This Spring two exhibitions featured art inspired by California highways: Route 66: The Road and The Romance at George Montgomery Gallery in Griffith Park and Katy Grannan's The 99 at the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.
Route 66 is perhaps the best known roadway in America. The legendary 2400 mile stretch has exceeded it's intended means for travel to becoming everything from an unspoken character in Kerouac's On the Road to name brand for the likes of KMART. Route 66 is rock and roll, blues, jazz and country. It winds through poverty and yet promises hope through the adventure of beginning a new start . Route 66 shares the Americana iconic ranks of baseball and apple pie. On display at The Autry are memorabilia from folk to fiction about America's favorite highway. .
Route 66: The Road and The Romance successfully crowd funded the remaining $66,000 (quite, clever) needed to complete the project. The exhibition delivers with 250 beautiful pieces of history go beyond bullet hole riddled signs dawning the moniker. (Although, those are great too!) On display are Woodie Guthrie's guitar an early Jackson Pollock and the original manuscript to Kerouac's On The Road.
Turning our focus north, In San Francisco, Katy Grannan sought inspiration on a different highway. The 99 is a series of portraits from subjects Grannan sought after along the dusty yet sometimes beautiful passageway Highway 99. A road frequented by those seeking an alternative drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Grannan's gritty portraiture of the disenfranchised from the area is now on display at the legendary Fraenkel Gallery. The exhibition focuses on the growing outsider culture comprised of a population affected by recent economic woes. The highway rolls through cities that once thrived from the influx of military bases and canning facilities and have recently been replaced by an influx of correctional facilites. Blocks are the new oranges (cell blocks, that is), as farming fields give way to large looming high security structures. Grannan's beautiful yet brutal portraits gives faces to a population that most folks, mainly the people living in the area, would rather we not see. ( See the protest that begins in the comments section of a CNN article on the exhibition.)
When looking for inspiration, it is not about finding the road less traveled but one that winds through our own backyards.
Route 66: The Road and The Romance
The Autry in Griffith Park: George Montgomery Gallery
June 8, 2014–January 4, 2015
Katy Grannan exhbition closed April 26th. Prints and books available through www.fraenkelgallery.com