This new look at our collection explores issues of American identity, especially in a multicultural perspective—a fundamental part of the American experience.
Shaping America contains many favorites from our permanent collection. In addition, it incorporates artworks that are by and/or depict Native Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans and Asian Americans, in order to demonstrate the continuous encounters between the various cultures living in the United States. The exhibition will also provide evidence of how the multicultural works themselves were and are active agents in the development of American national identity.
Shaping America does not claim to be a complete history of art produced in the United States. Instead, individual pieces from the Museum’s collection are arranged both chronologically and thematically. Instead of placing each medium or kind of art in a separate section, the artworks will combine to create a single narrative, in order to show relationships between cultural traditions. The exhibition also probes relationships among folk art, popular art, decorative arts, and so-called fine art. The new installation looks at how the visual culture of the United States has been formed not only by European art practices, but also in relation to practices within Spanish colonies and Native American and African American communities in North America.
The exhibition seeks to broaden our understanding of the complex combination of traditions that make up our country’s culture, allowing visitors to think about both the separateness and the interconnectedness of nations throughout the world. The demographic and cultural make-up of the United States has never been stable. Geographic boundaries may not change in the near future, but the cultural mix will continue to change.