Thumbnail image for Ready-to-WearThumbnail image for Ready-to-Wear


Stuart Davis

An item at Art Institute of Chicago

The title of this vibrant painting refers to the American invention of mass produced, or "ready-to-wear, clothing, a term first employed in an 1895 Montgomery Ward catalog. Stuart Davis looked to the sights and sounds of popular culture throughout his successful career, excited by innovations he saw in advertising, industry, and jazz music. Here, the broad, fattened areas of red, white, black, and blue may represent leftover pieces of fabric, while the angular white shape in the upper-right corner evokes a pair of scissors. With its bright palette and energetic com-position, the painting celebrates not only the vitality of the ready-to-wear clothing industry but also, Davis suggested, America itself.

Americas in the Making

An exhibit at Art Institute of Chicago


These galleries present dynamic and wide-ranging art forms made in the Americas, where artists have been at work since time immemorial. The region now known as Chicago has long been a vibrant center of Native artistic practices, including those of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi nations. European settler colonialism and the development of the metropolis-including our museum's founding in 1879-introduced global art forms. Together, these local histories shape the collections we steward today, which encompass diverse makers, objects, and styles spanning centuries and continents, from North to South America and the Caribbean. The works here offer layered stories of the Americas in the making. Created for a variety of purposes-from aesthetic to ceremonial to practical —they have the power to evoke a range of emotions and responses. Complex factors impacted their making, including displacement and immigration, enslavement, global trade, and indus-trialization. As a result, they offer insights across eras while inviting reinterpretation in our moment. Just as artistic traditions are continually made and remade, so, too, are our efforts to present them. Today you can find selections of the many histories of art in the Americas on this floor and the floor above, in tandem with Gallery 136, a dedicated space for celebrating Indigenous art.