Rockwell exhibit premieres in Akron

Sam Twarek

A collection of six decades of American art by Norman Rockwell will be on display at the Akron Art Museum before it travels across the country.

“American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell” will open to the public tomorrow.

“What you will discover is a familiar Norman Rockwell, and at the same time, perhaps a Norman Rockwell you did not know so well,” said Mitchell Kahan, director and chief executive officer of the Akron Art Museum, “a Norman Rockwell who is a window into the conscience of mid-20th century America.”

The exhibit originates from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., headed by director and chief executive officer Laurie Norton Moffatt.

“It truly is an honor to bring a collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum to this phenomenal new facility,” Moffatt said. “Mitchell and I have talked about this for a number of years about how we could share this collection with the nation and particularly Northeast Ohio.”

Moffatt and Kahan stressed the importance of the rare opportunity to view original Rockwell works.

“What’s so exciting about this is that people actually get to see the oil paintings, which mostly they’ve never seen,” Kahan said. “They’re absolutely gorgeous and there’s a magic to them.”

The exhibit is separated into four parts and covers four aspects covered by Rockwell’s work: American roots, American character, the artist’s process and the shape of the American aesthetic.

Guests are greeted with a timeline of Rockwell’s life and art, and then can proceed to several rooms filled with his work.

One of the more well-known and racially charged paintings, The Problem We All Live With, hangs in the American character section.

The painting shows a black girl being walked to class by four men wearing arm bands that read “Deputy U.S. Marshall.”

Racial slurs are scribbled on the building wall behind her, and a freshly thrown tomato drips down to the pavement.

An entire section is dedicated to Rockwell’s 1969 work Murder in Mississippi, which depicts three specific murders of civil rights workers.

In addition to the original oil on canvas, Rockwell’s own hand-written notes on the situation are displayed in frames.

American Chronicles will be on display tomorrow until Feb. 3, when it travels to other parts of the country.

“It’s a highly unusual traveling exhibition in that it only travels in the winter,” Kahan said. “In the summer, all the works have to be back in Massachusetts because that is high tourist season.”

Members of the Akron Art Museum and children can enjoy free access to the exhibit, however, there is a $3 admittance fee for non-members.

Contact College of the Arts and College of Architecture and Environmental Design Reporter Sam Twarek at [email protected].