Behold, America! is a dynamic collaboration between three of San Diego’s most important art institutions: the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, The San Diego Museum of Art, and the Timken Museum of Art. The exhibition is an unrivalled opportunity to see these three collections united for the first time. By bringing together the finest American works from these institutions, this exhibition offers the public an opportunity to witness the sweeping changes in art created in the United States across three centuries. The show presents a rich array of paintings, sculpture, and photography, most of which have not been together before. Moreover, by presenting works ranging from the colonial period to the present, Behold, America! provides viewers with a visual testament to the history of the United States.
The exhibition is grouped into three main sections, Frontiers, Figures, and Forms, with each venue showing works from all three collections.
Frontiers, opening on September 16 at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, celebrates landscape: the rich natural beauty of the United States, its vibrant urban spaces, its legendary westward settlement, and the breathtakingly beautiful California landscape. It includes works by revered American landscape painters such as Asher B. Durand and Albert Bierstadt as well as American interpretations of distant places: Italian views by George Inness and Thomas Moran. Mid-century modernists John Sloan and Marsden Hartley anticipate the changing concept of frontier by contemporary artists Jenny Holzer and Alfredo Jaar.
Figures, opening November 10 at The San Diego Museum of Art, examines the human form, most notably presented by some of the most significant artists in the history of American art: John Singleton Copley, Eastman Johnson, Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt, Cindy Sherman, and John Currin.
The Forms section, opening November 10 at the Timken Museum of Art, examines more inanimate objects, including works that range from early nineteenth-century still-lifes to more avant-garde interpretations. This section includes still-lifes of meat by Raphaelle Peale and a magnolia blossom by Martin Johnson Heade; abstractions by prominent American modernists Georgia O’Keeffe, Arthur Dove, and Stuart Davis are major strengths of the exhibition; and pure formal sculptures by Sol Le Witt and Martin Puryear are likewise included. This section reveals changing attitudes to form and represent a pioneering approach by American artists in their attention to color, shape, and line.
In addition to seeing several exquisite works by major artists, Behold, America! viewers will address how our own perception of our American culture has changed. The works in the exhibition reflect how we as Americans have understood ourselves over time, our national priorities and how we have transformed over the course of three centuries.
Behold, America! Art of the United States from Three San Diego Museums is a collaborative exhibition organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, The San Diego Museum of Art, and the Timken Museum of Art. Lead support for the show is provided by a generous grant from the Qualcomm Foundation. Further major funding has been received from The Henry Luce Foundation, and Jake and Todd Figi. Institutional funding for all three Museums is supplied by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.