Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection
This exhibition of photographs, presented in conjunction with the exhibition Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008, celebrates the people and places that make up Coney Island. Beginning in the 1860s, when advances in transportation made it possible for an increasing number of people to take day trips to the beach, and ending in the 1990s, when years of neighborhood decline raised questions about the resort’s future, Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection examines the evolving identities of this historic site.
The Brooklyn Museum has collected and exhibited photographs since the late nineteenth century. The earliest works, taken by photographers such as George Bradford Brainerd and Irving Underhill, document the changing New York landscape from the post–Civil War period through the turn of the twentieth century. These images capture both the crowds at Coney Island and the innovative architecture that once lined its streets. Later artists such as Harry Lapow and Stephen Salmieri have photographed the variety of personalities who have passed through this tourist destination.
As the works in this exhibition suggest, although it reached its peak during the first half of the twentieth century, Coney Island remains an indelible part of Brooklyn’s history and character.
August 1, 2015
New Exhibition Focuses on Area’s Indelible Impact on American Culture
The spirit of Coney Island will come alive in the fall when Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 opens at the Brooklyn Museum on November 20, 2015. The exhibition will trace the evolution of the Coney Island phenomenon from tourist destination during the Civil War to the World's Greatest Playground to a site of nostalgia. Covering a period of 150 years, the exhibition features 140 objects, including paintings, drawings, photographs, prints, posters, artifacts, carousel animals, ephemera, and film clips. Also on view will be Forever Coney, 42 photographs from the Brooklyn Museum collection.
An extraordinary array of artists have viewed Coney Island as a microcosm of the American experience and used their works to investigate the area as both a place and an idea. Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland offers up early depictions of "the people’s beach" by Impressionists William Merritt Chase and John Henry Twachtman; modernist depictions of the amusement park by Joseph Stella; Depression-era scenes of cheap thrills by Reginald Marsh; photographs by Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, Weegee, and Bruce Davidson; and contemporary works by Daze and Swoon.
"The modern American mass-culture industry was born at Coney Island, and the constant novelty of the resort made it a seductively liberating subject for artists," said Dr. Robin Jaffee Frank, exhibition curator. "What these artists saw from 1861 to 2008 at Coney Island, and the varied ways in which they chose to portray it, mirrored the aspirations and disappointments of the era and the country. Taken together, these tableaux of wonder and menace, hope and despair, dreams and nightmares become metaphors for the collective soul of a nation."
Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 is organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut. The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Connie H. Choi, Assistant Curator, Arts of the Americas and Europe, Brooklyn Museum.
A fully illustrated 304-page catalogue, co-published by Yale University Press and the Wadsworth Athenaeum, incorporates the first continuous visual analysis of great works of art about Coney Island by Dr. Frank as well as essays by distinguished cultural historians.
For more information about the exhibition or to visit the Museum, please visit www.brooklynmuseum.org.
Generous support for Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence, the Henry Luce Foundation, and The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Inc.
Additional support for the Brooklyn Museum presentation is provided by Ron and Barbara Cordover, Lizanne Fontaine and Bob Buckholz, the Norman and Arline Feinberg Exhibition Fund, and the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Exhibition Fund.
Forever Coney is made possible by the Eugénie Prendergast Fund for American Art, given by Jan and Warren Adelson.