Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Float at Low Tide, Revere Beach, c. 1896–97. Watercolor and graphite on paper, 13 13/16 x 9 3/4"
May 20, 2022

On view

Promise and reality of the American experience explored this spring at the Addison Gallery

The Addison Gallery of American Art will explore the promise and the reality of the American experiment in two exhibitions opening this April—Past Is Prologue: History in Contemporary Art and Regarding America: 19th-Century Art from the Permanent Collection. Each exhibition looks at the past, and its continuing reverberations in the present, through a different lens.

Past Is Prologue assembles works that mine the past, using American history and the art of the Western world to explore issues of gender, identity, memory, race, and truth. The exhibition features new and recent acquisitions, with paintings, prints, sculptures, and photographs, by artists including Sandow Birk, Nicholas Galanin, Sally Mann, Kerry James Marshall, Cara Romero, Yinka Shonibare, Keris Salmon, and Kara Walker, among others. Whether photographing historic sites, adopting imagery from art history and print media, or citing specific historical events or figures, the artists reveal personal and shared connections between the complex past of the United States and its cultural and political present.

Yinka Shonibare, Wanderer, 2006. Wood, plexiglas, fabric, brass, 42 1/4 x 22 x 5 inches. Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA. Museum purchase, 2016.38

Regarding America will examine art of the 19th century, an era of discovery and innovation that witnessed the rapid and seemingly boundless expansion of America’s footprint and ambition, but was also a time of conflict, upheaval, brutality, and inequality. The exhibition presents more than 100 paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and sculptures with works by Albert Bierstadt, Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, Alvan Fisher, Martin Johnson Heade, Winslow Homer, Harriet Hosmer, Eastman Johnson, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, John Singer Sargent, Elihu Vedder, and other artists, offering critical insights into this transformative and contradictory century that was a seedbed for the aspirations and issues we still wrestle with in our own time.

Allison Kemmerer, the Mary Stripp and R. Crosby Kemper Director of the Addison Gallery of American Art and curator of Past Is Prologue, said, “In a time that makes introspection unavoidable, we are collectively searching into the past to help inform our present, how we got here and where we are going, and where we don’t want to go again. The contemporary artists in Past Is Prologue delve into the haunting question of how we are marked by the past and how we can imagine a future we want to inhabit.”

Gordon Wilkins, the Addison’s Robert M. Walker Associate Curator of American Art and curator of Regarding America added, “Together the works in Regarding America offer starkly different perspectives on what it means to be ‘American’ and reveal a fundamental truth: there is no universally shared American experience. As Walt Whitman, a quintessential voice of the 19th century said, ‘America contains multitudes.’”

Generous support for Past Is Prologue has been provided by the Mollie Bennett Lupe and Garland M. Lasater Exhibition Fund. Regarding America is generously supported by the Sidney R. Knafel Fund.

Past Is Prologue: History in Contemporary Art is on view April 16 through July 31, 2022.

Regarding America: 19th-Century Art from the Permanent Collection is on view April 23 through July 31, 2022.

Top image: Maurice Brazil Prendergast, Float at Low Tide, Revere Beach, c. 1896–97. Watercolor and graphite on paper, 13 13/16 x 9 3/4 inches. Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA. Gift of Mrs. William C. Endicott, 1942.2

Continuing Exhibitions

Georgia O’Keeffe, Photographer (through June 12)

Arthur Wesley Dow: Nearest to the Divine (through July 31)

“What Next?” Camera Work and 291 Magazine (through July 31)

Upcoming programs (that still have space available):

In-Person Gallery Tour: Georgia O'Keeffe, Photographer
Saturday, May 21, 11:00 am

Join us for a guided tour of the exhibition. Space is limited; registration is required.
REGISTER »

In-Person Gallery Tour: Regarding America: 19th-Century Art from the Permanent Collection
Sunday, May 22, 2:00 pm
Join Curator Gordon Wilkins on a walk through the galleries and discussion of key works in the exhibition. This event, organized with Andover's Memorial Hall Library, is free, but space is limited; registration is required.
REGISTER »

Printmaking Workshop (In-Person)
Saturday, June 18, 11:00 am–12:30 pm
Join us for a hands-on workshop inspired by Arthur Wesley Dow: Nearest to the Divine. Led by artist Mieko Murao, participants will preview the exhibition, explore different kinds of printmaking, and experiment with color and composition. All ages are welcome, but children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Space is limited; registration is required. ($20 per person)
REGISTER »

Winslow Homer: The Man Behind The Art (In-Person and Virtual)
Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 pm
William R. Cross, author of Winslow Homer: American Passage (April 2022), will discuss the life and work of Winslow Homer, including many surprising new findings about the man behind Homer’s much-loved art and the world in which he lived. Cross will touch on several of the Addison’s Homer works in the context of his oeuvre and share a breadth of Homeric facts that invite looking at all his work anew.

This hybrid program will be presented in person in the Museum Learning Center, streamed virtually via Zoom, and recorded for later viewing on the Addison’s website. The talk will be offered from 7:00–8:00 pm, and in-person visitors are invited to tour the galleries for 30 minutes prior. Copies of Cross’s book will be available for purchase and a book signing with the author will follow the talk.
REGISTER for the in-person presentation »
REGISTER for the virtual presentation »


The Addison is open to the public 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and 1 – 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free. Masks are required.

For more information, call 978-749-4015, or visit the website at www.addisongallery.org.

Categories: Arts

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