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(New York, NY) American Weathervanes: The Art of The Winds will be presented at the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM is located at 2 Lincoln Sq., Columbus Ave. at W. 65th St.) from June 23, 2021 through January 2, 2022. The comprehensive exhibition is the first in more than four decades to highlight the beauty, technical virtuosity, and cultural significance of American vanes fashioned between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries. A full-color, illustrated, 256-page hardcover book, written by Robert Shaw and published by Rizzoli Electa in association with the American Folk Art Museum, accompanies the exhibition. The exhibition is organized by Robert Shaw, guest curator, and Emelie Gevalt, the Museum’s Curator of Folk Art.
“As the Museum commemorates its 60th anniversary, we are thrilled to mark the occasion with this momentous exhibition and publication,” said Jason T. Busch, Director and Chief Executive Officer of AFAM. “We believe that American Weathervanes will be appreciated not only as a scholarly achievement but also as a celebration of the artistry of folk art for years to come.”
The exhibition, which draws on important private and public collections across the U.S., encompasses a diverse range of forms made between the 1780s and 1914. At the height of their enormous commercial popularity, American weathervanes were produced in and around major cities such as New York and Boston. In New York, one of the biggest makers was J.L. Mott, for whom the Mott Haven section of the Bronx is named. As their commercial interest waned, these utilitarian but manifestly artistic forms caught the discerning eye of individuals such as Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and Edith Gregor Halpert, and artists such as Elie Nadelman and Yasuo Kuniyoshi.
Among the many highlights are a magnificent 1788 wooden rooster from Portland, ME; an eagle and shield possibly made in the foundry of revolutionary patriot Paul Revere; a graceful figure of the Greek goddess Fame blowing a trumpet and standing en pointe like a celestial ballerina, attributed to E.G. Washburne & Co. in New York City; a fearsome dragon climbing a pole; a highly detailed touring car and driver; and an enormous monoplane modeled after the first aircraft to fly over the English Channel.
“Weathervanes have always been at once tools and sculptural architectural elements, combining function with visual interest and symbolism,” said curator and author Robert Shaw. “This presentation will survey a wide array of American vanes and explore the meanings and sculptural power of some of the finest examples in existence.”
In addition to weathervanes, the exhibition will also include beautifully articulated wood sculptures by Harry Leach, which functioned as patterns for weathervane molds used by the firm of Cushing & White in Waltham, MA. Additionally, watercolors of historic weathervanes painted for The Index of American Design, a project created by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), as well as rare archival materials that illuminate the development of the weathervane in the United States will be on view in the exhibition.
“As long champions of the weathervane’s artistic merit, the Museum is honored to present this exhibition of vanes that showcases the skill and creativity behind this distinctive art form,” said Emelie Gevalt, Curator of Folk Art.
Authored by exhibition curator Robert Shaw, the book that accompanies the exhibition includes a foreword by Jason T. Busch and a chapter by Jennifer L. Mass, Ph.D., Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Cultural Heritage Science at the Bard Graduate Center. This influential scholarly work will significantly impact our understanding of this early American sculptural art form, serving as the authoritative text on American weathervanes for generations to come. Copies are available from the Museum Shop.
A series of free, virtual programs are planned in conjunction with the exhibition. They are presented as part of the Museum’s Virtual Insights series, which provides fresh perspectives on the Museum, its exhibitions, and its collection.
Weathervanes in Context (6/29/21)
In the Studio with Brooklyn Metal Works (7/13/21)
About the American Folk Art Museum
The American Folk Art Museum engages people of all backgrounds through its collections, exhibitions, publications, and programs as the leading forum shaping the understanding and appreciation of folk and self-taught art across time and place.
Major support for this exhibition is provided by Julie Lindberg, with additional support by Deborah Davenport and Stewart Stender, the David Davies and Jack Weeden Fund for Exhibitions, Michael Del Castello, the Stacy C. Hollander Fund for Exhibitions, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation, and the Council for Traditional Folk Art.