I challenge you to take a road trip to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville to see the new exhibition, The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip, on view Feb. 27 through May 30, 2016. On your way to Northwest Arkansas, stop and snap your own photos of the interesting things you see along the way. Then, post your favorite road trip photo through Twitter or Instagram and tag the location plus #OpenRoadTrip. When you get to the museum, your picture will be among the mix of photos in the exhibit’s digital map and photo display.
While you’re sure to enjoy this digital road-trip photography, I have no doubt you’ll find the photos featured in this new exhibition equally interesting and compelling. It includes more than 100 images and features the work of 19 photographers on the move across America from the 1950s to today. Organized by Aperture Foundation, New York, The Open Road debuts at Crystal Bridges and represents the museum’s first large-scale photography exhibition.
The Open Road presents the story of the American road as inspiration, including iconic elements such as roadside motels, Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway, and theme parks, as well as conveying everyday America. The images provide offbeat and personal reflections of the photographers’ journeys, completed between 1955 and 2014, including the people they encounter, car culture, roadside attractions, and more.
Photographers featured in the exhibition include Robert Frank, Ed Ruscha, Garry Winogrand, Inge Morath, William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, Joel Meyerowitz, Jacob Holdt, Stephen Shore, Bernard Plossu, Victor Burgin, Joel Sternfeld, Alec Soth, Todd Hido, Shinya Fujiwara, Ryan McGinley, Justine Kurland, and Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs. Together, these photographers elevate the snapshot—often taken through the window of a moving car—to a work of art.
Also in the exhibit are the different camera formats and films used by the photographers. A fun hands-on cropping activity lets you explore the impact of including or excluding information from an image. Another section shows how the road has been an inspiration to authors, musicians, and filmmakers.
Crystal Bridges will offer more than 30 programs related to the exhibition, ranging from art talks and photography workshops to culinary and Museum Store events.
If you enjoy guided tours, they are offered Mondays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. This tour will look closely at the photographs of five or six significant artists in the exhibition and discuss the photographers’ road trips plus how these experiences influenced their work.
Rare artist books by Ed Ruscha, including Twentysix Gasoline Stations, will be on display in the library exhibit case from mid-April to mid-June, and will be the focus of a special Great Reveal public program on March 30 and April 1. Also, visit the museum library to find more views of the highways and byways of America in catalogs celebrating photography of the American landscape. Books collecting work by The Open Road artists such as Inge Morath, Stephen Shore, Lee Friedlander, and Ed Ruscha will be available for reading in the library throughout the exhibition.
Don’t forget some tunes for your road trip home by picking up the Spotify playlist featuring well-loved songs of the road. The playlist was created with the help of Crystal Bridges’ social media followers, and includes road-trip themes such as “King of the Road,” “On the Road Again,” and many more. Click here to listen. (A free Spotify account is required.)
General admission to the temporary exhibition is $10 and free to members and youth ages 18 and under. Admission is also free on Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., thanks to exhibition sponsors. Non-flash photography is welcome for personal, non-commercial use.
The exhibition is sponsored at Crystal Bridges by Coca-Cola, Stout Executive Search, and ConAgra Foods.