid 1970s, the exhibition presents how American television took on a modernist aesthetic as its inspiration. Over 250 fine art objects and examples of graphic design, including works from artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Saul Bass, Roy Lichtenstein and Georgia O’ Keeffe, stand alongside television memorabilia, clips and ephemera from iconic television series and shows, such as The Ernie Kovacs Show (opens in new tab), The Ed Sullivan Show, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and even The Twilight Zone. From the Pop Art aesthetics reflected in early Batman epsiodes to Op Art-esque commercials for Kodak and sets for The Ed Sullivan Show, the connections are rather unexpected, to say the least.

In addition to a showing of early advertising, which still exude an exciting quality and were revolutionary at the time, the exhibition also highlights the ‘New Advertising’ revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, where Andy Warhol and Ben Shahn created advertising and commercial campaigns for CBS.

And finally, to prove just how entwined television and art were in popular culture, the exhibition also documents how artists like Salvador Dali, Willem de Kooning, Ray Eames and Marcel Duchamp became household names, thanks to television appearances that were broadcast nationwide. A series of rare TV clips forms part of the experience.

Man holding gun

Over 250 fine art objects and examples of graphic design stand alongside television memorabilia, clips and ephemera from iconic films and television shows, such as The Ernie Kovacs Show. Pictured: Ernie Kovacs. Image provided by Photofest, New York 

(Image credit: Courtesy of the NSU Art Museum)

'Winky Dink and You' game book

Spanning the late 1940s to the mid 1970s, the exhibition presents how American television took on a modernist aesthetic as its inspiration. Pictured: 'Winky Dink and You' game book, c. 1954 

(Image credit: Courtesy of the NSU Art Museum)

Salvador Dali on 'What's My Line',

The exhibition also includes rare film clips showing how artists, like Salvador Dali, became household names, thanks to television appearances that were broadcast nationwide. Pictured: Salvador Dali on 'What's My Line', CBS, January 1952. Copyright: Fremantle Media

(Image credit: Courtesy of the NSU Art Museum)

Laugh-In bubble-gum wrapper

Pictured: Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In bubble-gum wrapper, c. 1968 

(Image credit: Courtesy of the NSU Art Museum)

Lifesavers commercial

Pictured: Lifesavers commercial, 1966

(Image credit: Courtesy of the NSU Art Museum)

The Sign of Good Television,'

The exhibition also includes examples of early advertising, which still exude an exciting quality and were considered revolutionary at the time. Pictured: William Golden, Art Director, 'The Sign of Good Television,' Fortune, December 1951 

(Image credit: Courtesy of the NSU Art Museum)

The Souper Dress

It also highlights the ‘New Advertising’ revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, where Andy Warhol and Ben Shahn created advertising and commercial campaigns for CBS. Pictured: Designer unknown, The Souper Dress, c. 1967 

(Image credit: Courtesy of the NSU Art Museum)

INFORMATION

‘Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television’ runs until 10 January 2016

ADDRESS

NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale (opens in new tab)
1 East Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.