Into the Sunset: Photography’s Image of the American West examines how photography has pictured the idea of the American West from 1850 to the present. Photography’s development coincided with the exploration and the settlement of the West, and their simultaneous rise resulted in a complex association that has shaped the perception of the West’s physical and social landscape to this day. For over 150 years, the image of the West has been formed and changed through a variety of photographic traditions and genres, and this exhibition considers the medium’s role in shaping our collective imagination of the West.
Into the Sunset brings together over 120 photographs made by a variety of photographers. These works illustrate photography’s role in popularizing ideas of the sublime landscape, Manifest Destiny, and the “land of opportunity,” as well as describing a more complex vision of the West, one that addresses cultural dislocation, environmental devastation, and failed social aspirations. Organized thematically, Into the Sunset includes photographs dating from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, incorporating a range of artistic strategies, motifs, and concerns, and featuring the work of approximately seventy photographers, including Robert Adams, John Baldessari, Dorothea Lange, Timothy O’Sullivan, Cindy Sherman, Joel Sternfeld, Edward Weston, and Carleton E. Watkins. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog.
In this SundayArts Choice Associate Curator in the Department of Photography at MoMA Eva Respini gives a tour of the exhibit and shows her favorite pieces from the exhibit.