Hitting the open road has long been one of America’s great pastimes. But in these days of limited travel, the promise of the open road remains a step out of reach for many of us. During this time, we see the things we’ve perhaps taken for granted, anew: What does the automobile represent to you?
InterStates of Mind: Rewriting the Map of the United States in the Age of the Automobile traces the development of the automotive industry and interstate highway system through artworks from the early 1900s to the present. Situated at a crossroads of cultural contradictions, the show unpacks our fascination with the automobile and the different—at times competing—ideals that continue to shape our visions of America today. To accomplish this, the exhibition focuses on artwork from the MSU Broad collection presented alongside archival and other documentary materials to position the works within historical context.
In the early 1900s, the rise of the automobile introduced a major cultural shift in the United States. This reimagining of the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” also offered new possibilities for physical and social mobility. However, few of these benefits were ushered in democratically—many of the changes perpetuated economic, racial, and gender disparities, further curtailing certain people’s “unalienable rights.” The automobile thus also became a mark of privilege, and reinforced existing barriers in society.
InterStates of Mind pays special attention to our own geographic context, providing unique insights to the roles played by cities like Detroit, Flint, and Lansing in shaping this history. The automobile and its infrastructure helped connect and fragment communities across Michigan. Firsthand accounts from community members and research by MSU faculty and other historians inform and help trace the complex routes of this narrative. Above all, this exhibition exemplifies the ways in which the automobile has and continues to be the ultimate symbol of American values.
Enjoy a virtual preview of InterStates of Mind online! Exhibition curators Steven L. Bridges and Georgia Erger took us on video walkthrough before the show opened to the public. Watch here >
Jim Alinder, Michelle Andonian, Luiz Cruz Azaceta, John Baeder, Michael Becotte, Martha Berriman, Michael Bishop, Chakaia Booker, Ken Brown, Chris Burden, John Chamberlain, John Collier, Joe Crachiola, Barbara Crane, Ralson Crawford, Beatriz Cortez, Allan D’Arcangelo, Stan Douglas, Walker Evans, Robert W. Fichter, Steve Fitch, Robbert Flick, Ewing Galloway Inc., Bruce Giffin, Frank Gohlke, Nancy Grossman, Philip Guston, Tyree Guyton, Henry Jamison “Jam” Handy, Matthew Angelo Harrison, Scott Hocking, E. O. Hoppe, Dennis Hopper, Richard Hunt, Harold Henry Jones, Patricia Izzo, Mark Klett, Victor Landweber, Dorothea Lange, Nathan Lyons, Elaine Mayes, Jerome Magid, Russ Marshall, Roger Minick, Patrick Nagatani, Claes Oldenburg, Eduardo Paolozzi, Tod Papageorge, Charles Pollock, Mel Ramos, Bill Rauhauser, Barbara Jo Revelle, James Rosenquist, Arthur Rothstein, Ed Ruscha, Zoltan Sepeshy, Ben Shahn, Joel Sternfeld, Luke Swank, Bruce Thayer, Clarissa Tossin, John Vachon, Henry Wessel, Robert A. Widdicombe, Marion Post Wolcott, Todd Webb, Margo Wolowie
InterStates of Mind: Rewriting the Map of the United States in the Age of the Automobile is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and co-curated by Steven L. Bridges, Associate Curator, and Georgia Erger, Assistant Curator, with assistance from Thaís Wenstrom, Curatorial Research and Administrative Assistant, and Nick Sly and Dani M. Willcutt, Graduate Fellows in History. Lead funding for this exhibition is provided by a gift from MSU Federal Credit Union with additional support from the Eli and Edythe Broad endowed exhibitions fund.