Brooklyn Rail & Washington Post: Many Wests

Brooklyn Rail Review

“Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea”


“Many Wests is an exhibition focused on what gets left out of stories traditionally told about the American West. Visions of Anglo-Americans bravely settling the landscape originate, as we learn from the exhibition’s didactic material, with the US government’s policy of unhalted territorial expansion beginning at the end of the seventeenth century. Organized by a team of curators—Amy Chaloupka at the Whatcom Museum, Meanie Fales at the Boise Art Museum, Anne Hyland at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Danielle Knapp at the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schniter Museum of Art, E. Carmen Ramos, currently Chief Curator at the National Gallery of Art, and Whitney Tassie at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts—Many Wests showcases forty-eight modern and contemporary (mostly Indigenous, Latinx, Black, or Asian American) artists. These diverse curatorial and artistic voices work together to show, as the Utah Museum of Fine Arts put it in the promotional materials for their version of the show earlier this year, “how the West wasn’t one.”

…The exhibition awards considerable space to Latinx experiences. Among the most compelling works is photographer Christina Fernández’s María’s Great Expedition (1995–96), in which Fernández embodies the character of her grandmother in order to narrate Chicanx stories through photographs and explanatory text. Ken Gonzales-Day’s devastating Erased Lynchings (2006), part of a larger series the artist developed between 2002 and 2017, features a grid of fifteen appropriated souvenir cards from extrajudicial murders in California between 1850 and 1935, the brutalized bodies of the victims removed from the images. Gonzalez-Day’s series focuses on violence perpetrated against Latinx, Native American, and Asian American individuals through a mode of racial terrorism most Americans associate only with African American targets. Asian American trauma receives direct attention in the works of Japanese American artists Wendy Maruyama and Roger Shimomura, who both pay homage to the 13,000 people unjustly interned at Minidoka Relocation Center between 1942 and 1945. Maruyama’s work functions as a kind of anti-monument, fashioned from the reconstructed identification tags of incarcerated people, while Shimomura contributes a painting of the camp in the style of a fourteenth- or fifteenth-century Japanese byobu screen. These works bear haunting witness to lives previously rendered forgettable.”

To read the full essay visit The Brookyn Rail

Washington Post Review
“Many Wests: Art show spotlights the forgotten tales of the American West”


Mark Jenkins,


“The American West is vast enough to contain innumerable stories. Yet for generations, American movies, books and paintings have told relatively few of those tales, almost always centered on people of European descent. The Smithsonian American Art Museum takes a significantly broader view in “Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea,” an exhibition organized in collaboration with four regional museums that are west of the Rockies. The show contains the work of 48 modern and contemporary artists, most of whom identify as Asian American, Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ+ or Latinx…

…Not all the participants are new to the museum, or at least to the building it shares with the National Portrait Gallery. A portrait of Polly Bemis, a renowned Chinese-born Idaho business executive depicted in a swirl of flowers and Mandarin ducks, was painted by Hung Liu; the Chinese American artist was the subject of a 2021 Portrait Gallery retrospective that opened just a few weeks after her death. Ken Gonzales-Day digitally alters photographs of vigilante violence — mostly lynchings — to remove the bodies of Native American, Asian American and Latinx victims; some pictures from this series were shown at the Portrait Gallery in 2018.

To read full review in the Washington Post