Gagosian is pleased to present American Pastoral.
From nineteenth-century industrialization to contemporary patterns of immigration, the pursuit of the American Dream has long been a rich topic of inquiry for artists in the United States. For many, this notion is encapsulated by the imagined tranquility and comfort of rural life—an aspiration arising from the Western tradition of landscape painting, with its picturesque, arcadian lands and idyllic communities.
Titled after Philip Roth’s 1997 novel about the social discord that undermines the life of an outwardly untroubled New Jersey family, American Pastoral is a group exhibition that seeks to challenge this idealized vision by delving into the cultural, political, and economic tensions that lie beneath its surface. In this exhibition, modern and contemporary works are juxtaposed with historical American landscapes, ranging from Albert Bierstadt’s depiction of the sublime in Sunset over the River (1877) to Edward Hopper’s tranquil seaside scene, Gloucester Harbor (1926).
Helen Frankenthaler’s 1982 painting Tumbleweed offers a third perspective on landscape that recasts the composition and figures of these earlier works in the vigorous gestures of Abstract Expressionism. Tumbleweed features a velvety wash of grass green interrupted by splotches and tracks of contrasting color—as if mapping an archetypal pastoral scene onto a distinctly modern topography.
Photography features prominently and diversely throughout American Pastoral, as much for its ability to suggest documentary candor as for its potential to manipulate reality through cropping and framing. Diane Arbus’s photograph, A family on their lawn one Sunday in Westchester, N.Y. (1968), depicts a stereotypical prosperous suburban household, yet a haunting unease pervades in the tensed bodies of husband, wife, and son. In Jeff Wall’s Mask maker (2015), a young man on an LA street exudes a subtle strain of discomfort, suspended between life and theater.
In other works, recognizable cultural symbols are rearranged to reveal latent, sinister meanings: Banks Violette’s inverted American flag, from 2019, employs a stark gesture of negation to challenge the power and authority of a ubiquitous image, while Jeff Koons’s bronze Toy Cannon (2006–12), in which the titular weapon sprouts flowers from its barrel, combines visual signs with opposing associations, playing on our expectations of consistent meaning while evoking war and its discontents.
Hydraulic Empire (2019), a new painting by Ed Ruscha, refers to the term for a civilization whose governing body maintains power through exclusive control over water access. Ruscha inscribes the title across the center of his canvas in an assertive serif font, isolating the phrase and its historical meaning. An indistinct pall hangs above Ruscha’s words, making visible a sense of oppression. Theaster Gates’s American Tapestry (2019), made from strips of decommissioned Chicago fire hoses, is a sobering, politically charged reminder of the struggles of Black Americans during the 1960s civil rights movement. The seemingly anodyne form of the hose belies its historical misuse at events such as the infamous 1963 student march in Birmingham, Alabama, which police broke up with high-pressure hoses, injuring many children in the process.
In American Pastoral, the American Dream to which Roth’s text alludes is revealed again as a secular icon—at once lastingly attractive and freighted with numerous and increasingly complex dangers.
American Pastoral will feature works by Diane Arbus, Richard Artschwager, Albert Bierstadt, Joe Bradley, Chris Burden, John Chamberlain, Thomas Cole, Roe Ethridge, Helen Frankenthaler, Theaster Gates, Jack Goldstein, Piero Golia, Duane Hanson, Marsden Hartley, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Neil Jenney, John Frederick Kensett, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Sally Mann, Adam McEwen, Thomas Moran, Cady Noland, Richard Prince, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Taryn Simon, Mark Tansey, Banks Violette, and Jeff Wall, among others.
John Frederick Kensett
Fitz Henry Lane
Gregory Crewdson: An Eclipse of Moths
Gregory Crewdson discusses his new work with actor Cate Blanchett.
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2020
The Fall 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available.
“Things Fall Apart”: Ed Ruscha’s Swiped Words
Lisa Turvey examines the range of effects conveyed by the blurred phrases in recent drawings by the artist, detailing the ways these words in motion evoke the experience of the current moment.
Theaster Gates: Black Image Corporation
As a prelude to his first-ever solo exhibition in New York, Theaster Gates discusses his prescient work with the photographic archive of Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company and his formation of Black Image Corporation as a conceptual project. In conversation with Louise Neri, he expands on his strategies as artist and social innovator in his quest to redeem and renew the sacred power of Black images and Black space.
Building a Legacy
The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation on COVID-19 Relief Funding
The Quarterly’s Alison McDonald speaks with Clifford Ross, Frederick J. Iseman, and Dr. Lise Motherwell, members of the board of directors of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, and Elizabeth Smith, executive director, about the foundation’s decision to establish a multiyear initiative dedicated to providing $5 million in covid-19 relief for artists and arts professionals.
On Collecting with Norman Diekman
Rare-book expert Douglas Flamm speaks with designer Norman Diekman about his unique collection of books on art and architecture. Diekman describes his first plunge into book collecting, the history behind it, and the way his passion for collecting grew.
Thursday, March 5, 2020, 6:30pm
Gagosian, Britannia Street, London
Join Gagosian for a tour of the group exhibition American Pastoral. The show juxtaposes modern and contemporary works with historical American landscapes ranging from Albert Bierstadt’s depiction of the sublime in Sunset over the River (1877) to Edward Hopper’s tranquil seaside scene, Gloucester Harbor (1926). Gagosian’s Alice Godwin will focus on a select grouping of exhibited works that seek to challenge the idealized vision of the American Dream that has long been a rich topic of inquiry for artists in the United States. To attend the free event, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited.
Installation view, American Pastoral, Gagosian, Britannia Street, London, January 23–March 14, 2020. Artwork, left to right: © Theaster Gates, © Adam McEwen, Thomas Moran, © Richard Prince, © Banks Violette, © Ed Ruscha. Photo: Lucy Dawkins
September 29–December 12, 2020
Britannia Street, London