Tuesday, October 01, 2013

How Many Years Did The Pony Express Last? And Other Tidbits From The Autry Center For The American West Part 1

Spurred on by the New York Times review last week of the Autry Center of the American West we decided to check it out while we were with my mom in LA.  It said this was no longer a place to glorify the Hollywood cowboy.  It had become a serious museum.

The cowboy stuff is still there, but so is a lot of other stuff.  And it's beautifully displayed.  And as I look deeper into some of the things we saw, this post is getting longer and longer.  Maybe it will be two. 

So, let's start with some cowboy stuff.  This sculpture at the entrance is of Pony Express riders by Douglas Van Howd.  Specifically, the plaque says, this one depicts the carrying of Abraham Lincoln's inaugural address in record time from a telegraph office in Nebraska to newspaper office in Sacramento - seven days and seventeen hours.  There was something about the Pony Express that caught people's imagination, because it only existed from 1860-1861, but we still know about it.

The museum is now run, according to the NY Times article, by a Native American - W. Richard West, Jr. - who also was the founding director of the Smithsonian's Museum of the American Indian.  So the super macho white cowboy Hollywood sold is being nuanced with other folks who inhabited the West.  Indians play a big role in the Autry now.  And there's some context for paintings of Indians that puts it into some context.

For example, this piece, Ben Examining the Pots by Eanger Irving Couse has this description:

"Couse prioritized romanticism over ethnography, often depicting models from the Taos Pueblo with objects of Hopi, Navaho, or Cheyenne origin.  This painting likely depicts Ben Luhan, a member of the Taos Pueblo who first posed for the artist at age twelve and became one of his favorite models."

Ernest Blumenschein (1874-1960), upper left, was a fellow founder of the Taos School with Ben Couse (above).  The painting "New Mexico Peon" (1942) uses Epimenio Tenorio as the model.  Tenorio, the note says, 
"sold his house to Blumenschein in 1919, working thereafter as his handyman and occasional model."
That sounds like a novel length story right there.

"Iesaka Waken" (1922) by Maynard Dixon (1875-1946)  according to the note:
"Maynard Dixon's art was about the geometry of the Southwest as an open space in which Native peoples once moved freely"

John Sonsini completed Christian and Francisco in 2013.  The note with it says
"Day laborers who congregate throughout the city in search of work, their cowboy dress refers to the ranches and farms of their homeland."

"The Force of Nature Humbles All Men" (2002) by Howard Terpning (1927- ). It's a big picture.  It wasn't until I got home that I looked up Terpning, who was 75 when this was done.  Terpning had quite a commercial career before he turned began doing this sort of work.  Below, you can see that he did some of the most well known movie posters.

Rondal Partridge has an impressive pedigree in the world of photography.  In a small exhibit called "Yosemite After Adams" he's got this grim 1965 photo.

It's called "Pave It and Paint It Green."

His website says:
"Son of the renown photographer Imogen Cunningham, Partridge began helping his mother in the darkroom at the age of five. At seventeen he became Dorothea Lange's apprentice, driving her up and down the back roads of California as she created her well-known images of migrant laborers.
In 1937 and 1938 he worked with Ansel Adams in Yosemite, taking the now-famous photograph, Ansel in the High Sierra, late 1930s."

(The lettering in the center is a reflection of the title of the exhibit.)
Part 2 later. 

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