No Mountains in the Way

February 26, 2016 – July 31, 2016

Flint Hills, Marion County, from the Kansas Documentary Survey Project, 1974, Larry W. Schwarm

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and G Streets, NW
Washington, DC

2nd Floor, South, Graphic Arts Galleries Floor Plan

In the 1970s, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) conceived a series of photo survey projects, inspired by the epic documentary photography program undertaken by the federal government in the 1930s and 1940s.

From 1935 to 1944, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) under leader Roy Stryker sent some of the era’s most talented photographers on a mission to capture rural poverty during the Great Depression. Now iconic images depicting the hard times of this historic moment in the United States—Gordon Parks’ American Gothic, Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Walker Evans’ prints of the Burroughs family—were produced through this program.

Forty years later, No Mountains in the Way remains an important document of American photography. It is the record of a particular American place. It is also the record of a time when NEA support shaped a generation of photographers, whose surveys combined into a national portrait. The installation of 63 vintage prints from this survey of 120 photographs, are all works from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s permanent collection.