February 26, 2007 - Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) - The Modern West: American Landscapes, 1890–1950
February 26, 2007

The Modern West: American Landscapes, 1890–1950

John Henry Twachtman, Emerald Pool, Yellowstone (detail), c. 1895, oil on canvas, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, Bequest of George A. Gay, by exchange, and the Ellen Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Fund

The Modern West: American Landscapes, 1890-1950
Opens March 4

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard,
Los Angeles CA, 90036.

For more information, visit www.lacma.org.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) offers a fresh assessment of American modernism in The Modern West: American Landscapes, 18901950, on view from March 4 to June 3, 2007. In the first major exhibition to explore the role of the American West in the development of modernism in the United Statesa movement traditionally associated with the East Coastthe works of some of the most influential artists of the last century and a half will be highlighted. Together, pieces from Georgia OKeeffe, Ansel Adams, Jackson Pollock, and others challenge the notion that the art of the West is unrelated to modernism in the U.S. and demonstrate that the vast, rugged land of the West, in fact, left an indelible mark on modernism. Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Modern West features approximately one hundred paintings, watercolors, and photographs that collectively redefine commonly held perceptions of modernism as well as western art.
The Modern West offers an extraordinary opportunity to see the American West anewthrough the eyes of some of the most important modern artists working in America in the early twentieth century, many not traditionally associated with the West, noted Austen Bailly, Assistant Curator of American Art. The impact of the western landscape on American modernism has long been underestimated and this exhibition makes the connections stunningly visible.
Evening Star No. II (1917) a watercolor by Georgia OKeeffe, is among the artists earliest, most intense visual responses to the western landscape, specifically to the prairie of the Texas panhandle. From 1916 to1918, OKeeffe lived in Canyon, Texas while she headed the art department at West Texas State Normal College (now called West Texas A&M University). In west Texas, OKeeffe established her aesthetic goals: she began to use bold color as an expressive vehicle and to understand the landscape in modern terms as a place of freedom, power, and seemingly infinite space and time. These watercolors suggest the kind of intuitive response to the western land and sky, at once representational and abstract, that OKeeffe cultivated in her art.

Though Jackson Pollock is commonly associated with modernists working in New York, he was born in Wyoming and raised in California and Arizona. Night Mist (1945) reveals his attraction to symbols of ancient cultures and Native American art, and also showcases the iconography he generated on his own. Symbols of a primordial spirit worldfragmented images of humans, birds, eyes, and faceslurk beneath a web of white paint. Pollock was profoundly interested in the psychological and physical characteristics of the western landscape and in the cultural references he placed on it. His efforts to express his personal experience of the West led him to paint in radically new ways and to become a pioneer of abstract expressionism.

Photographs, a key medium in modern American art, account for half of the works in the exhibition. In Tractored Out, Childress County, Texas (1938), Dorothea Lange documented the changing relationship between Americans and the land in a formal manner that reveals her interest in modern aesthetics. The subject of the photograph is twofoldthe geometry, form, composition, and divisions of space that the modern landscape offered an artist and imposed on its inhabitants, as well as the farmers who had been tractored out. The absence of workers in this picture signals the human costs of mechanized farming and also enables the artful vision Lange constructs of the empty farmland.

Edward Weston also explores western American modernism through the lens of the camera. Oil on Rocks, Point Lobos (1942) depicts an area three miles south of Carmel, California, where Weston settled in 1929 and established his portrait practice. In the photograph, Weston is not merely capturing a formal, modernist pattern he perceived in the oil on the rocks; he also aims to portray a collision between ancient geology and modern life. The environmental degradation of the spilled oil does not, however, obscure the rock textures and markings formed by weather and water over millions of years. The marks and splashes present in Westons photograph instead represent the layered history of land and life in the West that interested many modern artists.

Rather than offering an exhaustive survey, The Modern West: American Landscapes, 18901950 highlights the various groups and artists who played integral roles in shaping visions of specific regions and how they pursued related issues of modernity and concepts of national character that were relevant at this time. For these artists, the West provided a new environmenta new nature and the people who inhabited itfor constructing American art on thoroughly modern ground.

Credit: This exhibition was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Generous funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Additional support was provided by the Stark Foundation; the Hamill Foundation; Mr. Frank Hevrdejs; Mr. and Mrs. Peter R. Coneway; Wells Fargo; Fulbright & Jaworski; Jeff Fort and Marion Barthelme; Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Clarke; Mr. John R. Eckel, Jr.; Linn, Thurber, Arnold & Skrabanek; Lisa and Will Mathis; and Carla Knobloch. The catalogue for this exhibition received support from Palm Beach! Americas International Fine Art & Antique Fair. In-kind support for the Los Angeles presentation was made possible by official hotel sponsor Millennium Biltmore as part of the Millennium on View program.
Organizing Curator: Emily Ballew Neff, MFAH
LACMA Curator: Austen Bailly, American Art
In April 2006, Michael Govan became CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). He is the seventh person to hold the position of Director in the museums 41-year history. Established as an independent institution in 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has assembled a permanent collection that includes approximately 100,000 works of art spanning the history of art from ancient times to the present, making it the premier encyclopedic visual arts museum in the western United States. Located in the heart of one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, the museum uses its collection and resources to provide a variety of educational and cultural experiences for the people who live in, work in, and visit Los Angeles. LACMA offers an outstanding schedule of special exhibitions, as well as lectures, classes, family activities, film programs, and world-class musical events. The museum offers free admission after 5 pm every day the museum is open and all day on the second Tuesday of each month. LACMA’s Free after Five program is sponsored by Target.
General Information: LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles CA, 90036. For more information, call 323 857-6000 or log on to www.lacma.org.
Museum Hours and Admission: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, noon8 pm; Friday, noon9 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 11 am8 pm; closed Wednesday. Admission (except to specially ticketed exhibitions) is free the second Tuesday of every month, and every evening after 5 pm

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
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