Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art begins 2015 with a trio of focused exhibitions, highlighting artworks that have not previously been exhibited at the museum as well as new acquisitions.
A newly acquired painting by Thomas Hill, Yosemite Falls, will be on view beginning February 6 in the Colonial to Early 19th Century Art Gallery along with Yosemite Album, a book of 27 photographs by Carleton E. Watkins. Hill was a San Francisco-based painter who was closely tied to Yosemite as the new park opened in the 1870s and Watkins’ photographs were used to sway President Lincoln to designate Yosemite as the first state park.
“Yosemite National Park is one of the most iconic natural wonders. Yosemite Falls helps tell the American story of discovery and preservation,” said Crystal Bridges Executive Director Rod Bigelow. “These smaller, more focused exhibitions highlight new acquisitions and works from our permanent collection that provide new ways for visitors to explore our rich heritage — many, like Yosemite Album, are on view for the first time since they were acquired.”
Also featured in the Colonial to 19th Century Art Gallery is Changing Perspectives of Native Americans, on view through August 3. The exhibition features art that reflects shifting attitudes toward Native Americans over the course of the 19th century. The very earliest images record characteristics and customs of native peoples. By the late 19th century when native people across the country had been moved to reservations or were forced to attend boarding schools for the purpose of cultural and religious assimilation, artists responded with nostalgia for the past.
Artists such as Charles Bird King, George Winter, George Catlin, and Edward S. Curtis, all featured in the exhibition, intended to record American Indians in a pristine state. However, by the time Catlin and Winter set foot in the American West, many tribes had long been in contact with settlers of European descent,, and the United States Congress had passed the Indian Removal Act (1830).
“These artists all felt a sense of urgency in documenting native traditions and customs and several show a romantic approach to the subject matter. The works in this exhibition also represent a wide range of styles and media including photography, works on paper and canvas, lithography, and sculpture,” said Crystal Bridges Curator Manuela Well-Off-Man.
Art in a Day’s Work is on view February 6 – April 5, 2015 in the 20th Century Art Gallery. The exhibition features 40 prints created during the Great Depression, on view for the first time since they were acquired during 2012, along with Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter from the permanent collection. Many of the prints were created as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), an organization founded in 1935 by Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide work for 3 million Americans. The WPA paid artists a salary to produce art about contemporary life, allowing them to improve skills, develop new techniques and styles, and explore social and political issues such as war, immigration, and working class conditions. The WPA dissolved in 1943, the same year Rockwell painted Rosie the Riveter, which embodies both the entrance of women into the workforce and the new patriotic emphasis on labor.
“Prints were an ideal way for artists to reach a wide audience because they were small and created in large numbers. Art in a Day’s Work is an intimate look at prints from the depression era. In fact, we’ll have magnifying tools for visitors to explore the details of the prints, such as the fine lines in an etching, cuts in woodblocks, and soft textures of lithographs.” said Crystal Bridges Curator Mindy Besaw.
All three focused exhibitions are on view in the museum’s permanent collection galleries. There is no cost to view the exhibitions
On February 21, the temporary exhibition Van Gogh to Rothko: Masterworks from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery will open at the museum, and a full roster of 2015 exhibitions is available here.