AUGUSTA, GA. Organized by the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art opens to the public on Saturday, August 23, and remains on view through Sunday, October 19, at the Morris Museum of Art. This groundbreaking exhibition offers a comprehensive, interdisciplinary examination of plantation images in the American South.
Angela D. Mack, executive director of the Gibbes, explains the inspiration for the project, The mission of the Gibbes is to tell the story of the visual culture of the South, and the plantation has been (and still continues to be) a defining characteristic of the history and present state of the region. The museums collection includes several important works related to the subject, and we were inspired to lead an effort to unravel the realities and fictions that surround the subject matter.
The exhibition includes paintings, works on paper, and photographs, as well as mixed media and installation works. Through the eyes of a range of artists (including Eastman Johnson, William Aiken Walker, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Edwin Harleston, Carrie Mae Weems, and Kara Walker), Landscape of Slavery examines depictions of plantations and related slave imagery in the context of the history of landscape painting in America. More than a history of the visual imagery related to the plantation, the show invites one to consider the impact that this imagery has had on race relations for three centuries, says Mack.
We are very pleased to have this opportunity to work with our colleagues at the Gibbes Museumparticularly on a project of this quality and scope, added Kevin Grogan, director of the Morris Museum of Art. Landscape of Slavery is a critically important examination of the myth of the plantation system, and it will help us to understand the strength, persistence, and peculiar vitality of that myth.
A genre uniquely associated with the Southern region of the United States, the plantation view has traditionally received marginal attention in the study of American landscape art. Previous work on the plantation subject has emphasized the debt the genre owes to eighteenth century British aesthetic theories and styles. In recent years, however, art historians have worked to identify general shifts in plantation iconography that reflect specific historical events. Meanwhile, plantation views have attracted the attention of social historians who have identified the genre as a rich source for exploring issues of wealth, power, race, memory and nostalgia. Landscape of Slavery seeks to bring these current discussions on the topic together for the publics consideration.