Made in America: Ten Centuries of American Art, on view in Carnegie Museum of Art July 13 -- September 22, raises questions about what it means to be an American, and how art has reflected that identity. Is the essence of America to be found in 19th-century landscapes of the American West, photography of 20th-century urban life, portraits of Colonial aristocrats, Native American "reservation art," or in the pottery of ancient America? This exhibition moves beyond the typical survey of American art to embrace a broad range of objects, cultures and history. Spectacular works by both celebrated and lesser-known artists illustrate dramatic changes in American history, and reveal the various cultures that have woven their creative threads into the national fabric.
Drawn from the rich collections of five major museums, Made in America: Ten Centuries of American Art showcases 160 photographs, sculptures and decorative works of art spanning a thousand years of America's visual history. From 11th-century Native American pottery to Andy Warhol's 1960s Elvis, the breadth of American art is highlighted in eight sections that include more than 150 artists.
Made in America is presented by a consortium of five Midwestern museums that saw in their own collections the potential for a major exhibition exploring the diversity in American art , and these five museums are the exclusive venues for the exhibition. They are The Minneapolis Institute of Arts; The Saint Louis Art Museum; The Toledo Museum of Art; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., and Carnegie Museum of Art. This is their second joint venture, and builds upon the successful consortium model they established for their 1989-90 exhibition, Impressionism: Selections from Five American Museums.
While the exhibition raises questions that span the centuries, the art itself is organized in chronological groups. "Ancient America" (1000-1700), the first section, helps us understand the cultures that flourished long before Europeans immigrated to the Western hemisphere. Ancient pottery traditions still practiced today can be seen in such eloquent works as the Anasazi Storage Jar (1050-1250), from the American Southwest. The influence of Europe is revealed in "Colonial and Federal America" (1758-1835). Featured are Raphaelle Peale's trompe l'oeil masterpiece Venus Rising from the Seana Deception, outstanding examples of American furniture and the most complete surviving silver tea service by Paul Revere.
The richness of America's natural resources and the vitality of westward expansion are evident in "Democratic Vistas" (1835D 1870). Dramatic landscapes by Jasper Francis Cropsey and Frederic Edwin Church, and genre paintings such as George Caleb Bingham's Raftsmen Playing Cards reveal the popular interests of the day
"American Impressions" (1886-1908) explores turn-of-the-century American life as seen through the eyes of some of this country's best-loved artists. Among the numerous classics are William Merritt Chase's Open Air Breakfast, Winslow Homer's Sunlight on the Coast; Mary Cassatt's Young Women Picking Fruit; Childe Hassam's Rainy Day, Boston, and portraits by Thomas Eakins and John Singer Sargent. Also included is Disciples on the Sea by Henry O. Tanner, the pre-eminent African American painter of the 19th century. "Native American Art" (19th and early 20th century) documents the impact of reservation life in astonishing works by turn-of-the-century artists who were Cochiti, Crow, Shoshone, Kiowa, Navajo as well as from other tribes. Masterpieces of ceramics, basketry, silver jewelry, wood and stone carving, beadwork and painting are featured. "The Modern Age" (1880-1943) illustrates the development of both social realism and abstraction in American art in the early 20th century. Featured are works by the great American realists John Sloan, Edward Hopper and Thomas Hart Benton, as well as pioneering abstractions by Marsden Hartley and Stanton Macdonald-Wright. The nation's strong photographic tradition is seen in masterworks by Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evans, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange.
The enormous changes in America during the second half of the century are explored in "Art After World War II" (1945-1963), the exhibition's final section. Included are canvases by key artists of the New York School, including Franz Kline, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Sculpture by Alexander Calder and David Smith, ceramics by Peter Voulkos and photographs by Diane Arbus and Gordon Parks further exemplify this complex era.