Gallery Closing Notice

Gallery 17 will be closed Tuesday, December 18, 2018, through Friday, February 1, 2019. The gallery will reopen to the public on Saturday, February 2, 2019, featuring works in the 30 Americans exhibition. The space will return to showcasing works from the permanent collection in May 2019. We apologize for any inconvenience.



Joslyn Art Museum Announces Major Gift from Internationally-Renowned American Artist Ed Ruscha

Internationally-renowned American artist Ed Ruscha (b. Omaha, NE, 1937) has made a major gift to Joslyn Art Museum, including 18 paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture spanning his career from 1961 to 2017. Also included is a collection of Ruscha’s original artist books. The gift is complemented by an additional gift from Ruscha of 20 works by his colleagues and friends in Los Angeles, including Terry Allen, Richard Artschwager, Joe Goode, Ed Moses, and William Wegman, dating from the 1960s through 2015. The gift comes following Word/Play: Prints, Photographs, and Paintings by Ed Ruscha at Joslyn, the first major exhibition to feature the artist in his home state of Nebraska.

What's pictured: Ed Ruscha (American, b. Omaha, NE, 1937), Standard Station, 1966, 7-color screenprint, 25 5/8 x 40 in., edition number 11/50, Courtesy of the Artist. Photographer: Paul Ruscha

About his gift, Ruscha noted, “Joslyn Art Museum stands in the heartland of America. Being an Omaha native, it is important for me to contribute to this great and growing flagship institution.” The newly-acquired works will create an important core collection of Post-War West Coast artists at Joslyn and together they represent the single most important body of work ever gifted to the Museum by a living artist.

Jack Becker, Joslyn’s executive director and CEO, noted, “This gift by Ed Ruscha of his own work, in tandem with the works of other fixtures of the West Coast art scene over the past several decades, is one of the most significant gifts of contemporary art in Joslyn’s history. Ruscha’s work is renowned for his capacity to cleverly transform the mundane into the extraordinary. Fluent in painting, photography, and printmaking, he continues to influence contemporary artists worldwide as he makes new work into the seventh decade of his career. It is nothing short of extraordinary to receive more than three dozen works, selected personally by this renowned American artist, to be showcased in Omaha as part of Joslyn’s collection. We are forever intrigued by Ed Ruscha’s view of America and immensely grateful for his generosity.”

About Ed Ruscha

The promised gift of Ruscha’s work is a compact retrospective of his practice. As an important early figure in conceptual art, Ruscha demonstrated a talent for deftly combining imagery and text during his student years, when planning on a career as a commercial illustrator. His use of varied and often unusual materials and printmaking methods also reflects the practical nature of his early training, suggesting an embrace of finding the right tool for the task at hand, rather than limiting himself to a more traditional process. Together, his combination of technical finesse, an imaginative use of materials, and the array of subjects he found – from the graphic design of cans in the kitchen cupboard to neon billboards and the Hollywood sign – led to the broad acceptance of the modern world itself as subject.

Gift Highlights

The gift is anchored by a body of Ruscha’s drawings from the early 1960s onward, employing oil, acrylic, tempera, pencil, and even gunpowder that reveal a hand equally adept regardless of medium. Renowned for his printmaking, the gift includes several of Ruscha’s recent etchings from 2014, as well as the 7-color screen print, Standard Station (1966), which is arguably the artist’s most iconic image. Based on an early snapshot he made along Route 66, Ruscha transforms the profile of a filling station into a dynamic silhouette braced against a flaming horizon. In a single image, he both tips his hat to the majestic history of western landscape painting, and undermines it with his elevation of the most mundane of landmarks. The gift is bookended by two paintings, Automatic, from 1966, and 2007’s monumental Figure It On Out, which layers its eponymous text over a heroic alpine landscape. These works are joined by a boxed set of the artist’s groundbreaking photographic books, including Royal Road Test, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, and Some Los Angeles Apartments.

Ruscha’s complementary gift of works by other artists charts the course of Post-War art on the West Coast, which was a significantly different enterprise in Los Angeles than in New York City. During this fertile period, L.A. artists quickly embraced new approaches, subjects, and techniques for art making, including experimenting with the materials and processes of the booming aerospace industry, as well as the influence of surf and car cultures. L.A. Fueled by the glimmer of the space program and the emerging presence of a consumer culture poised to mine a prosperous middle class, California felt like the leading edge of the continent. The sense of racing headlong into the future was balanced, however, by the sun and surf of the Pacific Ocean, whose breezes filled artists’ studios, and California’s emerging hippie culture. It was this environment that inspired a group of young artists who had made their way West in the late 1950s and 1960s, many drawn from the Midwest. While Ruscha is recognized as perhaps the most influential California artist of the era, this gift is very much an acknowledgment of the friendships and collaborations that helped him establish his career.

