Artists Hit the Highway in Search of New Viewers

Shana Lutker, The Manifest Destiny Billboard Project: Onward and Upward, 2013, Jacksonville, FL, billboard. Courtesy of LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division) and the artist.

The New York Times rounds up evidence of a comeback in highway art throughout the US, judging from the number of artists who are plunking their work on billboards under the auspices of several ongoing programs. As the story points out, putting one’s art on a 300-square-foot canvas with a guaranteed viewing audience is something of a no-brainer.

The article breaks down several of the most high-profile programs at the moment, starting with the “I-70 Sign Show” in Missouri, which includes Mel Bochner’s fabulous Blah Blah Blah (2013). The artist is also having a retrospective at the Jewish Museum in New York (on through September 21). Anne Thompson, the artist who organized the show, tells the Times that she credits the current popularity of billboards, in part, to the fact that they seem “quaint” in today’s fast-paced, digital world. The program, notable for featuring some “politically charged” works, will soon unveil a new billboard by Mickalene Thomas. It features two women against a background of pastiche patterns that is intended to explore issues of representation and female sexuality.

In Cincinnati, travelers are enjoying “Big Pictures,” which is sponsored by the Cincinnati Art Museum and is aimed at providing a pleasant visual interruption amid the daily grind. It includes photographs by Lorenzo Vitturi, Dawoud Bey, and Sara Cwynar.

Art Everywhere, which artnet News covered previously (see “The 58 Most Beloved American Artworks“), is being advertised as “the largest art show ever conceived” and consists of 58 major works displayed in highly visible locations. The public was invited to participate, casting votes for featured works from a list of 100 pieces from major US museums like the Whitney Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art.

Lastly, there is “The Manifest Destiny Billboard Trip,” which continues through spring of 2015. Ten artists place their work on the 10 Freeway running from Florida to California. The curators, Zoe Crosher and Shamim M. Momim, want to raise questions related to manifest destiny. For instance, billboards created by Sanford Biggers explore a journey the artist took to Northern Ethiopia and the booming road-building business he saw there.

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