"Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country," the newspaper editor Horace Greeley advised his readers in 1865. The familiar quotation* registers a number of attitudes and concerns that characterized mid-19th century America: beliefs surrounding societal progress and social evolution; beliefs (and doubts) about a stable and vigorous masculinity; and beliefs about independence and personal freedom. Such attitudes about the West intruded on and determined the kinds of stories that America came to tell about itself, the mythic ideas and iconographies it produced-stories and myths and icons that are alive today.
Go West brings together twenty contemporary artists who are engaged in an excavation of myths and ideologies of the old West. Working in a range of media (including painting, works on paper, sculpture, photography, and video), these artists offer up critical reflections on the West as both destination and destiny. Go West considers the varied reasons people came west over the years: some, like the Cherokee Indians, were forcibly moved west, while others, like the Mormons, sought exile here; some came in search of fame and fortune, while others staked their claim to a separatist space, away from mainstream society. The exhibition further explores such topics as: "promised lands," the West as utopia, wilderness and land use, expansion and sprawl, and tropes of the frontiersman and cowboy.