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Des Moines Art Center major exhibition, Monument Valley, opens to the public October 5

Posted on Thursday, September 19, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: Jordan Powers or Barbara Briggie-Smith
Tel: 515.271.0344 or 515.271.0343
Email: jpowers@desmoinesartcenter.org or bbsmith@desmoinesartcenter.org

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THE AMBITIOUS CONTEMPORARY ART EXHIBITION CALLS INTO QUESTION THE COMPLICATED CULTURAL LEGACY OF THE AMERICAN WEST.

DES MOINES, IOWA (SEPTEMBER 2019) – On October 5, 2019, the Des Moines Art Center will open Monument Valley, a group exhibition that questions and deconstructs the imagery and mythology of the American West, confronting how “Wild West” concepts prevalent in our country’s past and popular culture continue to define American identity into the present day. 

Taking its title from the geologic formation featured in many Hollywood westerns, Monument Valley presents the work of 12 artists from various cultural backgrounds whose work raises questions about how false histories and stereotypical tropes continue to inform the political debates and societal concerns of contemporary life. The exhibition runs through January 12, 2020 in the Art Center’s Anna K. Meredith Gallery and the Pamela Bass-Bookey and Harry Bookey Gallery. The exhibition is organized by Curator Laura Burkhalter.

“(Through my research) I started noticing a lot of contemporary artists who were playing around with Western imagery… most were women, artists of color and others who gave a new version,” Burkhalter said. “This exhibition challenges the image many of us grew up with.”

While Burkhalter acknowledges that some things in the show will potentially make people uncomfortable, “more importantly, the art is wonderful, and these artists have a lot to say. It’s about broadening the story, making sure the art was challenging, and not just glamorizing or demonizing what has gone before.”

The artists brought together for Monument Valley are Indigenous, Black, white, Latinx, and multiracial, from multiple regions of North America, and represent various cultural backgrounds and identities. This exhibition aspires to make room in the museum for narratives other than those of the dominant culture with new stories and new ways to see history. 

A wide range of media will be represented, including painting, photography, fiber work, and video. Artists featured in the exhibition include Gina Adams, Doug Aitken, Jeremiah Ariaz, Angela Ellsworth, Kahlil Joseph, John Jota Leaños, Kent Monkman, Anja Niemi, Catherine Opie, Sarah Sense, Wendy Red Star, and Jordan Weber. Much of the exhibition’s programming centers around the art and experience of contemporary Indigenous artists.

A full list of exhibition-related programming is available here.

About the Des Moines Art Center

Recognized by international art critics as a world-class museum in the heart of the Midwest, the Des Moines Art Center has amassed an important collection with a major emphasis on contemporary art. The collection’s overriding principle is a representation of artists from the 19th century to the present, each through a seminal work. This accounts for an impressive collection that ranges from Edward Hopper’s Automat to Jasper Johns’ Tennyson, Henri Matisse’s Woman in White, Georgia O’Keeffe’s From the Lake No. 1, Francis Bacon’s Study after Velásquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, Bill Viola’s Ascension, and Cecily Brown’s Half-Bind.

The Art Center’s physical complex marries with the collection for a totally integrated experience. The collection is housed in three major buildings, each designed by a world-renowned architect – Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei, and Richard Meier. With the exception of special events, admission to the museum is free.

In September 2009, the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park opened in Des Moines’ Western Gateway Park. Philanthropists John and Mary Pappajohn have provided funding for and donated 28 sculptures by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists to the Des Moines Art Center. The collection of sculptures by such artists as Louise Bourgeois, Deborah Butterfield, Willem de Kooning, Olafur Eliasson, Keith Haring, Ellsworth Kelly, Jaume Plensa, Richard Serra, Joel Shapiro, and Mark di Suvero, is the most significant donation of artwork to the Art Center in a single gift in the museum’s history. The Pappajohn Sculpture Park was created in collaboration with the Pappajohns, the City of Des Moines, the Des Moines Art Center, and numerous corporate and private donors.

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