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The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip

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Just in time for spring road trips: on Saturday, February 27, Crystal Bridges opens our first major exhibition of photography, The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip, produced by Aperture and debuting here at our Museum. The exhibition is the first to look at the American road as muse, and features more than 100 images by 19 photographers, both American and foreign-born, from the 1950s to today.

To celebrate, we’re presenting a panel discussion on Friday, February 26, moderated by David Campany, curator of The Open Road, and featuring three key contributors to the exhibition: Aperture Editor Denise Wolff and two Open Road photographers, Stephen Shore and Justine Kurland. This will be a great opportunity to meet the artists and listen in on a discussion about the roots and history of American travel photography.

Stephen Shore began his career photographing Andy Warhol in New York. But a trip to Amarillo, Texas, in 1969 changed his approach. He learned to drive and developed a love for the American road:  “It was a liberating experience,” he said. “It was the sense of freedom and independence that I loved.”  He traveled around through the 1970s, shooting first in 35mm, and then moving to a 4-by-5 and again to an 8-by-10 format, eager to capture more detail. In 1982, Shore published Uncommon Places; a selection of 49 road images from the estimated 700 he shot during that period.

Justine Kurland took to the road with her young son Casper around 2007. She traveled in a customized van, photographing their experiences and capturing the lives of other nomads as well as people living on the fringes of society that she met along the way. “How to photograph such lives is a tricky question,” she said. “I believe it’s where the social fabric begins to unravel that we can learn about society.”

HappyIn addition to this opening panel discussion, the Museum’s Interpretation and Education teams have put the pedal to the metal to add engaging extras to the experience of The Open Road. We’ve put together a Road-Tunes playlist on Spotify made up of 32 road songs, including  recommendations  by our social media community. With a free Spotify account, you can listen for free, and vote on our website for your favorite in our Road Tunes Showdown that begins March 1 with weekly head-to-head competitions between songs on the list.

You can even showcase your own road stories in the exhibition by sharing one of your road trip photos to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #OpenRoadTrip and tagged with the location.  We’ll include your image on an interactive digital map in the exhibition and on the website!

But wait, that’s not all! Wild AngelsThere’s a film series featuring Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels, made three years prior to Easy Rider and the first film to associate actor Peter Fonda with Harley-Davidson motorcycles; and Monte Hellman’s Two Lane Black Top, which includes scenes in Arkansas and stars James Taylor and The Beach Boys’ Dennis Wilson.

blue highwaysCurators and additional guest speakers will offer Gallery Conversations and Spotlight Talks, including Kaisa Bathuli, Program Manager for the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program; Open Road Photographer Alec Soth; and William Least Heat-Moon, whose autobiographical travel book Blue Highways is hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing (and is one of my personal favorites, I’m looking forward to this one).

There are classes and workshops for kids from preschool age up, plus a special Teen Night organized by the Museum’s Teen Council. Also programs for adults focusing on the theme of photography and The Open Road, including a one-night Art by the Glass workshop on creating DIY filters for your cell phone, and an Art 101 series focusing on the history of American photography.

For book types, the Crystal Bridges Library will offer a Great Reveal program showcasing on the artists books by Ed Ruscha (whose work is included in The Open Road) in the Library’s collection.  Regional poet Huston Hughes will host a Writers Group focusing on travel writing and Beat poetry.

Cadillac RanchNaturally, the amazing culinary team at Eleven is in on the theme, featuring a new Chef’s Tasting Menu celebrating roadside café fare, plus an Open Road-themed WOW program and a special Cr[EAT]e dinner event. Performing arts is on the menu, as well, with a road-themed choral concert, a variety show, and Art Night Out on Saturday, April 23, showcasing Rock & Roll on the American Road!

Now if all THAT doesn’t make you want to hop in the car and drive to Crystal Bridges, I don’t know what will. So load up on snacks, plot a course, and join us here for The Open Road!

Linda DeBerry
Senior Copy Editor / Publications Manager

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