The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens will present a new permanent collections installation this fall that explores a broader, contextualized view of American art history. “Borderlands” opens on November 20, 2021 in a suite of rooms at the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. To develop the resettlement, The Huntington partnered with two contemporary artists, Enrique Martínez Celaya (2020–22 Huntington Fellow in the Visual Arts) and Sandy Rodriguez (2020–21 Caltech-Huntington Art + Research Fellow), and received strategic loans to help re-imagine historical collections from multiple angles.
The exhibit is a re-installation of parts of the Huntington’s American art collection that date from the 19th to the early 20th century, including works by renowned artists such as Mary Cassatt, Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer . But, unlike previous installations, “Borderlands” will be organized thematically. It will also include an education room, where visitors can learn about locally sourced herbal and mineral pigments.
“The Huntington has a responsibility to convey the relevance of historical collections to contemporary audiences and to consider our common past from many angles, as we begin to create a vision for the future,” said Christina Nielsen, Hannah and Russel Kully, artistic director. Museum at the Huntington. “‘Borderlands’ meets these goals by presenting a larger history of American art in a beautiful and stimulating installation – from the reimagined entrance area to a freshly designed cluster of galleries, where objects will interact with each other in new ways, making connections between media, time and cultures.
“Borderlands” will occupy approximately 5,000 square feet of gallery space, showcasing more than 70 works, including paintings, sculptures, decorative art and video installations.
“To think of the arts in America in terms of a ‘border country’ metaphor, we looked at how works of art recorded the crossing of geographic, political, social, linguistic and personal boundaries,” said Dennis Carr, curator of Virginia Steele Scott’s head of American Art at The Huntington, who is leading the project. “The history of the United States has been shaped by countless borders, the persistence or dissolution of which continues to impact us today. “
A thematic anchor of the exhibition will be a new 8ft by 8ft watercolor painted by Los Angeles artist Sandy Rodriguez. For the work, Rodriguez uses locally sourced pigments and dyes, derived from mineral and organic sources, and 23 karat gold applied to amate paper, a native fig bark paper that was traditionally used in Mexico. but banned by the Spaniards in the 16th century. Rodriguez YOU ARE HERE / Tovaangar / El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula / Los Angeles will be a multilingual map of the greater Los Angeles area, depicting the topography, language, flora, fauna, and land stewardship in the region over time and illustrating the movement and history of the peoples who called – and keep calling – the region home. A new video on Rodriguez’s work can be viewed at huntington.org/videos-recorded-programs.
“Like Sandy’s work, we hope that ‘Borderlands’ will inspire visitors to consider the relationship between art and the land as it relates to artistic materials, the movement of artists and objects, and how the representations landscape can express and affect our relationship to it – and to each other, ”Carr said.
Visitors to Huntington will get their first glimpse of the “Borderlands” from hundreds of yards away. Enrique Martínez Celaya’s The rebound will be painted on the solid glass façade of the north entrance to the Scott Galleries, drawing the eye from across the lawn. The rebound will represent various types of migratory birds flying through the front windows of the building. Martínez Celaya’s project, like the exhibition as a whole, seeks to connect the interior of the galleries with the exterior, drawing on the famous landscapes and living collections of The Huntington.
Inside the large gallery doors, the glazed hall and the loggia give off a chapel effect when The rebound is illuminated by sunlight. Martínez Celaya also designs handmade seating for the loggia that will invite visitors to linger and enjoy the view of the garden and the San Gabriel Mountains beyond.
The galleries of the “Borderlands” line up on an east-west axis. The first room, called “Homelands”, focuses on Rodriguez’s work. A painter who grew up on the California-Mexico border, Rodriguez studies painting methods and materials across cultures, with a particular focus on Indigenous stories and knowledge. In addition to YOU ARE THE, the room will present his drawings of botanical species that produce pigments and medicinal treatments for respiratory diseases or susto (trauma), all of which are particularly poignant in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. There will also be a single accordion-folded book (a traditional Mexican book form) that will record Rodriguez’s careful study of botanical specimens at The Huntington. Other works on display, including a watercolor by Winslow Homer, will complement Rodriguez’s works.
Another room in the gallery invites visitors to explore the 19th century expansionist movement with stunning landscape paintings by masters such as Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church, Martin Johnson Heade and Thomas Moran. The installation also shows how paintings often erased the indigenous presence, as if the artists had encountered a landscape devoid of human occupation and ready for economic exploitation. “This colonialist vision embodied a nation-centered conception of the land, at a time when landscapes were profoundly changed by increasing development and industrialization,” Carr said.
Another room called “Borderlands” presents American artists working abroad. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an unprecedented number of American artists traveled abroad to connect with European history and its thriving modern art scene. Some have found greater freedom from restrictions of race, sexuality, gender and class than at home. The artists were particularly inspired by Impressionism, the Aesthetic Movement and Art Nouveau, represented in this gallery by the works of Cecilia Beaux, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent, Lockwood de Forest and Louis Comfort Tiffany, among others. . Many of these artists have been deeply shaped by their experiences working and traveling in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Break down barriers
Close, Chained Zenobia, the monumental marble sculpture by Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, will share a space with the painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner Daniel in the lion’s den, which is on loan from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “These works are each about the idea of breaking down barriers,” Carr said. Hosmer’s life, like that of the ancient queen she carved, was defined by rebellion. In her twenties, Hosmer moved to Rome to become a professional sculptor, finding support from a circle of creative expatriate women who shattered 19th century social expectations by living alone, pursuing an artistic career and, as was the case. for Hosmer, by being open about their strange identity. Hosmer went on to become one of the most successful American sculptors, male or female, of his day. However, when Zenobia was exhibited at the Great London Exhibition of 1862, some male critics wrote that a woman could not possess the skills or strength to perform such a monumental work.
The fact that Tanner, an acclaimed African-American painter, chose to portray Daniel – a biblical figure wrongly sentenced to death – underscores how African-Americans have been victims of racial terror, while the courts and the forces of order fail to do justice. “Yet Tanner’s symbolism holds hope,” Carr said. “With the help of his God, Daniel survives the night.”
Art and color
A new education room will be a friendly space for multigenerational families. Educational exhibits will focus on the links between art and the natural world, exploring the botanical, mineral and animal sources of pigments and the movement of certain pigments across the world. One of these pigments is dark red carmine, which comes from scale insects endemic to Mexico and parts of South America. The pigment entered the world export trade in the 16th century, reaching Europe and Asia. Some of the exhibits will relate to plants growing in The Huntington Gardens, visible to visitors in the vicinity of American Art Galleries. Project goals include forging connections between indoor and outdoor environments, providing space for the main collections of The Huntington to be viewed together, and exploring indigenous knowledge and uses of plants, particularly in relation to Los Angeles and Southern California.
Support for this project is provided by an anonymous foundation, Carl and Sue Robertson, and the Decorative Arts Trust.