Crystal Bridges Museum Announces 2016 Exhibitions Featuring Invention, Photography

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BENTONVILLE, AR—Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announces its 2016 temporary exhibitions: Samuel F. B. Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre and the Art of Invention; The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip; American Made: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum; and The Art of Dance: 1830-1960. 

“The 2016 temporary exhibitions offer a broad and unique set of lenses through which to view American art,” said Margi Conrads, Crystal Bridges Director of Curatorial Affairs. “Visitors can rediscover telegraph inventor Samuel Morse as an artist; experience the museum’s first-ever photography exhibition by joining internationally renowned photographers on their American road trips; enjoy more than 100 artworks from the collection of the American Folk Art Museum; and be inspired by the first major traveling exhibition connecting visual art and American dance.”

Samuel F. B. Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre and the Art of Invention

January 23 through April 18, 2016

Known today primarily for his role in the development of the electromagnetic telegraph and Morse code, Samuel F. B. Morse began his career as a painter. One of his most important works is Gallery of the Louvre, now in the collection of the Terra Foundation for American Art. In 1829, Morse embarked upon a three-year period of study in Paris. This culminated in the monumental Gallery of the Louvre, in which the artist chose masterpieces from the Louvre’s collection and depicted them as if they had been exhibited together in one of the museum’s grandest spaces. Gallery of the Louvre is a painting of visual and technical complexity, bringing together Morse’s artistic and scientific pursuits and revealing an adoration of the old masters as well as the artist’s Calvinist worldview and conservative cultural politics. Morse showed Gallery of the Louvre as a single-painting exhibition only twice—in New York City and New Haven, Connecticut—where it was praised by critics and connoisseurs but failed to capture the imagination of the public. Crushed by the lukewarm public response, Morse soon ceased painting altogether, moving on to his more successful experiments with the electromagnetic telegraph, and, most famously, Morse code. Today, after six months of conservation and two years of scholarly study, this impressive work of American art reveals Morse’s fascination with the transmission of information: in both his desire to share masterworks from Europe with the American people, and his invention of Morse code. This exhibition was organized by and with support from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip
February 27 through May 30, 2016

Joy rides, voyages of discovery, surveys, wanderings, migrations, travel diaries, and frank assessments of the nation: is America imaginable without the road trip? The Open Road presents the story of the American road as muse. Featuring over 90 images, The Open Road offers a survey of works created by 19 photographers on the move across the nation from the 1950s to today. Come along for the ride and visit roadside motels, Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway, theme parks, and everyday America. Photographers featured in the exhibition include Robert Frank, Ed Ruscha, Garry Winogrand, Inge Morath, William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, Joel Meyerowitz, Jacob Holdt, Stephen Shore, Bernard Plossu, Victor Burgin, Joel Sternfeld, Alec Soth, Todd Hido, Shinya Fujiwara, Ryan McGinley, Justine Kurland, and Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs. Together, these photographers elevate the snapshot—often taken through the window of a moving car—to a work of art. This exhibition was organized by Aperture Foundation, New York. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

American Made: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum

July 2 through September 19, 2016

Featuring more than 100 artworks, including quilts, paintings, furniture, sculpture, weathervanes, works on paper, and more from the renowned collection of the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, this exhibition examines the role artworks like these have played in shaping the visual image and national identity of the United States. This is the first presentation of American folk art at Crystal Bridges.

The early American republic was a nation of makers. With an exuberance that was fueled by revolutionary fervor and enlightenment philosophy, the lives of Americans were filled with objects and artworks made by their own hands. Created before the establishment of museums of art, folk art—as these expressions are known today—was widely enjoyed and considered as a natural part of the “furniture of a house.” The application of artistic intent to forms of everyday life was also a reflection of the practical nature of young America, whose citizens commissioned portraits and embellished purely functional objects.

The art and artists were themselves part of a story that was unfolding, but as these artworks were made, used and enjoyed outside of museums, the public record of them has largely been lost. The slow recovery of these histories was facilitated by two unlikely forces that aligned in the early years of the twentieth century: the colonial revival, a movement to recover a legitimate American heritage; and Modernism, a desire on the part of the avant-garde to find a specifically American precedent for their own art. This exhibition was organized by the American Folk Art Museum, New York, in collaboration with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

The Art of American Dance: 1830-1960

October 22, 2016 through January 16, 2017

The Art of American Dance is the first major traveling exhibition to explore visual art related to the many forms of American dance. This exhibition of some 90 paintings, prints, sculptures, and photographs examines dance-inspired works from the 1830s to the 1960s—from dance in Native American cultures to ballroom dancing, to Jitterbug, swing, modern dance, and others. During this more-than 100-year period, dance engaged every segment of US society and every artistic medium, creating arenas for social interactions, popular entertainments, and artistic experimentation.  Exploring the variety of ways Americans embrace dance as part of everyday life, as well as the diverse forms of professional dance, including burlesque, flamenco, and classical ballet, the exhibition highlights the central place dance has held in American culture and in the imagination of American artists.  Artists did not merely represent dance; they were inspired by dance to think about how Americans move through space, share culture, and express themselves through movement. Visitors can also examine the American history of race, gender, ethnicity, and class through the lenses of dance and the visual arts. This exhibition has been organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts. Support has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and an ADAA Foundation Curatorial Award and the Association of Art Museum Curators.

“We are excited to welcome visitors to explore the broad range of 2016 exhibitions,” said Conrads. “In conjunction with these exhibitions, we offer programs that provide a deeper understanding of the artists and artworks and help create powerful new connections to the American story.”

Image: Inge Morath, Outside Memphis, Tennessee, 1960. © Inge Morath/Magnum Photo.

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