Route 36: Photographs by William Wylie
This exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of Emmet and Edith Gowin, Carol Angle, Douglas County, Nebraska Arts Council, and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment.

In the fall of 2005, photographer William Wylie took a detour along Route 36 in Kansas at the suggestion of his friend, the poet Merrill Gilfillan. Looking simply to avoid the monotony of another trip across Interstate 70, Wylie discovered a landscape of small towns, farms, riverways, and open prairie that called him back year after year. In their appreciation of the vernacular landscape and the familiar yet dignified architecture of the towns that punctuate Route 36, Wylie’s images call to mind Walker Evans’ iconic photographs from the 1930s as well as those of Nebraska native Wright Morris, who portrayed his home state with understated grace. Wylie is also one of the most successful advocates of spare formal style that evolved from the New Topographics movement in the 1970s, describing the landscape in a manner both precise and affectionate, the stoic facades of abandoned buildings and quietly struggling communities balanced by the unassuming contours and open vistas of the plains landscape. Describing the regular cadence of the highway as it slowed for each town and then opened again to reveal a softly rolling horizon or serpentine riverbed, Wylie’s photographs capture grain elevators, cinderblock storefronts, and the twisted arms of ancient cottonwoods, narrating a familiar but slowly disappearing landscape. “Walking the hills on a hot summer day,” he wrote, “with grasshoppers flying in every direction and a thunderhead building on the horizon, my experience of time became at once more immediate and more vast.”

A professor of photography at the University of Virginia, Wylie is recognized as one of the foremost contemporary landscape photographers, attentively documenting the Rocky Mountains and high plains for the past two decades. Route 36 is accompanied by a book of the same name, published by Flood Editions in 2010, with a forward by Gilfillan. 

What's Pictured: William Wylie, Near Axtell, Kansas, Summer 2007; gelatin silver print, courtesy of the artist

U.S. Route 36 runs 1,414 miles from Rocky Mountain National Park to Uhrichsville, Ohio. Wylie followed the highway across the western prairie between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Byers, Colorado, passing through the 13 counties in Kansas that border Nebraska.

Related Events

On Friday, January 25, Joslyn members will enjoy a preview of the exhibition. Click here to join Joslyn!

Saturday, March 9 @ 1 pm
Gallery Talk with William Wylie

Free with regular Museum admission (book signing follows talk). Click for complete details.

Sunday, March 10; 1–4 pm
Free Family Fun Day! Join us and bring a friend.
Sponsored in part by the Joslyn Art Museum Association

Thursdays, February 28 and April 11 
@ 6:30 pm — Gallery talks by Toby Jurovics, Joslyn’s Chief Curator & Holland Curator of American Western Art (Free with regular Museum admission; $5 on Thursdays from 4-8 pm). Cash bar @ 5 pm.