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Longer Ways to Go: Photography of the American Road
April 15, 2017 - October 15, 2017
The most recent collaboration between Phoenix Art Museum and the University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography (CCP), Longer Ways to Go: Photography of the American Road delves deep into the complex dialogue that photography can enter into with a subject dear to many. This exhibition, which features Alumnus Thomas Barrow, explores the symbiotic relationship between photography and the folklore of the American highway, including the emblematic Route 66. Longer Ways juxtaposes photographs from different eras, exploring themes related to travel, ideals of small-town life, the national heritage of westward expansion, and personal freedom.
The exhibition was inspired by a body of photographs of Route 66 by Kōzō Miyoshi, a Japanese photographer and former artist in residence at the Center for Creative Photography. Taken in the 1990s, Miyoshi’s photographs of Route 66 are complex, even ambivalent in tone. Rather than re-creating the Route 66 of historical imagination, his photographs show both the areas of 66 that have managed to survive through ingenuity and the once-iconic sites that have fallen into disrepair. Miyoshi’s works embody a construction of American identity that is becoming increasingly self-referential; they suggest the landmark’s transition from highway to scenic byway, from America to Americana.
Alongside Miyoshi’s photographs, Longer Ways to Go features a diverse selection from the vast photographic body documenting the image of the American road. Chronologically, Longer Ways to Go begins with works by Depression-era photographers including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Arthur Rothstein, and extends to the present day. The exhibition also features work by Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Robert Frank, Gary Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, Danny Lyon, Ed Ruscha, Joe Deal, Stephen Shore, Richard Avedon, Richard Misrach, Christopher Churchill and scott b. davis.
The works will be organized thematically, covering topics such as the view of nature from a car window and the cult of the automobile. These depictions investigate the extent to which American identity has a sometimes fraught, but always significant, relationship with the idea and practice of the open road. Longer Ways to Go suggests that not only does travel reflect cultural habits of consumption and leisure; the meaning with which we imbue it speaks to something deep and ineffable within American self-construction.