International Expositions No More

The ways in which art is dispersed has changed drastically over the centuries, and especially in the last 100 years. While art used to be disseminated in a variety of physical, tangible ways (moving the art, sketches of a piece, taking photos and printing them in academic journals)  in the age of the Internet artwork can be shared almost immediately, globally, and by anyone with internet access. This was not the case in the Bay Area of San Francisco during the period before and after the two World Wars. While Modernism had been an flourishing artistic movement for several years in Europe and along the East Coast, it didn’t reach the Bay Area until about 1915 via San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Sargent Johnson was an African American artist of interracial descent who brought a distinctive “African” style influence to the Bay Area art scene and is credited with being the first and only person on the West Coast during the Negro Renaissance to create his pieces in such a style. If Sargent Johnson were to be plopped into today’s art society he would find himself surrounded by many artists and not having as much of a significant influence. In fact, by using the internet, you could probably find at least ten people doing similar kinds of art all around the world. Technology has created a massive shift in how visual art is consumed in contemporary society, with exposure to certain types of art and their proprietors being just one part of a multi-faceted change.


Ellee Banaszak, Hope College, Class of 2017


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