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Go West!

September 29, 2007 - January 13, 2008


Images of the American West have captured the imaginations of countless artists, from the earliest visual records of European explorers to painting, sculpture, drawings, and photography by artists of the present day. Past artists were inspired by the dangers and conflicts, others wished to record a disappearing life style or perpetuate images of a heroic and romantic landscape, still others were used by commercial interests back east to promote the settling of new territories.

Contemporary artists, although still inspired by the beauty and drama of the American West, tend to destabilize cowboy and Native American, "wilderness' and "civilization" archetypes and reconstruct the romantic myths of the past, lending humor to scenes that we consider familiar from movies and television. (right: Maynard Dixon,Wild Horses of Nevada, 1927-32, courtesy of Karges Family Trust.)

This exhibition highlights 30 objects in the Figge's great collection of Western art, a collection which is not often on view. Included are late 19th and early 20th c. artists such as Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Oscar Bernighaus, Irving Couse, Frank Tenney Johnson, William Robinson Leigh, Walter Ufer, and Olaf Wieghorst who portrayed a West that was quickly disappearing or portrayed a West in nostalgic or romantic terms. Alongside these artists are contemporary artists such as Fritz Scholder and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Ann Coe and the late Luis Jiménez whose work often has a political edge. The show also includes works from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and a private collection.


Related eveents

October 20
Family Program: "Go West!"
1:00 - 3:00 pm
Put on your cowboy boots and hat and join us for a tour, hands-on art activities, entertainment, and refreshments.
November 8
Exhibition Talk: "The Changing Image of William ' Buffalo Bill' Cody"
Kate Elliott
7:00 pm
William "Buffalo Bill" Cody is one of the archetypal figures in American history. Born in 1846 near Le Claire, Iowa , Cody's own history parallels that of the Western frontier. During his long life he worked as a cowboy, a wagon train guide, a trapper, a miner, a rider on the Pony Express, an Army scout, and Indian fighter. Cody, however, is best known for his Wild West show, which allowed his talent of self-promotion to shine. He carefully guarded his public persona and worked closely with artists to create publicity materials that depicted the man, William Cody, while creating the myth of Buffalo Bill.
November 29
Exhibition Talk: "Remington, Russell and the Western Experience"
Kate Elliott
7:00 pm
More than any other artists, Frederic Remington and Charles Russell have come to define our idea of the American West. The two have been held up as the quintessential "Cowboy Artists" and the accuracy of their work-how well each documented the Western scene-has been the primary way their work has been appreciated. In reality, however, both artists were much more likely to see a landscape divided by barbed wire and dotted with towns and than the great cattle drives and buffalo hunts depicted in their work. Instead of documenting life as they knew it, both artists tried to eulogize a passing way of life on the frontier.
Kate Elliott is a Ph.D. candidate in American art history at the University of Iowa researching images of contact between European explorers and Native Americans in American painting. She is a recent Smithsonian American Art Museum Predoctoral Fellow and currently holds a United States Capitol Historical Society fellowship.
Group Tours : 563.326.7804 x2045

(above: Frank Tenney Johnson,Colorado Forest Ranger (Trail's End), 1929, 50.876)


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