Show Preview | A Grand Adventure

Palm Desert, CA
Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, September 27-January 4

Thomas Moran, Indian Pueblo, Laguna, New Mexico, oil, 20 x 30. Private collection, courtesy Gerald Peters Gallery.

Thomas Moran, Indian Pueblo, Laguna, New Mexico, oil, 20 x 30. Private collection, courtesy Gerald Peters Gallery.

This story was featured in the October 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art October 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

This fall, the Palm Springs Art 
Museum in Palm Desert mounts its first major exhibition of western art since opening in 2012. A Grand Adventure is a century-long survey chronicling both a physical and pictorial shift in the ways people made and defined American art. Dr. Daniell Cornell, the Cargill and 
Donna MacMillan Jr. Director of Art at the museum, calls the exhibition “a continuation of the aesthetic that began with the Hudson River School.” He explains that it follows a loose chronology, beginning with those 19th-century painters and continuing down the westward paths of younger artists inspired by their legacy. These emerging artists settled first in New Mexico and then California, recording Native American life and culture and embracing the visual aesthetics of a newly defined region. Ultimately, they divined a new genre, and in turn created their own legacy.

A Grand Adventure opens September 27 and runs through January 4. A number of events are planned in conjunction with the exhibition, including a museum members’ reception on Thursday, November 13, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Other events include lectures and a film series featuring Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, as well as music programming. Free docent-led tours are available as well. A complete schedule can be found on the museum’s website.

Organized by Christine Giles, the museum’s curator of western and Native American art, A Grand Adventure is primarily an exhibition of paintings. It consists of 43 works by 36 artists and spans the years 1844 to 1945. The comprehensive collection features pieces by such recognized names as Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, and Henry F. Farny. It also features artworks from members of the Taos Society of Artists, the Santa Fe Art Colony, and the California Impressionists, such as E.I. Couse, Edgar Payne, Granville Redmond, Guy Rose, Walter Ufer, and Maynard Dixon.

Maynard Dixon, Pony Boy, 1920, oil, 36 x 72. Foxley Collection.

Maynard Dixon, Pony Boy, 1920, oil, 36 x 72. Foxley Collection.

A Grand Adventure represents 19 different collections, which derive predominantly from local collectors. Cornell notes, “Because the community of western American art collectors in the Palm Springs area is so robust, the museum has had the opportunity to organize an exceedingly strong exhibition of rarely seen, major paintings by the most important artists working in that tradition.”

The exhibition’s signature piece, PONY BOY by Maynard Dixon, exemplifies the collective western-art conscience of the time, as well as the paradigm shift it precipitated. Cornell says the scene represents “the coming together of landscape and narrative traditions.” Indeed, Dixon placed a dual focus on both, giving equal importance to the stunning panorama in the background and the prominent, distinguished figures in the foreground. The man and horse appear calm but also alert in their natural environment, creating compositional tension and contemplation. This trailblazing image heralds a change on the wind, as we are left to wonder what approaches from beyond the canvas’ border—historically, technologically, and culturally. —Elizabeth L. Delaney

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Featured in the October 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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