Man, modernist painters had it rough. Imagine trying to encapsulate Americas industrial renaissance in that peak-and-valley stretch of time between prohibition and World War II. Does a tugboat chugging along the Atlantic really epitomize isolation and anxiety? Do pastoral panoramas of cows munching cud actually reflect post-Depression hardship and poverty? Maybe, but how exactly does a virtuoso with paint and palette crystallize the quintessential human condition? Not easily. So mid-20th century painters tapped their inner Picassos or doused canvasses with nostalgic neo-classical churches and psychedelic abstract skyscrapers fashioning majestic medleys of the urban and the rural, letting viewers decide the rest.
Speaking of which, you can have a crack at the ol tradition vs. innovation debate when the Boca Raton Museum of Art (501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton) trots out Conflicting Currents, a retrospective of over 120 masterworks sampling every trailblazer from abstractionist Byron Browne to realist George Bellows. And although bizarre pastels and beer-goggly geometric shapes might suggest our struggling contemporaries were under the influence, just remember America was a tough stomping ground to define. The exhibition runs through November 4. Tickets cost $4 to $8. Call 561-392-2500, or visit www.bocamuseum.org
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Oct. 4. Continues through Nov. 4, 2007