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Imagining Florida: History and Myth in The Sunshine State

November 6, 2018 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Spanning three centuries, Boca Raton Museum of Art presents the untold story of Florida through the eyes of artists spellbound by the exotic beauty surrounding them

George de Forest Brush, Indian Hunting Cranes in Florida, 1887, oil on canvas.

Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harold F. Wendel.

Bruce Mozert, Untitled (Mowing Eel Grass, Silver Springs Publicity Still), c. 1950, gelatin silver print.

Collection of Lisa Stone ©Estate of Robert Bruce Mozert.

November 13, 2018 through March 24, 2019

The most comprehensive and all-embracing Florida themed show of its kind, Imagining Florida: History and Myth in the Sunshine State presents a singular collection of 200+ works of art that celebrate how the Sunshine State has inspired artists across three centuries, at Boca Raton Museum of Art.

Now, more than ever, a historic exploration of this scope serves as an important reflection on crucial issues Floridians are still grappling with today: conserving our beaches and natural lands, and the impact of political whirlwinds sweeping the State.

Boca Raton Museum of Art brings together America’s leading masters and some of the world’s most renowned painters – who visited Florida and were spellbound by the exotic beauty surrounding them – many shown for the first time alongside unknown artists. The exhibition is on view from Nov. 13 through March 24.

Ralston Crawford, St. Petersburg to Tampa, 1938, oil on canvas.

Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution.

Art © Estate of Ralston Crawford/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photo: Lee Stalsworth.

Esmond G. Barnhill, Untitled, c. 1915, uranium pigment glass plate.

Collection of Lisa Stone. Photo: Andrew Gilbert.

Imagining Florida digs deeper than previous Florida themed exhibitions,” said Irvin Lippman, the executive director of Boca Raton Museum of Art. “From pristine natural landscapes that have long ago disappeared, to its identity as a hyper-tourism destination.”

“From wild frontier outposts to the mid-century Space-Age boom. From the deeply rooted Seminole and Miccosukee heritage of Florida, to the historic African American communities, these imaginings come together like never before to create a powerful time capsule,” adds Lippman.

Three years in the making, the exhibition was guest-curated by Jennifer Hardin and Gary Monroe.Many of their selections have rarely been seen and some have never been exhibited at a museum until now, and are from some of the leading museums and collections throughout the United States.

Bunny Yeager, Bettie Page –at Africa USA- Boca Raton, FL.

Collection of Carlos Betancourt and Alberto Latorre © Bunny Yeager and Gallery Schuster Berlin.

Visitors will feel transported through Florida’s history via the paintings, photographs, and drawings from the 18th to the mid-20th century, from naturalists to modernists.

Artists and photographers include: Milton Avery, Martin Johnson Heade, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, Laura Woodward, Purvis Young, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Doris Lee, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, John James Audubon, Frederic Remington, William Bartram, Sally Michel, Thomas Moran, George Catlin, Frederick Frieseke, and George de Forest Brush.

The photographic images capture simultaneous motions and actions usually unseen in the moment, revealing a poetic passage of time.

Burgert Brothers, A couple prepares to launch a canoe on the Hillsborough River, 1922, gelatin silver print.

Special & Digital Collections, Tampa Library, University of South Florida.

These works are from some of the leading collections and museums throughout the United States:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Hirshhorn Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Wolfsonian-FIU in Miami Beach, Williams College Art Museum, Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, Cummer Museum of Art in Jacksonville, Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Frederick Remington Art Museum.

Some of the prominent collections represented in this exhibition include: the collection of Sam and Robbie Vickers, the collection of Cici and Hyatt Brown, the Scott Schlesinger Collection, Philip Pearlstein, and The Drapkin Collection.

Albert Ernest Backus, Sewall’s Point, oil on canvas. Collection of Scott P. Schlesinger. Photo: Jacek Gancarz.

Doris Lee, Florida Vacation, c. 1944, gouache on paper. Collection of the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida; Museum purchase, funds provided by the Caroline Julier and James G. Richardson Acquisition Fund.

Imagining Florida explores the State’s long history of being the source of inspiration for artists, many of whom were simply passing through or on assignment.

Most of these artists never lived full-time in Florida, although a few were Florida born and raised. Subject matter also varies, including landscapes, the State’s lush flora and fauna, the rigors of industrialization, WPA mural projects, social issues, and even 1950s and 1960s American kitsch.

Some images tell the story of the State’s history and its peoples, while others were created to lure tourists and generate commerce.

“Imagining Florida should serve as a point of much discussion about the vitality of the ‘art scene’ in Florida, that began not with art fairs in Miami in the 2000s but in the late 1800s when Henry Flagler created an art colony in St. Augustine and in the early 1900s when James Deering built Vizcaya,” adds Lippman.

Deering’s winter home in Miami was a place where he continued his role as patron of the arts, attracting painters and film stars to this remarkable coastal address.

Boca Raton Museum of Art was founded by artists in the 1950s, and has long supported the work of artists in Florida.

“It is as important as ever to revisit this Floridian theme, as development is even more emboldened and the conservation of our lands and beaches remain an ongoing issue,” adds Lippman. “Not surprising then, that the art of ‘Old Florida’ is seen as more enchanting than ever.”

The African-American Experience in Florida

The artist and architect Jules André Smith, founder of the Maitland Art Center in 1937, brought numerous artists to Florida, especially the modernists.

Near Orlando, the Maitland Art Center is now a National Historic Landmark.

It also preserves many of Smith’s paintings and works on paper, in addition to his murals and sculptures found throughout the buildings and in the open air.

Jules André Smith, Citrus Pickers, c. 1940, oil on Masonite. Collection of the Maitland Art Center, ©Maitland Art Center.

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