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Primetime Artists
January 6, 2006

Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii by Nam June Paik

Nam June Paik, Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, 1995, 49-channel closed circuit video installation, neon, steel and electronic components, approx. 15 x 40 x 4 ft., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 2002.23

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I TiVoed Imagining America: Icons of 20th-Century American Art but didn’t have the time to sit down and watch it before I set off for a vacation in Texas. (And may I say, there’s no better place to kick off the new year than in Austin. Wearing sandals right now; will be swimming in Barton Springs shortly after lunch.)

Judging by Roberta Smith’s writeup of Imagining America in the New York Times, it’s tame but worth the while. The archival video footage earns special praise, with interviews and clips of Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marshall McLuhan, Lee Krasner, and Willem de Kooning, among others. Her complaints about the movie seem to be that the big umbrella themes included by the film’s writers, John Carlin and art historian Jonathan Feinberg, are too safe, and that controversial biographical elements that inform several artists’ work are left on the editing-room floor.

I’m curious to see if Imagining America gives a fair shake to photography as a major 20th century art form, and if women artists are well represented. If not, I vote for giving the Guerrilla Girls two hours and a budget to buck the canon.

Posted by Kriston on January 6, 2006 in American Art Everywhere


It is worthwhile to note that when the Smithsonian American Art Museum opens July 1, 2006, we will have a large photo exhibition on the first floor, "We the People." The first floor of the museum tells the American story. To learn more about photography at SAAM search our online database.

I caught "Imagining America" while I was at that conference in D.C. Didn't seem too shabby but the attempt to hammer home significance through a hammer-fisted dramatic soundtrack made me think of Wagner for deaf people.

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