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A Divided Landscape

A person in a black dress stands on a desert vista pointing to the landscape against clouds and dusty mountains
Xaviera Simmons, Composition One for Score A, 2010, color photograph, 40 x 50 in. Courtesy of the artist and David Castillo Gallery.

From the founding of the United States to the present day, artists have employed mythic imagery—towering mountains, placid rivers, and sunlit plains—to illustrate the vast expanses and striking scenery of the American West. In the nineteenth century, painters and sculptors presented the frontier region as a new Eden: a blank canvas devoid of inhabitants and unspoiled by encroaching industrialization. But these romantic, mythologized, canonized visions have proven deeply problematic in their erasure of Native peoples and the realities of settler colonialism. European American artists painted a version of the world they wanted others to see. What has been left out–the footprints, fences, military trenches, deeds, handshakes, broken treaties, and blood–tells a darker, more accurate story.

In A Divided Landscape, seven contemporary artists confront the historical and cultural narratives of the American West. Through paintings, drawings, sculpture, and mixed-media installations, this sweeping exhibition reclaims space throughout the Momentary galleries and outside around the grounds. Themes encompass ideas of wilderness and indigeneity, interactions between humans and animals, and humans’ conquest of nature.

A Divided Landscape includes original work from Matthew Barney, Andrea Carlson, Nicholas Galanin, Brian Jungen, Lucy Raven, Xaviera Simmons, and Kara Walker, as well as historical drawings and paintings from the collection at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, George Catlin, Jasper Francis Cropsey, and others that speak to the preservation of the dominant frontier narrative. Together, the artists in this exhibition will examine landscape paintings that promoted westward expansion and then present a post-colonial version of those landscapes to share the full story of the American West.

A Divided Landscape is on view in Galleries 1, 2, and 3 and outdoor spaces on the grounds presently occupied by the Momentary.

Sound Symbol Please note: Some artworks in this exhibition contain sound effects, including loud booms. Listening discretion is advised.

A Divided Landscape is organized by the Momentary and curated by Neville Wakefield and Kaitlin Garcia-Maestas, associate curator, with Taylor Jasper, curatorial associate.

Sponsored by: Deborah Wright