Television’s Modern Eye

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 2.21.07 PMWhile some may question the cultural value of television, historians note that the medium has been quietly feeding viewers samples of the best of the arts for years. Particularly in the early days of TV, artists were coming into people’s homes, providing an eyeful of modern art. Salvador Dali was featured on “What’s My Line” and Ernie Kovacs once staged “Swan Lake,” albeit with the dancers dressed as gorillas. Children at home also had the opportunity to try their own hand at art, drawing on TV screens covered by sheets of plastic during “Winky Dink and You.”

This dance between arts and entertainment is the focus on “Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television,” exhibit at the Jewish Museum and curated by Maurice Berger. Notes Leanne Italie for the Associated Press in the Columbia Tribune:

“In a new exhibit, “Revolution of the Eye,” the Jewish Museum and its curator, Maurice Berger, travel back to the birth of TV, delving into most every crevice for connections to the art world through more than 260 objects, artifacts and clips.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 2.06.55 PMThe show, which runs through September 20 at the Jewish Museum in New York City, looks at the 1940s through 1970s via the TV screen as it relates to the world of art with the exhibit including Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Saul Bass whose works could be seen in programs, advertisements, and merchandising materials.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 2.21.33 PMOne of the most striking parts of the exhibit, notes Mike Hale in The New York Times, is the portion that covers the program “The Twilight Zone”:

“The real exemplar from this period is “The Twilight Zone” with its forthright surrealism, a debt to then-contemporaries like Magritte and Dali that Rod Serling, the show’s creator, readily acknowledged.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 2.20.50 PMAnother part of the exhibit includes the CBS eye logo, which is a modernist icon inspired by Shaker hexes. According to the museum, the exhibit highlights a “visual revolution” where the developmental timelines for art and TV entwined, creating something attention- grabbing that changed the way Americans—and the world—lives. Museum representatives note:

“Revolution of the Eye looks at how the dynamic new medium, in its risk-taking and aesthetic experimentation, paralleled and embraced cutting-edge art and design.”


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