The American Evolution: A History through Art offered a fresh look at the Corcoran’s time-honored collection of American art. The display of nearly 200 objects in a wide range of media dating from the colonial era to the present, the exhibition focused on five overarching themes that have shaped American culture: Money, Land, Politics, Cultural Exchange, and The Modern World. These themes are fundamental to the way the United States has developed, and to the stories we tell about ourselves.
The term “evolution” suggests change over time. Embracing the idea that the United States is a dynamic nation in a constant state of re-definition, the exhibition nevertheless revealed remarkable continuities in artistic production from the 18th to the 21st century. From Gilbert Stuart’s stately c. 1803 portrait of George Washington to Andy Warhol’s irreverent 1973 likeness of the Chinese leader Mao Zedong, and from Frederic Edwin Church’s dramatic 1857 view from the brink of Niagara Falls to Richard Diebenkorn’s abstract 1975 rendering of the suburban expanses of Ocean Park, California, The American Evolution explored some of the ways that American life and art have evolved over two and a half centuries.
The exhibition was organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art and curated by Emily D. Shapiro, assistant curator of American art, and Sarah Newman, assistant curator of contemporary art. To read more about the curators, please click here.