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"Illusions of Eden: Visions of the American Heartland"
2000-02-18 until 2000-04-30
Columbus Museum of Art
Columbus, OH, USA United States of America

The character and values of the American Midwest have exerted a profound influence on the way the nation views itself. Illusions of Eden: Visions of the American Heartland, on view at the Columbus Museum of Art February 18 - April 30, 2000, brings four contemporary installations together with art from the 1920s through the 1940s to explore the cultural identity of the region. Including more than 100 paintings, photographs and four installations, the exhibition captures the complex spirit of a region that spans the heart of the nation.

The exhibition and its national tour are sponsored by Philip Morris Companies Inc.

Illusions of Eden is one component of The Heartland Project, a series of three traveling museum exhibitions and an interactive website that will evaluate the impact of culture on present-day life in two different, yet intertwined, regions of the world: the Central United States and Central Europe. Major support for The Heartland Project website is provided by Spike, Inc. and AT&T.

Often considered the most quintessentially American of the nation's regions, the Midwest was recognized as a distinct cultural and geographic entity in the early part of the 20th century. Artists in the 1920s who lived or worked in the Midwest were the first to visually interpret the region, creating images that remain icons of our society. Illusions of Eden features historical works that have seldom been viewed together, alongside innovative installations created by four contemporary artists with strong ties to the Midwest. Thus, Illusions of Eden places the accomplishments of past artists in a contemporary context. The exhibition is structured around five essential motifs of American and Midwestern culture: journey (history, time, transition, travel); garden (the earth, topography, nature); home (the family, society, culture); word (myth, memory, belief); and work (labor and the creation of goods).

Our participation in this exhibition continues our long commitment to the study of American art and to the organization of exhibitions for international audiences, explained Irvin M. Lippman, executive director of the Columbus Museum of Art. With Illusions of Eden, we are able to present a unique perspective on the art of the Midwest. We are proud to organize this project with our sister institutions to aid in understanding the cultural milestones of our countries.

Twenty-seven painters from the first half of the 20th century will be represented, including Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Charles Burchfield, Aaron Bohrod, Clarence Carter, Archibald Motley and Marvin Cone. Photographers include Margaret Bourke-White, Russell Lee, Wright Morris and Charles Sheeler. Works by these artists relate to the journey motif. The contemporary component of the exhibition is composed of newly commissioned work by Malcolm Cochran (work), Maya Lin (garden), Mary Lucier (word) and Kerry James Marshall (home).

Illusions of Eden showcases works that capture the unique character and spirit of a region central to the economic and cultural development of the United States, said Stephanie French, vice president, corporate contributions for Philip Morris Companies Inc. Philip Morris is proud to continue its more than 40-year commitment to the arts by sponsoring this exhibition and its national tour. Our company's ties to the heartland are particularly strong, with two of our five operating companies - Kraft Foods, Inc. and Miller Brewing Company - headquartered in the Midwest. We are therefore pleased to be working with the Ohio Arts Council, Arts Midwest and the Columbus Museum of Art to share these uniquely American works, both traditional and contemporary, with audiences around the country.

Illusions of Eden was organized by a team of curators led by Robert Stearns, senior program director, Arts Midwest; Columbus Museum of Art curators Nannette Maciejunes, senior curator; Annegreth Nill, curator of 20th century and contemporary art; Catherine Evans, curator of photography; Michael D. Hall, independent critic and artist; and Karal Ann Marling, professor of art history, University of Minnesota.

From Columbus, the show travels to the Museum of Modern Art/Ludwig Foundation Vienna, Austria (June 1 through August 15, 2000); the Ludwig Museum/Museum of Contemporary Art in Budapest, Hungary (September 21 through November 26, 2000); the Madison Art Center, Madison, Wisconsin (February 24 through May 13, 2001); and the Washington Pavilion of Arts & Science, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (June through August 2001). Additional U.S. venues are under consideration.

Illusions of Eden: Visions of the American Heartland is produced by Arts Midwest and the Ohio Arts Council's International Program in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art. Additional financial support is provided by The Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, the Ohio Arts Foundation, Inc., and state arts council partners the Illinois Arts Council, the South Dakota Arts Council and the Wisconsin Arts Board. Financial and facilitative assistance is provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State. Special commissioning support is provided by Loann W. Crane. Illusions of Eden is endorsed by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and its European tour is designated an official Millennium event of the White House Millennium Council.

A full-color catalog in English, Hungarian and German accompanies Illusions of Eden. In addition, a key component of the exhibition will be an interactive website including images, as well as historical, cultural and educational information about the exhibition and the Midwest.

The Heartland Project Components of The Heartland Project are:

Aspects/Positions: Fifty Years of Art in Central Europe, 1949-99, assembled by the Museum of Modern Art/Ludwig Foundation Vienna, Austria. Opening in Vienna, December 17, 1999 at the Museum of Modern Art/Ludwig Foundation Vienna, Austria. Touring Europe and the United States through 2001. Venues to be announced.
Illusions of Eden: Visions of the American Heartland organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio. Opening February 18, 2000, at the Columbus Museum of Art. For tour information see itinerary on page 2.
Into the Light: New Images of Central Europe and the Midwest. Opening late 2001.
The Heartland Project website, www.heartlandproject.org, created by Spike, Inc. Online as of January 17, 2000.


The Columbus Museum of Art, located at 480 E. Broad Street, is an educational and cultural center for the people of central Ohio, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in art through education, collections and exhibitions. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 pm, and until 8:30 pm every Thursday. For additional information, call the museum's 24-hour information line at (614) 221-4848 or visit www.columbusart.mus.oh.us.

Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest enables individuals and families throughout America's heartland to share in and to enjoy the arts and cultures of the region and the world. Its partners and investors include the National Endowment for the Arts, its nine member state arts agencies, foundations, corporations and individual supporters.

The Ohio Arts Council, a state agency established in 1965, builds the state through the arts-economically, educationally and culturally-preserving the past, enhancing the present and enriching the future for all Ohioans. With funds from the Ohio Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Council provides financial assistance to artists and arts organizations. Working in concert with national corporations, philanthropic and arts organizations, the Ohio Arts Council's International Program is recognized as a leader in cultural arts exchanges among state arts agencies. The International Program is designed to foster long-term involvement in cultural exchanges. The program offers grants to Ohio non-profit educational, cultural and arts organizations to support exemplary international arts projects and innovative partnerships to increase access to activities that promote interaction among artists in Ohio and abroad.

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