Throughout the vast interior of the United States, contemporary artists are responding to the world around them and reshaping it in unexpected ways. Organized by the Smart Museum of Art and the Van Abbemuseum, one of Europe’s premier contemporary art institutions, Heartland offers an idiosyncratic look at the innovative forms of artistic creation taking place in the American Heartland.
Heartland features site-specific installations and performances as well as drawing, photography, and video by artists and artist groups who are working in—and in response to—Detroit, Kansas City, and other cities and rural communities across the region. The exhibition premieres new commissions and presents recent works by Carnal Torpor, Compass Group, Cody Critcheloe, Jeremiah Day, Detroit Tree of Heaven Woodshop, Design 99, Scott Hocking, Kerry James Marshall, Greely Myatt, Marjetica Potrč, Julika Rudelius, Artur Silva, Deb Sokolow, and Whoop Dee Doo.
In 2007 and 2008, the Heartland curators, eschewing traditional research methods, set out on a series of old-fashioned road trips through the vast center of the United States. These research trips informed two distinct exhibitions. The first presentation, which opened in October 2008 at the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands, sought to uncover new ways of thinking about the American interior during the U.S. presidential election and gave European audiences access to a broad survey of the Heartland’s culture, art, and music. The second, reconceived presentation at the Smart Museum, offers U.S. audiences a more focused look at the ideals of resourcefulness and invention that permeate the Heartland. Together, the two presentations offer a richly layered reading of a region that has too often been overlooked.