"Traveling is irritating to me, but not driving," American artist Ed Ruscha once said. "Going to the airport makes me nervous, but when I set out to just take a leisurely drive, it's blue skies and puffy clouds and time." There is something undeniably romantic about a road trip. While the airplane certainly had its moment as the golden mode of transportation, the wonder of traveling on four wheels across our country's roads and highways has persisted throughout the decades.
A new exhibition at the Nova Southeastern University Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, Florida mimics the expansive beauty of the American road trip. "American Scene Photography: Martin Z. Marguiles Collection" documents not only culture and landscape from New York to California, but also travels back in time, showcasing the changing diversity of people and places since the early 20th century. From photojournalism to abstract imagery, the snapshots capture American regionalism through the lenses of Weegee, Dorothea Lange, Hank Willis Thomas and more.
The enduring allure of the road trip likely has a lot to do with the autonomy of driving. You are the pilot of your own adventure, capable of traveling from one corner of America to the other, stopping at any attraction you wish along the way. It's the possible breadth of sights and sensations that attracts us. Margulies's collection, including over 190 photographs, covers nearly 100 years and 74 artists. From the inside of a 1960s soda shop in New York City to the shores of a Chicago beach, the archive let's viewer wander through time and space alongside artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Ed Ruscha.
"The romance of the road appears in the photographs of Ed Ruscha, whose childhood memories of family road trips inspired him to shoot gas stations along Route 66 between Oklahoma and Los Angeles in 1962," an exhibition description reads. While Ruscha frames the roads, quite literally, icons like Lange and Lewis Hine reflect on the people caught between them, casting their gaze upon child laborers or migrant families. Just as a trip across the country can be both idyllic and eye-opening, so to is Margulies' carefully crafted collection.
"American Scene Photography: Martin Z. Margulies Collection" will be on view from November 2, 2014 to March 22, 2015. For more information on the collector, check out the Margulies Collection website here.