NASA’s historic triumphs and pioneering legacy are well known to millions, but the inspiring rocket launches, moon landings and planetary explorations also have had an impact on the imaginations of America’s leading artists. As the space agency celebrates its 50th anniversary, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) presents "NASA|ART 50 Years of Exploration," featuring 72 works from those artists.
"NASA|ART" opens April 8 at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel, Mississippi and will be on view through June 27. The exhibition is organized by SITES and NASA in cooperation with the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
The exhibition opening will be Thursday, April 8 with a lecture at 5:30 p.m. by Tom Crouch, Exhibition Curator with Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum. A reception will follow from 6:30 - 8 p.m.
"NASA|ART" features nearly five decades of creations by artists as diverse as Annie Leibovitz, Nam June Paik, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol and William Wegman. Drawn from the collections of NASA and the National Air and Space Museum, the exhibition includes drawings, photographs, sculpture and other art forms and media. These works – ranging from the illustrative to the abstract – offer unparalleled insight into the private and personal moments, triumphant victories and tragic accidents that form the storied history of NASA.
For example, in Henry Caselli’s "When Thoughts Turned Inward," the artist captures the serene, almost spiritual moment before takeoff, when an astronaut must prepare mentally for a mission. In a Chakaia Booker’s "Remembering Columbia," the tragedy and pain of the lost Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew are transformed in the twisting tire remnants preserved from one of the shuttle’s earlier missions. And Andy Warhol melds Buzz Aldrin’s historic steps on the lunar surface with the unbridled exuberance and flashiness of the 1960s in his neon-lighted "Moonwalk" silkscreen.
The works featured in the exhibit date from the inception of the NASA Art Program in 1962, when NASA administrator James E. Webb asked a group of artists to illustrate, interpret and elucidate the space agency’s missions and projects. Since then, painters, musicians and conceptual artists have been with NASA every step of the way, strolling along launch pads, training in flight simulators, talking with engineers and technicians and visiting with astronauts before and after their flights.
"NASA|ART 50 years of Exploration," a companion book published by Harry N. Abrams in 2008, complements the national traveling exhibition.
NASA was established by Congress in 1958 "to provide for research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes." The agency is headquartered in Washington, D. C., with 10 field centers and other facilities across the nation. NASA’s mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research. www.nasa.gov
The National Air and Space Museum, composed of the flagship building on the National Mall in Washington and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., is home to the world’s finest collection of flight artifacts. From aircraft and space vehicles to engines, art and models, the wide array of the museum’s holdings tells the story of the history and technology of air and space exploration. The museum is also a key resource for research into the history, science and technology of aviation and space flight. www.nasm.si.edu
SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D. C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at www.sites.si.edu.
This exhibition is generously sponsored locally by Cellular South Foundation, Southern Metals Company of Mississippi, The Pruet Companies, RAPAD Drilling and Well Service, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi, Jefferson Medical, Merrill Lynch, and Robison Tire Company.
Educational programming is partially funded through a Smithsonian Community Grant, funded by MetLife Foundation and administered by the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service, which is used to strengthen the connections between museums nationwide and their communities.