If you have ever taken a road trip with your family, if you’ve read about Henry Ford’s assembly line, if thinking about your first car still makes you smile, if you’ve been to a drive-in movie, if you live in the suburbs or stay in motels, or get food at a drive-through window, then you’ll definitely relate to Life Is a Highway: Art and American Car Culture.
Now showing at the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA), it’s the first major U.S. exhibition to present a comprehensive overview of artists inspired by the countless ways – from transforming the landscape to embodying freedom, mobility, and ingenuity – that the automobile has affected the nation.
The TMA’s world-class collections include art by Rembrandt, van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso, but Life Is a Highway takes a decidedly picturesque detour by also incorporating a wide variety of pieces on loan from many other museums, galleries and institutions. The result is a tour de horsepower exhibit that spans the 20th century and showcases about 150 works by more than 80 artists.
For TMA visitors, Life Is a Highway is as enjoyable as a Sunday drive, delighting the eye with a diverse and colorful panorama of works in media that includes paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, film, prints and lithographs.
And just as different auto body styles – convertibles, coupes, hatchbacks, sedans, vans, town cars, hardtops and station wagons – have enchanted Americans, the exhibit likewise presents a rich palette of engaging genres that range from the detailed hyperrealism of Red Mercedes by Don Eddy to the dynamic modernism of Landscape with Garage Lights by Stuart Davis.
Although Life Is a Highway covers four galleries in the TMA’s magnificent neoclassic main building, the car culture show contains plenty of roadside and motoring elements – including signs, auto parts, advertisements and license plates – that keep the experience fun and familiar.
The exhibit even has a family-friendly “Car and Play” area where everyone can toy with designing and building cars and racing them down a track.
The TMA also is enhancing Life Is a Highway’s appeal with related programming such as hosting car shows and showing classic movies – think “Bullitt” and “American Graffiti” – that highlight the influence of cars in American culture.
Life is a Highway: Art and American Car Culture is on view through September 15, 2019 at the Toledo Museum of Art, 2445 Monroe St., Toledo, OH 43620. For more information, visit toledomuseum.org or telephone 418-255-8000.
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