New Exhibition Highlights through Art and Photography the History and Impact of Aviation

The fantasies and realities of flight and space exploration, as depicted through art and photography in the West and around the world, went on display in the Autry National Center’s new Skydreamers exhibition. The great journey of discovery and its unifying impact on all of us as eyewitnesses unfolds through approximately 150 items, principally original high-quality photographs, as well as works on paper, paintings, posters, and memorabilia drawn primarily from the extensive collection of flight and space material in the Stephen White collection.

Balloon ascension, Ferndale, California Unknown photographer, 1871 albumen print From the collection of Stephen White

“When the Autry agreed to showcase Skydreamers, I envisioned an exhibition that traced the beginnings of flight through the aviation period and into an exploration of the greater universe, but as the selection process evolved and the sections began to sort themselves out through the works, more complex issues evolved. These issues went far beyond the original intent of the exhibition,” said Stephen White, exhibition originator and curator. With the tremendous amount of works to choose from in the Stephen White collection, the exhibition has been moved to the Autry’s larger George Montgomery Gallery and now includes a 1947 photograph of the interior of Howard Hughes’s “Spruce Goose” aircraft while under construction, as well as a circa 1900 10-image sequence of a balloon ascension in Paris, France.

Artistic works in Skydreamers showcases the inception of human flight in the early 1780s when the Montgolfier Brothers captured the popular imagination with their development of a balloon that would ascend over the city of Paris. In addition to spawning artistic renditions of the event, a balloon craze seized Paris. Balloon hats, dresses, furniture, and other items became the rage.

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