From October 16 to February 5, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art will present “Gatecrashers: The Rise of the Self-Taught Artist in America,” the first exhibition examining how self-taught artists working between 1927 and 1950 succeeded in the mainstream world of art due to changing ideas about American identity, inclusion, and national character in art.
“Gatecrashers” is organized by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and curated by Katherine Jentleson, the museum’s self-taught folk art curator Merrie and Dan Boone.
Featuring 60 works from leading collections across the country, ‘Gatecrashers’ explores how these artists, all without formal training, have ‘knocked on the doors’ of major museums across the United States, diversifying the art world through races, ethnicities, classes, abilities. and sex. The exhibition will highlight the work of the most famous self-taught artists of this era: John Kane, Horace Pippin and Anna Mary Robertson Moses (Grandma Moses), as well as 15 lesser-known self-taught artists who also gained recognition during this period, including Morris Hirshfield, Josephine Joy and Lawrence Lebduska.
“Westmoreland has a long history of showcasing folk art and self-taught artists, but this exhibition sheds new light on this material,” said chief curator Jeremiah William McCarthy. “’Gatecrashers’ shows how these self-taught artists were presented in major museums in the mid-century as representing a distinctly ‘American’ avant-garde – like modern art in the making.”
“We are thrilled to bring the national tour of ‘Gatecrashers: The Rise of America’s Self-Taught Artist’ to our region. This exhibition is a celebration of how these “gatecrashers” redefined the idea of who could or could not be an artist, and we believe their stories of creative creation and determination will inspire visitors. We are also very proud to lend seven works to the exhibition, including paintings by John Kane and Martin B. Leisser,” said Suzanne Wright, Acting Director.
A dynamic program of events curated by The Westmoreland will complement the exhibition, including a lecture by Maxwell King and Louise Lippincott on the life and art of John Kane; a conversation between curators Jentleson and McCarthy; Self-taught series, including demonstrations and informal seminars featuring local self-taught artists from various disciplines; a community day presented in partnership with Rivers of Steel and a vintage ball inspired by the era of the Gatecrashers. More information about these programs and events will be shared in the Outlook Fall 2022-Winter 2023 newsletter and posted at thewestmoreland.org/events.
The Westmoreland is the closing location for this traveling exhibition, following presentations at the High Museum of Art and the Brandywine River Museum of Art. Westmoreland’s presentation straddles Pittsburgh’s “John Kane: The Life and Art of an American Worker,” on view through Jan. 8 at the Senator John Heinz History Center, as well as “American Perspectives: Histories from the collection of the Museum of American Folk Art” at The Frick Pittsburgh on view from October 15 to January 8.
“Gatecrashers: The Rise of the Self-Taught Artist in America” is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation. Additional funding for the presentation of this exhibition at WMAA has been generously provided by The Heinz Endowments and the Hillman Exhibition Fund of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.
Western Pennsylvania’s only museum dedicated to American art, WMAA on North Main Street in Greensburg is a place for sharing “meaningful cultural experiences that open doors to new ideas, perspectives, and possibilities.” Westmoreland’s extraordinary permanent collection, which focuses on the art and artists of southwestern Pennsylvania, is complemented by an impressive program of temporary exhibitions including both national traveling exhibitions and those organized by the museum. Additionally, The Westmoreland presents a full range of community-oriented programs as well as special events.
More information is available at thewestmoreland.org and on the museum’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
General admission to the museum is free with advance online registration recommended.
Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Find information about registering for a tour at thewestmoreland.org/visit.