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The Story of The South: Art and Culture, 1890-2003


The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, University of New Orleans, will celebrate its 2003 grand opening in New Orleans' Warehouse District with the unveiling of Stephen Goldring Hall. This opening also marks a milestone in the national presentation of the art and culture of the South with its inaugural exhibition The Story of the South: Art and Culture, 1890-2003, featuring seminal works of art from the American South from 1890 to the present. This exhibition will showcase some of the most important artworks to come out of the South, giving an insider's view of Southern life, including the legacies, traditions and history, as interpreted by artists. (left: Benny Andrews, Death of Crow, 1965)

"The opening exhibition is the most comprehensive overview of recent Southern art ever assembled," says David Houston, the Museum's chief curator. "To capitalize on this opportunity, we have arranged the galleries to follow the unfolding of Southern art both chronologically and thematically." Through this layout, the exhibition will reveal the complex richness of the South's visual heritage and the influence of Southern art and culture on the American mainstream.      

The Story of the South: Art and Culture, 1890-2003 takes visitors on a visual journey through time in the South, tracing the history of the region's agrarian roots through World War I, the Great Depression and the Jazz Age, continuing on through the Civil Rights era and the modern age, finally arriving at the most contemporary works that take Southern art into the 21st century. The exhibition begins with Impressionist, Tonalist and landscape painting with selected works by William Woodward, Lulu King Saxon, Julian Onderdonk, Alexander Drysdale, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, and William Posey Silva among others. But the exhibition expands in an unexpected way.

The Ogden Museum's inaugural exhibition will show the continuation of established traditions in the South and a willingness to face and confront new realities, new technologies and new challenges evident in the larger environment. This can be seen in the works by artists as diverse as Clementine Hunter, Elemore Morgan Jr., Douglas Bourgeois, Ida Kohlmeyer, William Dunlap, Willie Birch and many others represented in this introductory exhibition.

Galleries in Goldring Hall will showcase works from Mississippi, Texas, Florida and South Carolina. It will also include galleries dedicated to photography, works by self-taught artists, and contemporary glass, craft and design. Along with space showing the work of Walter Anderson, other galleries will be dedicated to the extended families of artists Will Henry Stevens, and Benny Andrews' family, including his wife, Nene Humphrey, and father, George "the Dot Man" Andrews.

A hallmark of the Ogden Museum are the in-depth collections of individual artists' work, including Stevens, Andrews, and Dusti Bongé that span the life and work of that artist. This will allow the Museum the opportunity to rotate works of art from these artists throughout the inaugural exhibition, as well as a place for study and research in the Museum's archives.

"The Ogden Museum's journey through the South during the 20th and 21st centuries reveals hallmarks of Southern art and culture -- the importance of place, the strong sense of family and community that bond Southerners to the land, the concept of history and memory that mold identity, and the idea of celebration and the spirit," says J. Richard Gruber, Ph.D., Director of the Museum. "These themes will be celebrated in the art on display and in other venues, including a series of original films and multi-media gallery installations created by Washington, D.C. filmmaker Stanley Staniski."

In the South, family life formed the center of personal experience. The Story of the South: Art and Culture 1890-2003 examines this in a range of portraits, and in the repeated renderings of Southern churches, which were important gathering places for families and communities. The encroaching urban sprawl and its impact on the family is also documented in works such as Lulu King Saxon's Uptown Street, which captures the rapid rural to urban change of New Orleans' Magazine Street at the turn of the last century.

Among the other artists featured in the inaugural exhibition include Fritz Bultman (LA), Jeffrey Cook (LA), Thornton Dial (AL), Howard Finster (AL/GA), Sam Gilliam (MS), Marie Atchinson Hull (MS), Charles Hutson (SC), Kendall Shaw (LA), Eudora Welty (MS), Ellsworth Woodward (LA) and Willliam Woodward (LA).

"What is important to remember is that Southern art unfolds at a different pace and with a different logic than the art of other regions," says Houston. "Sometimes it anticipates or participates in important national trends; other times it continues an inner logic that ignores major cultural shifts to continue longstanding traditions that are slow to change. The opening of the Ogden Museum allows us to further explore these and other complex relationships that redefine our expanded understanding of the art of the American South."


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