The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip comes to the Milwaukee Art Museum

Posted on January 10th, 2018

The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip

comes to the Milwaukee Art Museum

-First exhibition to explore the American photographic road trip as a genre in and of itself-

Milwaukee, Wis. – January 10, 2018 – This January, visitors to the Milwaukee Art Museum have the opportunity to explore art related to a quintessential American experience—the road trip. The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip presents photography of America along its highways and byways, capturing the changing landscape—both figurative and literal—shaped by car culture and the burgeoning tradition of the American road trip.

“We’re excited to bring the work of these eighteen photographers to the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts,” commented Ariel Pate, assistant curator of photography. “Some will be familiar to our audiences, and some will be new discoveries, but what ties them together is that the car and the American road trip changed the way they took photographs.”

Showcasing the work of these photographers that were inspired by the American Dream to hit the road and reveal something deeper about the country they cruised through, The Open Road will be on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum from January 26 to April 22, 2018 in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts.

While the myth of the American frontier, with its promise of freedom and possibility, had long engaged artists, more photographers purposefully embraced road trips during the post–World War II era as a means to better understand the nation. The images in The Open Road provide offbeat and personal reflections of the photographer’s journeys, including the people they encounter, car culture and roadside attractions.

The Open Road features over 100 photographs taken from the 1950s to today. Presented in chronological order, the exhibition starts with photographs from Robert Frank’s book The Americans (1959), black-and-white photographs that scandalized the public with their unflinching portrayal of the reality behind the American Dream. The idiosyncrasies of American life are captured in color photographs by pioneers of the medium, including William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld.

Also represented are contemporary photographers such as Alec Soth, whose series Sleeping by the Mississippi is a sensitive exploration of Middle America at the turn of the twenty-first century. Works by the Swiss artistic duo Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs are more playful, depicting surreal scenes the artists staged of motel rooms and endless roads.

The Open Road will give Museum visitors the opportunity to explore how taking a “great American road trip” revealed and changed these photographers’ perceptions and understanding of a nation. This exhibition is part of the Museum’s season of travel: a collection of works across media and eras that speak to the ideas of journeys, fresh perspectives and an international exchange of ideas.

“Johnson Financial Group has a long history of supporting the arts in our communities. We’re particularly excited about ‘The Open Road’ exhibit since our founder, Sam Johnson, was an avid photographer,” added President and CEO Jim Popp from Presenting Sponsor Johnson Financial Group.

The Open Road will be on view in the Museum’s Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts. Established in 2015, the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts presents an integrated exhibition space dedicated to photography and the related media of film, video and light installation. Named for the Herzfeld Foundation, whose generous support has made this center possible, these galleries reflect the important legacy the foundation has built for photography at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Organized by: Aperture Foundation, New York


Curated by: David Campany and Denise Wolff

This project is supported, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Presenting Sponsor:

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Media Sponsor:


Exhibitions in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts are sponsored by the Herzfeld Foundation and Madeleine and David Lubar.

Hi-res images of the exhibition are available via communications@mam.org

Supporting events

 In Conversation: David Campany and Denise Wolff
Thursday, January 25, 6:15 p.m. Lubar Auditorium
The curators of The Open Road will give an introduction to the exhibit. Campany is a renowned writer on photography; Wolff is the senior editor at Aperture.

In Conversation: Alec Soth
Thursday, March 15, 6:15 p.m. Lubar Auditorium
Hear this renowned photographer talk about his work and breakout book, Sleeping by the Mississippi.

Local Luminaries: The Open Road
Thursday, March 29, 6:15 p.m. Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts
Visit the exhibition with four distinguished guests from the Milwaukee area as they offer new perspectives for understanding the works on view. Welcome Carl Bogner, senior lecturer in film, Peck School of the Arts, UW–Milwaukee; Kyle Cherek, host of the Emmy-nominated television show Wisconsin Foodie; Jasmine Benyamin, Associate Professor, UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning; and Krisann Rehbein, design educator.

In Conversation and Local Luminaries sponsored by: Milwaukee Art Museum’s Photography Council.

Gallery Talks
Tuesdays, 1:30 p.m.
February 6, March 27 and April 10
With Ariel Pate, Assistant Curator of Photography