Two new exhibitions at the High Museum of Art in Midtown celebrate not only the eras of the works on display but also the diversity of both the pieces and the artists behind them.
“Our Good Earth: Rural Life and American Art” and “Underexposed: Women Photographers from the Collection,” both opening April 17 and closing Aug. 1, delve deep into their subject matter and include some works that have never been exhibited before.
“It’s really about artists’ responses to engagements with rural spaces and places and people over the course of a century,” said Stephanie Heydt, the High’s curator of American art and curator of “Our Good Earth.” “It’s a … diverse array of artists from our collection. I saw it as an opportunity to bring out works by artists that really haven’t been on view for a long time, and to also think about themes and subjects we haven’t really addressed in my recent exhibitions.”
Sarah Kennel, the High’s curator of photography who is co-curating “Underexposed” with Maria Kelly, curatorial assistant for photography, added, “It’s part of our broader mission, to be inclusive and present a more inclusive history of art. It’s also a great opportunity for us to really explore our collection and to reveal not just works by well-known artists we’ve shown before, but we’ve really made an effort in this show to bring out the works of artists that may not be as well-known to our audiences and to put them in a dialogue with other works of art.”
“Underexposed,” which features 100 works by more than 80 photographers, originally was to open last summer, at the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote and was ratified Aug. 18, 1920. But the COVID-19 pandemic delayed it. The exhibition features both pioneers dating back to photography’s early days in the 1830s, such as Anna Atkins, and today’s top female shutterbugs, like Lorna Simpson.
“(Atkins) was making cyanotypes, otherwise known as blueprints or camera-less photographs, that were rendering the flora and fauna of the world,” said Kennel, adding 26% of the artists in the High’s photography collection are women. “She was not only the first known British female photographer but also the first person to create a photo book. …
“Then I think about somebody like Margaret Bourke-White, who was a pioneering photojournalist and photographer who did the first cover of Life magazine. But she also had an incredible daring career; … she flew with the Army Air Corps during World War II photographing the bombing missions and documenting the liberation of concentration camps.”
“Our Good Earth,” which features 87 works by more than 40 artists, includes prints, drawings, photographs and watercolors. The exhibition goes back to the 1800s and includes pieces by the 19th century’s Winslow Homer and Rhonda Nicholls and the 20th century’s Marion Greenwood and Andrew Wyeth.
“I think if you know nothing going in about the history of American visual culture, you’ll be engaged by the way in which different media, artists we think about in specific categories, like photographers or printmakers, how much exchange and dialogue there really was between artists working in different formats,” Heydt said.
“I also think you’ll come away with a really diverse sense of the kinds of things Americans were engaged with and exposed to at different moments across time and the kinds of threads and similarities that track over the course of time. …
“There’s also sadder moments and darker moments. I didn’t want to gloss over the kinds of challenges many did and still confront living in rural environments.”
Tickets to both exhibitions are included with admission to the High, which is $14.50 for adults and children over 6 and free for members and children under 6. For more information, visit www.high.org.