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The Open Road: Photography and The American Road Trip


“What should happen at the end of a road trip? A return to the status quo? A revolutionary new beginning? A few minor adjustments to one’s outlook? Obviously it is not enough to drive West and arrive in the Promised Land . . .”
—David Campany, “A Short History of the Long Road”

After World War II, the American road trip began appearing prominently in literature, music, movies, and photography. While the myth of the American frontier had long engaged artists, and key photographers such as Walker Evans and Edward Weston made seminal trips through America in the 1930s and 1940s, many more photographers purposefully embarked on trips during the post-World War II era in order to create work about America or better understand their place in it.
The Open Road considers the photographic road trip, from Robert Frank—whose 1955 road trip resulted inThe Americans (1958)—to present day, as a genre in and of itself. This is the first exhibition and book to explore the story of the American photographic road trip—one of the most distinct, important, and appealing themes of the medium. The exhibition presents the story of nineteen photographers for whom the American road was muse. Presented in chronological order, the featured artists and road trips represent the evolution of American car culture, the idea of the open road, and how photographers embraced the subject of America in order reflect on place, time, and self.

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