Casey Blake ’78 is senior historian for “The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution,” an exhibition now at the New York Historical Society (NYHS) through Feb. 24, 2014.
In highlighting the importance of the original exhibition—and the reason behind mounting a centennial—NYHS notes: “The 1913 Armory Show… in just less than a month … changed the way Americans thought about modern art. It has been called the most important exhibition every held in the United States.”
Blake, himself, calls his work on the centennial show, “the opportunity to tell a story about New York during a period of extraordinary ferment in politics, culture, and the visual arts.” He says, “I selected photographs, artifacts, and films that captured the excitement of that moment, giving particular attention to Greenwich Village as a site for cultural and political radicalism. The 1913 Armory Show was an important marker of New York’s ascendancy as the cultural capital of the United States and, indeed, the global capital of modernity.”
In a review for The New York Times, Ken Johnson concurred on the historical relevance, noting, “[T]he broader currents of modernity that it represents are as active now as they ever were, and arguably even more so.”
Additionally Roslyn Bernstein described the exhibition—and Blake’s involvement in the project—in a Huffington Post article:
“In keeping with the mission of the NYHS, the curators created an entire section depicting New York in 1913, to be entered before the armory exhibit. With the professional advice of Professor Casey Blake at Columbia University, who specializes in modern U.S. intellectual and cultural history and American studies, the NYHS tried to recreate the zeitgeist of NY at the time. ‘It was an amazing place,’ [co-curator Marilyn] Kushner said, ‘almost like the 1960s. It was time when Greenwich Village became a bohemian place, when women were marching in the streets for birth control and when laborers were marching for their rights.’
The historical society also offers behind-the-scenes and enrichment material on their web site, for which Blake wrote several blogs, including “The Rise and Fall of Greenwich Village.”
A history and College of Letters major at Wesleyan, Blake notes that he studied art history with Kenan Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus, and Professor of Art History, Emeritus, John Paoletti, and he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester.