In the American West: Photographs by Richard Avedon 20th-Anniversary Tour Ends at Cantor Arts Center

Project Background

Mitchell A. Wilder, the first director of the Amon Carter Museum (1961–1979), proposed the project after seeing Richard Avedon’s July 4, 1978 portrait of an Ennis, Montana, ranch foreman. Wilder asked the artist to continue making photographs of that type under the sponsorship of the Amon Carter Museum, giving him free license to photograph his view of the American West.

Avedon agreed to the proposal, and over the next five years, he traveled through 13 states and 189 towns from Texas to Idaho, conducting 752 sittings and exposing 17,000 sheets of film through his 8-by-10-inch Deardorff view camera. Avedon pictured all his subjects against a seamless white backdrop, and many of the portraits were presented as oversized prints. Avedon photographed oil field and slaughterhouse workers, drifters, mental patients, and waitresses, shattering stereotypes of the previously glorified inhabitants of America’s frontier.

The resulting exhibition, “In the American West: Photographs by Richard Avedon,” was on view at the Amon Carter Museum from September 4 to November 17, 1985. The exhibition attracted overflow crowds and widespread press acclaim. It generated extensive, and at times heated, discussion about the nature of portraiture and how we define the West. From the Carter, the exhibition traveled to:

- Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
(then the San Francisco Museum of Art)
- Art Institute of Chicago
- Phoenix Art Museum
- Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
- The High Museum, Atlanta

Small groups of these prints have been periodically exhibited since 1985, including Avedon’s numerous retrospective exhibitions, but the project in its entirety has not been seen in the United States since its initial tour.

For the 20th anniversary re-presentation of the original show, 78 images, representing the project’s most famous and important works, were selected by Richard Avedon in collaboration with Amon Carter Museum Senior Curator of Photographs John Rohrbach. The two also worked together to design the installation. . Following Avedon’s death on October 1, 2004, Rohrbach has continued to work with The Richard Avedon Foundation to ensure that the photographer’s initial vision is preserved for a new generation of visitors.

The Amon Carter Museum presented the 20th anniversary re-presentation of “In the American West: Photographs by Richard Avedon” September 17, 2005–January 8, 2006. After closing at the Amon Carter Museum, the exhibition travels to the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio; the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona; and finally the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Stanford, California.

20th-Anniversary Venues
- Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
Sept. 17, 2005 – Jan. 8, 2006
- Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio
June 24 – Sept. 17, 2006
- Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona
Oct. 21, 2006 – Jan. 14, 2007
- Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, California
Feb. 14 – May 6, 2007

Richard Avedon
Red Owens, oil field worker, Velma, Oklahoma, 6/12/80
©1980, Estate of Richard Avedon. Courtesy Amon Carter Museum, P1985.28.23

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