Friday, October 13, 2017

MMFA 2017: The Western

A New Frontier in Art and Film
October 14, 2017 - February 4, 2018

The Western is first major multidisciplinary exhibition on the myths and stereotypes associated with the genre of the Western film from the 19th century to today. It examines the creation, transmission and transformation of the Western myth in North America in both the United States and Canada. Over 400 paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, artefacts, film stills and excerpts show how the genre has evolved through ongoing dialogue between the fine arts and cinema. This multidisciplinary exhibition offers a new interpretation of the Western film genre by examining its links to visual arts (painting, sculpture, photography) from the mid-nineteenth century to today.

Fritz Scholder (1937-2005), Indian Power, 1972, oil on canvas. Denver Art Museum, gift of Vicki and Kent Logan. © Estate of Fritz Scholder, Image courtesy @ MMFA 2017

Initiated by the MMFA, the exhibition is co-produced with the Denver Art Museum (DAM). It is part of the official programming of Montreal’s 375th anniversary.

Similarly to movie making, THE WESTERN also comprises three elements: the set, the cast and the action.

  • There are great paintings of Western landscapes, popular novels and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, all of which helped drive American Western mythology setting.
  • The types of figures that presided over the creation of the Western, including the cowboy, the “Indian,” the trapper, the scout and the pioneer, have much to tell us about the prevailing stereotypes, conveyed by artist-illustrators such as Frederic Remington, harles Schreyvogel and Charles Marion Russell.
  • The typologies for action are alsonestablished: attacks on a stagecoach or train, duels, saloon brawls, and cavalry charges.

Wendy Red Star (born in 1981), Indian Summer, from the series “Four Seasons,” 2006, chromogenic print. Collection of Brian Tschumper. Courtesy of the artist, Image courtesy @ MMFA 2017

The exhibition also traces the evolution of the Western, first through photography and then with excerpts from numerous films: from silent shorts (The Great Train Robbery) to the big screen with Raoul Walsh, Howard Hawks, Fred Zinnemann, Robert Aldrich, John Huston, Sam Peckinpah, John Schlesinger and Henry Hathaway, among others. John Ford embodies the culmination of the classic Western, while Sergio Leone, with his iconoclastic detachment, reframes the genre. The overview concludes with the Western revisited, with films by Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Jim Jarmusch, Quentin Tarantino, Ang Lee, Joel and Ethan Coen, Tommy Lee Jones and Paul Thomas Anderson.

The exhibition also shows how the genre served as a means of expression for the counter-culture movement during the Vietnam War, with films that reflected the growing concern for safeguarding personal freedom. Visitors will see the original Harley Davidson from the film Easy Rider and major paintings by Andy Warhol and Fritz Scholder that speak to the emergence of the American Indian Movement.

The final part of the exhibition concentrates on a reinterpretation of the Western genre by contemporary artists from the 1980s till today. These works also cover the themes of race, sexuality and gender. Indigenous artists also participate with their own take on the Western.

Click on images to enlarge them.

Hover you mouse over images for description  and credits.

For more information about the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts exhibitions and activities, visit the museum's website.

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