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America 1976: A Bicentennial Exhibition [United States Department of the Interior]

DATES March 11, 1978 through May 21, 1978
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  • March 1, 1978 The final showing of America 76, the major art exhibition sponsored by the United States Department of the Interior, will be held at The Brooklyn Museum, Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue, from March 11 through May 21. Forty-five of the nation’s leading artists were commissioned by Interior to paint subjects of their choice within the jurisdiction of the Department; among them are Jack Beal, Richard Estes, Nancy Graves, Alex Katz, Ellen Lanyon, Alfred Leslie, Lowell Nesbitt, Philip Pearlstein, Fairfield Porter, Joseph Raffael, Wayne Thiebaud, John Button, and Neil Welliver. Seventy-eight paintings are on view.

    The involvement of artists with the Department of the Interior goes back to the early days of the exploration of the West, when painters were engaged along with geologists and other specialists to document the new land. The present exhibition, initiated as a project for the Bicentennial Year, has traveled to several museums throughout the country.

    Each of the forty-five commissioned painters chose as subject matter activities of programs administered by the Interior Department’s National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Geological Survey, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Mines, Bonneville Power Administration, or Bureau of Outdoor Recreation. Subjects selected by the artists include the Grand Canyon, redwoods, dams, the Everglades, wildlife refuges; Hawaiian volcanoes, Indian reservations, a Utah copper mine, generators and transmission towers, and a New York City playground.

    In his essay in the exhibition catalogue,* Professor Robert Rosenblum says: “Thanks to happy governmental inspiration, the American artist has once more been wed to the American scene -- not only the remains of the American wilderness, but also the primeval animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, lumber mills, dams, forts, colonial marketplaces, city playgrounds, even trash incinerators. . . .The insistent fascination of this anthology of a freshly documented America lies in the constant dialogue--at times harmonious, at times discordant--between the past and the present, the 19th and the 20th centuries.”

    The exhibition previously was shown at The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut; The Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, and Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts; The Milwaukee Art Center; The Fort Worth Art Museum; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia.

    An advisory panel of artists appointed by the National Endowment for the Arts selected the artists for the project. Panel members were Ellen Lanyon, Philip Pearlstein and Wayne Thiebaud. Additional support for the exhibition and its catalogue was given by the National Endowment for the Arts. The exhibition was installed at The Brooklyn Museum by Sarah Faunce, Curator of Painting and Sculpture.

    Videotapes of a number of artists discussing their paintings will be shown in the exhibition area. Produced for the Museum by Gail Pellett, participating artists include John Button, Jack Beal, Arthur Coppedge, Rackstraw Downes, Nancy Graves, Ellen Lanyon, Willard Midgette, Lowell Nesbitt, Don Nice, and Philip Pearlstein. A TV cablecast of this material will be aired on Manhattan Cable Channel L on March 15 at 7:30 P.M.

    A series of special programs to amplify the exhibition will include gallery talks and films of environmental projects by artists. A panel of four participating artists will discuss their current work on Sunday, April 9, at 2:00 P.M. Panelists include John Button, Janet Fish, Philip Pearlstein and Ben Shonzeit. Sarah Faunce, Curator of Paintings and Sculpture, is Moderator.

    *America 1976. Foreward by Thomas S. Kleppe, former Secretary of Interior; essays by Robert Rosenblum and Neil Welliver; poems by John Ashbery and Richard Howard; 111 pp. 79 illustrations, 43 in color. Published 1976 by the Hereward Lester Cooke Foundation. $8.50 (plus $1.50 for handling and mailing).

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1978, 005-6.
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