What Is America?: Addison Gallery of American Art Explores Social, Political, and Environmental Justice in Upcoming Exhibitions

  • ANDOVER, Massachusetts
  • /
  • August 28, 2019

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anonymous, He that by the plough would thrive—Himself must either hold or drive, c. 1825-1850. Measuring seven feet across, this canvas is a didactic panorama promoting industry and progress through agricultural pursuits.
Addison Gallery of American Art

The Addison Gallery of American Art on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., continues an exploration of the museum’s guiding question: What Is America?

Major initiatives for the 2019–2020 academic year include A Wildness Distant from Ourselves: Art and Ecology in 19th-Century America, an exploration of the evolution of the European American understanding of the natural world; Men of Steel, Women of Wonder, an exhibition looking at the golden age of superheroes and their influence on contemporary perceptions of “truth, justice, and the American way,” organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Work 1940–1950, the first museum survey to focus on the formative first decade of the seminal American photographer’s 60-year career, organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. in collaboration with the Gordon Parks Foundation; and Wayfinding, an initiative of the Addison’s Edward E. Elson Artist-in-Residence Program inviting contemporary artists Sonny Assu, Andrea Chung, Liz Collins, Spencer Finch, Josh T. Franco, and Heidi Whitman to engage with Phillips Academy’s extensive collection of maps and create new work exploring how the land has been claimed, constructed, and reconfigured throughout history.

Jeremiah Pearson Hardy, Abraham Hanson, c. 1828.
Addison Gallery of American Art

Also on view are two exhibitions drawing on the Addison’s collection of more than 23,000 works of American art. The fall 2019 cohort of students in the ART400 course at Phillips Academy will mine the museum’s robust holdings to conceptualize and realize an original exhibition; and George Washington: American Icon will examine the image of the general-turned-president in American visual culture.

“Radiating from the museum’s central question—What Is America?—the Addison’s 2019–2020 programming explores the notion of justice in American art and life,” said Judith F. Dolkart, The Mary Stripp and R. Crosby Kemper Director of the Addison Gallery of American Art. “From the historical evolution of landscape preservation advocacy in the 19th century to environmental justice in the 21st, and from the fictional representation of virtuous icons like Superman and Wonder Woman to documentation of pervasive social injustice affecting everyday Americans, these exhibitions challenge students and the public to reconsider their perceptions of justice over the last two centuries of the American experience.”

Rembrandt Peale, George Washington, 1856.
Addison Gallery of American Art

Starting off, from September, exhibitions include:
A Wildness Distant from Ourselves: Art and Ecology in 19th-Century America, September 1, 2019–July 31, 2020
Inspired by the 125th anniversary of the Andover Village Improvement Society (AVIS), the country’s second oldest land preservation society, A Wildness Distant from Ourselves considers how the evolution of the European American understanding of the natural world fundamentally altered the ecology of North America. From the Puritans’ seventeenth century “errand into the wilderness” to the present, the perceived dichotomy between man and nature has defined the European American experience in the socalled “New World.” A Wildness Distant from Ourselves focuses on the 19th century, an era that witnessed both the extreme exploitation of the land and its peoples and the birth of a modern conservation movement.

​​“It is in vain to dream of a wildness distant from ourselves. There is none such.” – Henry David Thoreau, Journal IX, 1856 

The Art of Ambition in the Colonial Northeast, September 1 - December 15, 2019

The works in this exhibition speak to the complexity and ambiguity of artistic identity in the British colonies of northeastern North America during the long 18th century and to the difficulty of defining the boundaries of American art. Separated from their English homeland by the vast Atlantic Ocean, colonists nevertheless participated in a dynamic economic and cultural network that connected them with the peoples of Europe, West Africa, and South America. As British North America grew increasingly prosperous, affluent new Americans emulated the refinement and gentility of their mother country by commissioning artists to create works that expressed both colonial desires for prestige and status and the hybridity of artistic production in early America.

George Washington: American Icon, September 1–November 15, 2019
Drawing from the Addison’s extensive collection of images of George Washington, this project examines depictions of the first president as an icon of American art and culture. A contemporary and colleague of Phillips Academy founder Samuel Phillips Jr., Washington is represented in the Addison collection across media, including paintings, drawings, prints, decorative arts, and photographs. Conceived as a complement to Men of Steel, Women of Wonder, this exhibition in the Addison’s Museum Learning Center encourages students and the public to closely examine the hagiography of the first American president and consider its effect on national identity as well as the public image of all subsequent presidents.

More information, programs and exhibition dates: https://addison.andover.edu/

Tags: american art

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