News Bureau | University of Illinois

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign logo


2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
Email to a friend envelope icon for send to a friend

Co-creator of PBS documentary on American art to preview film locally

Melissa Mitchell, News Editor


American flag with stripes composed of Campbell's soup cans and stars represented by an abstract painting
Click photo to enlarge
Art historian Jonathan Fineberg will screen the documentary he co-created, " “Imagining America: Icons of 20th Century American Art,” at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Local audiences will get the chance to preview a PBS documentary co-created by art historian Jonathan Fineberg during a campus screening on Feb. 9.

The two-hour film, “Imagining America: Icons of 20th Century American Art,” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. in the Colwell Playhouse at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana. The screening is free and open to the public, with no tickets required.

“Imagining America” was created and written by Fineberg, the U. of I.’s Gutgsell Professor of Art History, and John Carlin, chief executive officer of Funny Garbage, a New York City-based media production company.

A presentation of South Carolina Educational Television, the documentary is scheduled for broadcast on PBS stations nationwide in September. Fineberg and Carlin also are authors of a companion book, which will be published by Yale University Press.

Fineberg said the film “traces how, over the course of the century, art provided a place in which to re-imagine America, to visualize what we were and wanted to become.

“Twentieth-century American artists continually challenged an inherited sense of self and society to invent an original relationship with the world around them,” he said. “Venturing into their creative processes, ‘Imagining America’ highlights the common thread of how artists use art to examine and interact with the realities of their personal experience and their unique historical moment.”

The film’s content is presented in three chapters. In the first, the work of such artists as Thomas Cole, Georgia O’Keefe and Robert Smithson is presented in an effort to define and understand an American sense of nature.

The second chapter considers themes of reinvention and identity – on both a personal and national scale – and focuses on contributions by Jackson Pollock, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Cindy Sherman. The final segment, which draws on the art of Andy Warhol and David Wojnarowicz and others, documents ways in which artists have helped us reinterpret our cultural self-image and identity in a mass-media dominated world.

In addition to presenting a rich feast of visual imagery and archival footage, the documentary includes on-camera commentary by Fineberg and a number of notable art historians, curators and artists. Among them, U. of I. art history professor Rachael DeLue; former School of art and design faculty members Katherine Manthorne and Buzz Spector; and former Krannert Art Museum director Josef Helfenstein.

“Imagining America” is a co-production of MUSE Film and Television, Public Media Inc., Funny Garbage and Perry Films. Major funding for its production was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Henry Luce Foundation, with additional support from the U. of I., the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the National Endowment for the Arts.