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Summer Exhibitions Highlight California and the American West

Aug 4 2016

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Upper Kern River, 1876, by William Keith, on display at the Cantor Arts Center
 

This summer brings a number of visual arts exhibitions on California and the American West to the Bay Area's leading cultural institutions. Here's a rundown of exhibitions at the Cantor Arts CenterSF Moma, the De Young Museum, and the Legion of Honor, from now into the fall.

How Artists Documented – and Mythologized California's Waterscape

California: The Art of Water
Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University
June 18-November 28

new exhibit at the Cantor Arts Center traces the changing California landscape through a wealth of images ranging from epic 19th paintings to dissonant and thought-provoking images by postmodern photographers. 

The curators write:

California: The Art of Water examines the way artists and photographers have portrayed one of California's most precious resources over the last two centuries.  The exhibition features over 50 works of water subjects by eminent artists, including Ansel Adams, Albert Bierstadt, David Hockney, Richard Misrach, Carleton Watkins, and others.
 

The exhibition links visions of natural beauty and progress with depictions of places where patterns of water use destroyed thriving environments. Many 19th-century artists created images that portray California as a place of pristine lakes and rivers, while later painters and photographers captured the immense and growing system of waterworks--titanic dams, pipelines, and aqueducts---that moved water for hundreds of miles across the state. The visitor to California: The Art of Water will encounter works of art that raise urgent questions about the human relationship with water in the state.

Also happening in the Bay Area this summer:

Wild West: Plains to the Pacific
Legion of Honor, San Francisco
June 18-September 11

"Mined from the wide-ranging collections of the Fine Arts Museums, Wild West explores artistic responses to the natural and cultivated landscapes of the western United States from the frontier era to the present. The exhibition features paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, historical artifacts, and ephemera in a thematic presentation that celebrates the abundance and diversity within the region’s physical environment. (This is a companion exhibition to Ed Ruscha and the Great American West, below).

"Included in Wild West are works by Albert Bierstadt, Maynard Dixon, Ester Hernández, Thomas Moran, Eadweard Muybridge, Chiura Obata, Bill Owens, Frederic Remington, Ed Ruscha, Fritz Scholder, Michael Schwab, Wayne Thiebaud, Carleton Watkins, Emmi Whitehorse, and other artists, whose diverse range of approaches to the theme contribute to a multifaceted picture of the American West."

 

California and the West: Photography from the Campaign for Art
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
May 14–September 5

"California and the West — the title taken from Edward Weston’s celebrated book — consists of gifts and promised gifts to the museum that depict wild nature as a spiritual resource, illustrate how land here has been used over time, and explore diverging photographic approaches, from evocation to documentation to self-conscious art making. Arranged roughly chronologically, from the medium’s invention in the nineteenth century to the present, this exhibition reveals changes in the landscape as well as shifts in photographic attitudes and subject matter. Artists on view include Ansel Adams, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Lewis Baltz, Imogen Cunningham, and Lee Friedlander, as well as Dorothea Lange, Ed Ruscha, Larry Sultan, Edward Weston, and Minor White, among others."

 

Ed Ruscha and the Great American West
De Young Museum, San Francisco
July 16-October 9

"Ed Ruscha and the Great American West includes 99 works that reveal the artist’s engagement with the American West and its starring role in our national mythology. This exclusive exhibition has been organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and celebrates the career of one of the world’s most influential and critically acclaimed artists.

"Ruscha continues to work steadily at the age of 78, and this exhibition includes prints made as recently as 2015. He maintains a studio in the California desert and makes regular road trips through the spare and evocative landscapes that first inspired him as a young man. Ruscha has now worked in California for more than 50 years, and this exhibition celebrates his long commitment to exploring the American west as both romantic concept and modern reality."