What's pictured: Ed Ruscha (American, b. Omaha, NE, 1937), Figure It On Out, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 in., Courtesy of the Artist. Photographer: Paul Ruscha



Gift of Currier & Ives Prints

In June 2016, Conagra Brands (formerly ConAgra Foods, Inc.) donated its corporate collection of nearly 600 original Currier & Ives prints to Joslyn, giving the Museum one of the largest public collections of these popular and historically important illustrations. ConAgra obtained the Currier & Ives works in the late 1980s when the company acquired Beatrice Foods, the collection’s former owner. Portions of the collection were on display at ConAgra’s Omaha campus, but viewing opportunities for the public were limited, and the majority of the works remained in storage. ConAgra’s generous gift to Joslyn ensures that the collection will be permanently available to share with the Omaha community and beyond. The works enhance Joslyn's growing works on paper collection and serve as an important cornerstone of the Museum's American art collection.

What's pictured: Frances Flora Bond Palmer (British, active in United States, 1812–1876), artist; Currier & Ives (American, 1834–1907), publisher and lithographer; American Farm Scenes: No. 4, 1853, colored lithograph, Gift of ConAgra Foods, 2016.20

The New York-based firm of Currier & Ives was the most influential and widespread publisher in nineteenth-century America. Founded by lithographer Nathaniel Currier in 1835, he was joined in his venture by the accountant James Merritt Ives. Together, they produced lithographic and chromo-lithographic print images of current events, sporting life, landscapes, industry, politics, and fashion, touching on almost every aspect of American life and popular culture. Currier & Ives developed new commercial techniques that enabled them to produce more prints more quickly than their competitors, allowing the firm to distribute illustrations of newsworthy events within days of their occurrence and sell them at affordable prices.

The success of Currier & Ives also coincided with a period of tremendous growth in the United States. From the 1830s to the 1880s, the nation doubled in geographic size, increased in population almost five times over, and saw the emergence of a burgeoning industrial economy. A new middle class emerged that had both the time and disposable income to decorate its homes with affordable art. Currier & Ives was a ubiquitous presence for decades, creating an unmatched panorama of life in nineteenth-century America.



The Maximilian Journals

Between 1832-34, the explorer and naturalist Prince Alexander Philipp Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, Germany, embarked on a voyage into the furthest reaches of the American Interior. Accompanied by the Swiss artist Karl Bodmer, Maximilian set forth from St. Louis in April 1833 on a 2,500 mile journey by steamship and keelboat up the Missouri River, traveling as far as Fort McKenzie, Montana. Wintering at the Mandan village near Fort Clark, they returned downriver the following spring, having spent over a year amongst the tribes of the Upper Missouri. The watercolors that Bodmer produced on this journey remain one of the most perceptive and compelling visual accounts of the West ever created. Meanwhile, his patron Maximilian was equally hard at work on a journal documenting his scientific and anthropologic observations. Few historical chronicles are as informative and eloquent, describing the topography, Native peoples, natural history, and the burgeoning fur trade of the High Plains. Today, Maximilian’s journals are a centerpiece of the Joslyn collection, accompanied by his collection of over 350 watercolors and drawings by Karl Bodmer. 

In September 2012, Joslyn Art Museum published the third and final volume of the English translation of The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied, one of the most important documents of the nineteenth-century American West. Volumes 1 and 2 were published in 2008 and 2010 respectively. In 2008, Volume 1 was named the "Outstanding Nonfiction Book" of the year by National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. In the fall of 2011, Volume 1 received the Western History Association’s Dwight L. Smith Award, a biennial award recognizing outstanding bibliographic or research work. Earlier in 2011, Volumes 1 and 2 were reviewed by Stuart Ferguson of The Wall Street Journal, who called the works a "magnificent chronicle."

The North American Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied — Volume 1: May 1832–April 1833;
Volume 2: April–September 1833; and Volume 3: September 1833–August 1834 are available in Joslyn Art Museum’s Hitchcock Museum Shop for $85 per volume. The Journals are edited by Stephen S. Witte and Marsha V. Gallagher. Volumes 1 and 2 are translated by William J. Orr, Paul Schach, and Dieter Karch with forewords by John Wilson. Volume 3 is translated by Dieter Karch with a foreword by Joslyn’s Executive Director and CEO Jack Becker.


Support for the Maximilian Journals Project has come from many sources. Robert Daugherty funded the completion of the translation in 2003. The Bodmer Society, Charles W. Durham, and Marlene and J. Joe Ricketts made timely contributions to support initial editing and production costs. Dorothy and Stanley M. Truhlsen, Arader Galleries, Ann and Steve Berzin, Judy and Terry Haney, Susan and Michael Lebens, Pinnacle Bank, and Phyllis and Del Toebben provided additional support. Joslyn was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the University of Oklahoma Press received funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Ultimately, however, it has been the extremely generous gifts of Howard L. and Rhonda A. Hawks and The Hawks Foundation that have made this important publication possible.