NPR logo American West

Daily Picture Show

American West

A new exhibition will be previewed Wednesday at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Into the Sunset: Photography's Image of the American West celebrates the complex mythology of the American frontier.

For full screen, click on the four-cornered arrow icon in the viewer's bottom right.

These images take us through the years; through the varying mythologies of the West; through technological innovations; through themes and artistic movements. From traditional landscapes to the open road, cowboys, littered wastelands and natural disasters, both photography and the American West have come of age together. This is not only an examination of American culture, but also a crash-course in American photography.

Many of the great pioneers — perhaps not of the frontier, but of the darkroom — are represented in this collection. With his monolithic camera, Darius Kinsey captures the promise of American bounty as frontier men chop down trees in 1860 Oregon. Dorothea Lange portrays the failed promise of Western expansion with her famous Depression-era black-and-whites. And the kings of color, Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld, photograph road signs, suburbanites and the products of industrialization. With dry humor these artists document the legacy of modernization that has left the West deserted yet again.

The exhibition will run March 29-June 8, 2009. Take a look at these images, and travel into the sunset.