A black-and-white Dorothea Lange photo of a seemingly endless New Mexico road greets visitors of the High Museum of Art’s latest exhibition, Cross Country (February 12 through May 7). The highway is more than just an evocative image; it’s an invitation to journey though early 20th-century America, as seen through the eyes of then-contemporary artists. “When we think of modernism, we associate it with urban spaces,” says Stephanie Heydt, the High’s American art curator. This exhibition showcases modernist works set outside of city limits, from Andrew Wyeth’s fertile Pennsylvania farmland to Maynard Dixon’s Southwestern red rocks to Thomas Hart Benton’s Southern tobacco farms.
Cross Country originated at Pennsylvania’s Brandywine River Museum of Art, but the High expanded the geographic focus and the number of artworks, from 67 pieces to 200. Organized by region, the artworks depict the South, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, and West from 1915 to 1950—a period spanning Prohibition, the Depression, and industrialization. The pieces share a common theme, though, says Heydt: “All of this work is about memory and the history of a place as experienced across time.”
Some of the pieces featured in Cross Country: