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New American Art Galleries open at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
The Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo: Tim Street-Porter.

SAN MARINO, CA.- The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, well known for its iconic collection of British art, is dramatically expanding its American art display by opening more than 5,000 square feet of new gallery space on July 19. The five new rooms in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art will feature nearly 100 works of 20th-century art in an area previously used for storage in the Lois and Robert F. Erburu Gallery; the move was necessitated by the institution’s rapidly growing American art collection.

“The Huntington has quickly become one of the finest repositories of American art in the United States,” said Kevin Salatino, Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Collections at The Huntington. “This expansion should delight—and in many cases, surprise—our visitors with a number of remarkable new acquisitions. We’re in an exciting moment for The Huntington, particularly for the continuing evolution of American art, whose story we’re able to tell now with greater depth and breadth.”

The collection has grown from an initial 50 paintings to more than 12,000 objects. Recent acquisitions in the new installation will include works by George Bellows, Arthur Dove, Frederick Hammersley, Tony Smith, and Charles White.

First opened in 1984 with 6,800 square feet of gallery space, the Scott Galleries were expanded to 16,300 square feet and completely reinstalled in 2009 to cover the history of art in the United States from the colonial period to the mid-20th century. The new expansion coincides with the Scott Galleries’ 30th anniversary. It leaves the existing rooms generally intact and focuses on works made in the last century, with representatives of the Ashcan school, Social Realism, the Depression era, modernism, geometric abstraction, and Pop Art.

The five new rooms focus on the following topics: The early 20th-century landscape, with works made from 1900 through the 1920s; photographs, with an emphasis on The Huntington’s substantial Edward Weston holdings; paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts made in the 1930s; geometric abstraction and Pop Art; and The Huntington’s painting Global Loft (Spread) by Robert Rauschenberg, whose interest in becoming an artist was inspired by a visit to The Huntington in 1946, rounded out with important loans from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

“While our display has always addressed the 20th century, now we are able to explore important themes in greater depth,” said Jessica Todd Smith, Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art at The Huntington. “We will be sharing with visitors a solid representation of pre- and postwar American art, with major works from some of the most innovative and influential artists of the period.”

As in the existing galleries, the new rooms will display fine and decorative arts in integrated displays, arranged thematically and roughly chronologically.

The Early 20th-Century Landscape
In the first of the five new rooms, visitors will see works made in the first half of the 20th century, with a focus on American landscape that includes California and the West. Highlights include paintings by Arthur Dove, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edgar Payne, Granville Redmond, Guy Rose, and Charles Sheeler; Shreve silver; and a Frederick Remington bronze.

For the first year after the July opening, a new room devoted to photographs will display a rotation of examples from The Huntington’s collection of work by Edward Weston. The giant of modernist photography selected and printed for The Huntington 500 pictures concentrating on images that he had shot between 1937 and 1939, when he was on a Guggenheim grant. The installation will focus on some of his finest landscapes of California and the West.

America in the 1930s
Large and powerful works from the 1930s will dominate another room, with Sargent Johnson’s monumental redwood organ screen as the focal point. That work, acquired in 2011, originally was carved for the music hall of the California School for the Blind in Berkeley, Calif. Other artists represented in this room include John Stewart Curry, Hugo Gellert, Chaim Gross, Walt Kuhn, Reginald Marsh, John Svenson, and Charles White.

Geometric Abstraction and Pop Art
The Huntington acquired in 2013 a two-piece abstract bronze sculpture and a colorful painting by pioneering minimalist Tony Smith, along with a painting by “hard-edge” artist Frederick Hammersley. These pieces will be on view for the first time, complemented by a painting by John McLaughlin, also dubbed a “hard-edge” painter, as well as The Huntington’s rare Small Crushed Campbell’s Soup Can (Beef Noodle) (1962) and Brillo Box (1964) by Andy Warhol. Other works in this gallery will include Ed Ruscha’s Hurting the Word Radio #2 (1964), on loan from Joan and Jack Quinn; and Frank Stella’s Hiraqla Variation III (1969) and Louise Nevelson’s Vertical Zag I (1968), on loan from the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena.

Robert Rauschenberg
While stationed in San Diego as a young medical technician in the Navy Hospital Corps, Robert Rauschenberg visited The Huntington. It was this visit and a look at The Huntington’s 18th-century British portraits that he credited for inspiring his decision to become an artist. The Huntington acquired the 1979 Global Loft (Spread) in 2012, a complex work that incorporates pieces of fabric, found objects (three glue brushes), and appropriated images with acrylic paint on three conjoined wood panels. It will be surrounded by prints lent by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation that explore the relationship between Rauschenberg’s printmaking practice and his paintings.

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