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Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008
January 31, 2015 – May 31, 2015

The best show is the people themselves. –Reginald Marsh

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland will be the first major exhibition to use visual art as a lens to explore the lure that Coney Island exerted on American culture over a period of 150 years. An extraordinary array of artists viewed Coney Island as a microcosm of the American experience, from its beginnings as a watering hole for the wealthy, through its transformation into an entertainment mecca for the masses, to the closing of Astroland Amusement Park following decades of urban decline. From early depictions of “the people’s beach” by Impressionists William Merritt Chase and John Henry Twachtman to modern and contemporary images by photographers Diane Arbus and Walker Evans, Red Grooms, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Reginald Marsh, Joseph Stella, Swoon and George Tooker, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland will investigate America’s playground as a place and an idea.

The modern American mass-culture industry was born at Coney Island, and the constant novelty of the resort made it a seductively liberating subject for artists. What these artists saw from 1861 to 2008 at Coney Island and how they chose to portray it varied widely in style and mood over time, mirroring the aspirations and disappointments of the era and of the country. Taken together, these tableaux of wonder and menace, hope and despair, dreams and nightmares, become metaphors for the collective soul of a nation.

Coney Island will feature more than 140 objects—paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, posters, architectural artifacts, and carousel animals—supplemented by ephemera and film clips. This will be the first exhibition in the museum’s newly expanded and renovated special exhibition galleries.

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland is curated by Dr. Robin Jaffee Frank, Chief Curator and Krieble Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture.

Publication
A fully-illustrated 304-page catalogue, co-published by Yale University Press, will include the first sustained visual analysis of great works of art about Coney Island by Frank, as well as essays by distinguished cultural historians, including Charles Musser, Professor of Film Studies and Media Studies at Yale University; Josh Glick, Assistant Professor of English and Film Studies at Hendrix College, and Mellon Postdoctoral Associate in the Integrated Humanities at Yale University; and John Kasson, Professor of History and American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An excerpt by Charles Denson, Executive Director of the Coney Island History Project, will address the future of Coney Island. The catalogue will be sold for $50 in The Museum Shop.

National Tour
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California, July 11, 2015 – October 13, 2015
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, November 20, 2015 – March 13, 2016
McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas, May 11, 2016 – September 11, 2016

Press
An exclusive preview for members of the press will take place Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 10am. Visit the museum’s press room for more information.

Exhibition Credit
‘Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland’ and exhibition catalogue are generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc., and Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.  Marketing made possible with the support of the Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of Tourism
Support for the Wadsworth Atheneum is provided in part by the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign and the Department of Economic and Community Development, which also receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. 

 

ABOVE: Reginald Marsh (American, 1898–1954), Wooden Horses (detail), 1936, tempera on board; 24 x 40 inches, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, The Dorothy Clark Archibald and Thomas L. Archibald Fund, The Krieble Family Fund for American Art, The American Paintings Purchase Fund, and The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 2013.1.1

nea-lockup-A_logo  neh_logo_horizontal_rgb  Luce Foundation  Furthermore logo color jpeg GHAC

From Our Collection

1594, Caravaggio 1731, Canaletto 1749, Panini 1773, Wright

Upcoming Events

Oct
25
Sat
1:00 pm Tour: Highlights
Tour: Highlights
Oct 25 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Tour: Highlights: Join a docent for an exploration of the collection. Meet by The Museum Shop. Highlights Tours are offered daily at 1 pm, Wednesday [...]
2:30 pm Tour: Looking at Landscapes
Tour: Looking at Landscapes
Oct 25 @ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Tour: Looking at Landscapes: Free with admission; meet at the Information Desk by The Museum Shop.
Oct
26
Sun
1:00 pm Tour: Highlights
Tour: Highlights
Oct 26 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Tour: Highlights: Join a docent for an exploration of the collection. Meet by The Museum Shop. Highlights Tours are offered daily at 1 pm, Wednesday [...]
2:00 pm Film: The Better Angels
Film: The Better Angels
Oct 26 @ 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Film: The Better Angels
Film: The Better Angels: Beginning circa 1817, the story spans three years of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood in the harsh wilderness of Indiana. Learn about the [...]
2:00 pm Sunday Serenades: Mozart & MATRIX
Sunday Serenades: Mozart & MATRIX
Oct 26 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Sunday Serenades: Mozart & MATRIX
Frohawk Two Feathers, On the tragic folly of Holofernes, replayed at the American Ophir two millennia later. [detail], 2014, acrylic on deer hide, 54 x [...]

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Hours & Admission

Hours:
Wednesday – Friday: 11 am – 5 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
First Thursdays: 11 am – 8 pm

Admission:
Members: Free
Adults: $10
Seniors (age 62+): $8
Students (age 13 & over or with college ID): $5
Children (age 12 & under): Free
First Thursdays (from 5-8 pm): $5