You are here

Past Exhibitions

Revisit almost twenty years of the Archives’ past exhibitions covering various topics, projects, and events in art history.
 

  • In the late 20th century, some artists—and others in the art world—began using film and video to document their lives and work. Many of the Archives of American Art’s collections from this period contain audiovisual documents alongside traditional archival documents such as letters, diaries, and photographs.

  • To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Archives' oral history program, we have selected audio excerpts from some of our most fascinating interviews and paired them with photographs from our collections. Lee Krasner rejects the word 'drip' as an accurate descriptor of Jackson Pollock's paintings; Charles Burchfield reads poems that he penned on the verso of his paintings; and Emmy Lou Packard recounts working with Diego Rivera on the Pan-American Unity mural in 1940.

  • October 8 - December 31, 2008

    Media Utopia: Art and Advocacy of Paul Ryan

    In 2008 the Archives of American Art acquired the papers of Paul Ryan (b. 1943), a pioneering video artist, writer, teacher and theoretician who works and lives in New York City.

    Ryan’s work appeared in the groundbreaking exhibition TV as a Creative Medium at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York in 1969, and he was a member of the Raindance media collective as well as contributor to its seminal video journal Radical Software.

  • Each year, as the days get longer and the weather warmer, people everywhere welcome summer and its charms. For many artists, summer offers an opportunity to concentrate fully on their work, without the constraints of teaching or the distractions of city living.

  • Ever wonder what unknown treasures exist in the Archives of American Art's collections?

    This unique exhibition showcases a variety of collections and various types of materials, each chosen by Archives staff members, allowing the viewer to see the collection through the eyes of those who know it best.

  • Love letters bring out the voyeur in most of us. These deeply personal communications have the power to make us blush or, at the very least, to let us observe a tender moment in the complex lives of others.

  • November 1, 2007 - February 7, 2008

    Manhattan Modern: The Life and Work of Charles Green Shaw

    An abstract artist and a passionate advocate of abstraction in America, Charles Green Shaw seemed to live a charmed life. Born into wealth, he reveled in the glamorous social scene of New York in the 1920s. After a successful career writing about that scene for such magazines as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, he threw himself into painting in his late thirties. The visual rhythms of New York City were the inspiration for his art.

  • October 5, 2007 - January 6, 2008

    Sketchbooks from the Archives of American Art

    Sketchbooks are as varied as the artists who keep them. Social realist painter Reginald Marsh cut and bound scrap paper to fit the size of his coat pocket, modernist Charles Green Shaw tested abstract shapes in large spiral-bound books, and Oscar Bluemner kept "painting diaries" with the rough outlines of landscapes and copious notes on color arrangements.

  • Often the expression of joy or affection, illustrated letters represent an irrepressible urge to picture language. They are evidence of the writer’s use of words and images to amplify the form and effect of a message.

  • June 28 - September 21, 2007

    Wish You Were Here: Artists on Vacation

    This exhibition documents how vacationing artists escaped from their everyday lives.

    “Many artists view vacations as a time to get out of the city, to recharge in a new environment with sympathetic souls,” said Liza Kirwin, curator of manuscripts for the Archives of American Art. Getting away, however, does not mean leaving the canvas or sketchbook behind. Artists are always working, Kirwin added, and vacations are habitually regarded as an opportunity to paint, draw and study.

  • In his personal papers, as in his art, Joseph Cornell embraced life's evanescence. Known mainly for his shadow box constructions, Cornell documented his passion for "exquisite surprises"- the poignant connections between memory and sensory experience. He recorded his impressions of music, art, ballet, his art, and the intertwined sensations of seeing, feeling, and remembering in his diaries and on scraps of paper - the backs of envelopes, magazine clippings, and wrapping papers.

  • Around 1943, artist Honoré Sharrer first conceived of the painting now known as Tribute to the American Working People. The resulting polyptych consists of five panels, each meticulously painted in oil on composition board.

  • The Park Place Group coalesced in New York in 1963. The original members—Anthony Magar, Mark di Suvero, Forrest Myers, Tamara Melcher, Robert Grosvenor, Leo Valledor, Dean Fleming, Peter Forakis, and Edwin Ruda—were mostly from the West Coast, only Grosvenor and Ruda were Easterners.
  • July 1 - October 27, 2006

    Artists in Their Studios

    From the sumptuously furnished studios of the late 19th century to the austere workrooms of the present day, studio spaces have played a dynamic role in the history of American art-not simply reflecting aesthetic visions, but informing them.

    This look at artists in their studios, through photographs and documents from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, offers a behind-the-scenes view into the life of American artists and their unique work spaces.

  • December 14, 2005 - January 6, 2006

    Season's Greetings from Werner Drewes

    Painter and printmaker Werner Drewes (1899-1985) studied with Paul Klee, Johannes Itten, and Oskar Schlemmer at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Born in Germany, Drewes immigrated to the United States in 1930 and was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group.

  • In 1954 when art historian E. P. Richardson and collector Lawrence A. Fleischman founded the Archives, they could not have forseen the enormous changes in store for the American art world, nor the impact of their efforts on the discipline of art history. This exhibit celebrates fifty years of the Archives.

  • Fifty years ago, in Detroit, the Archives of American Art was founded by E. P. Richardson, then director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and Lawrence A. Fleischman, a young collector and patron of the arts. Richardson, author of a pioneering work on American art, realized that there were few places a researcher could go to find primary source material on the subject and that scholars often had to travel great distances to find original documents to support their work.

  • This exhibition presents a selection of letters, writings, photographs, interviews and other primary sources documenting American artists working in clay.

    The Archives of American Art?s focus on clay is part of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, an unprecedented initiative to document the life and work of Americas leading craft artists, made possible through a grant from Nanette L. Latiman.

  • This small collection of George Catlin papers came to the Smithsonian Institution in 1879 with Catlin’s “Indian Gallery,” his famous paintings from life of Native Americans completed between 1830 and 1836. Joseph Harrison, a wealthy American industrialist, rescued Catlin’s works from London creditors in the 1850s. The papers and paintings then languished in various warehouses in Philadelphia and suffered at least two fires—the ravages of which can still be detected in the papers.

Pages