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Art Museum of WVU is first stop for ‘Walker Evans American Photographs’

Walker Evans photograph, "Parked Car, Small Town Main Street"

The Art Museum of West Virginia University is the first venue on a national tour of an installation that celebrates photographer Walker Evans’s landmark solo exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1938. A leading figure in the history of American documentary photography, Evans is today considered one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.

The exhibition opens Jan. 22 and runs through April 25.

“It is an extraordinary opportunity to bring an exhibition about Walker Evans to West Virginia, where he made iconic photographs of people and places in and around  Morgantown and Scotts Run,” said Director Todd J. Tubutis. “It is also the first exhibition dedicated to photography at the Art Museum since it opened in 2015.”

In the 1930s, Evans traveled extensively throughout the Eastern United States, creating a collective photographic portrait of the region during a decade of profound transformation—one that coincided with the flood of everyday images, both still and moving, from an expanding mass culture and the construction of a Modernist history of photography.

Included in this reimagined exhibition are 60 photographs organized in two sections, as in the original: the first portrays American society through images of its individuals and social contexts, while the second consists of photographs of American cultural artifacts—the architecture of Main streets, factory towns, rural churches, and wooden houses.

Walker Evans, "Main Street, Saratoga Springs, New York"

In conjunction with “Walker Evans American Photographs,” the Art Museum is featuring the work of four contemporary photographers in an adjacent gallery. Matt Eich, Mitch Epstein, Andrea Modica, and Jared Thorne have each made pictures that resonate with Walker Evans’s photographs in distinctive ways, both visually and conceptually—and sometimes unexpectedly. Together they demonstrate how Evans’s work continues to influence artists today, nearly a century after he first visited the region.

The Art Museum of WVU is open 12:30 - 6 p.m. Friday - Sunday. Visiting is always free, but reservations are required. To book your time slot, visit http://artmuseum.wvu.edu/tickets.

Sarah Meister, curator in the Robert B. Menschel Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, on Jan. 21 at 6:00 p.m. (ET) will present a live preview of the exhibition via Zoom. To register for the event, visit https://artmuseum.wvu.edu/events.

Art Bridges is also providing support for the Art Museum of WVU to implement a photography workshop series with secondary school students, taught by professional photographers in the region and using the works in “Walker Evans American Photographs” as exemplars. In addition to these workshops, K-12 schools will be invited to participate in synchronous and asynchronous virtual tours of the exhibition that draw connections between Evans’s work and the schools’ art and social studies curricula. 

Art Bridges is the vision of philanthropist and arts patron Alice Walton. Founded in 2017, Art Bridges has been creating and supporting programs that expand access to American art in all regions across the nation. The foundation strives to bring great works of American art out of storage and into communities. Art Bridges partners with a growing network of nearly 130 museums of all sizes and locations, providing financial and strategic support for exhibition development, collection loans and programs designed to engage new audiences. Art Bridges funds projects that inspire deeper relationships between arts organizations and their communities, develop expanded relationships built on inclusivity and respect, and encourage meaningful personal connections that lead to stronger, more vibrant cities and towns. To learn more about Art Bridges, follow on social platforms @artbridgesfoundation and visit www.artbridgesfoundation.org.

Photo captions:

Walker Evans (1903–1975)
Parked Car, Small Town Main Street, 1932
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1969 by Charles Rodemeyer
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of the artist, 1975
© 2021 Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
 
Walker Evans (1903–1975)
Main Street, Saratoga Springs, New York, 1931
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1970 by James Dow
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Purchase
© 2021 Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art