When thinking of the Huntington the main image that comes to mind is of lush gardens filled with beautiful flora, but the institution is so much more than that. After all, its full title is The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden and its collection includes priceless treasures of both the canvas and the page. I’ve long loved strolling through the galleries and certainly missed them during their Covid closure. Happily, they’ve reopened and I recently headed to the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art to visit the latest exhibition, Borderlands.
During the pandemic, the Huntington took the opportunity to revisit the American galleries and recontextualize the works within for today’s cultural landscape. Borderlands is the end result which reinstalls portions of the collections thematically rather than chronologically.
For Instance, Breaking Barriers features the works of artists, such as Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, who overcame the marginalization of their time period to carve out successful artistic careers and produce stunning works like the bust above.
Then there’s Artists Abroad which features American artists who worked abroad. I’ve long loved the work of Mary Cassatt and Breakfast in Bed is such a beautiful piece that portrays an intimate moment between mother and child.
In Homelands, the contemporary works of Sonya Rodriguez are featured. In fact, Rodriguez, along with artist Enrique Martínez Celaya, partnered with the Huntington on the reinstallation and both have works featured prominently throughout.
In fact, the contributions of Sonya Rodriguez were some of my favoritesh80 of the whole exhibition. Not only was her map of Los Angeles, YOU ARE HERE / Tovaangar / El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula / Los Angeles, utterly intriguing, but Art and Color, the education room devoted to her artistic process was fascinating.
Rodriguez creates her own colors using only natural resources like plants and minerals. Art and Color exhibits these materials and explains just how she creates the vibrant colors in her works. It’s endlessly fascinating and I spent a great deal of time here learning much about natural pigments.
Borderlands is currently on display at the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art and features beautiful pieces from the Huntington’s collection (including several new acquisitions) displayed in a brand new light. It’s a fitting exhibition for one of Southern California’s premier institutions and is well worth checking out.