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A History of American Gun Culture

Today thousands of students across the country are walking out of their classrooms in a protest against gun violence. The 17-minute protests aim to pressure Congress to support gun control legislation in the wake of the 17 students who were massacred by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Gun Country, a current exhibition at the Addison Gallery of American Art, sheds light on the nation’s relationship with guns, one of the most controversial issues in American society. Curated from The Addison’s collection, the exhibition traces the representation of firearms in the United States from the Civil War through the present day. On view through July 31, 2018, the show examines “the historical underpinnings of the nation’s distinct fixation with guns and the ubiquity of firearms in America’s cultural landscape,” states the press release.

Gun Country is compiled of more than 40 works ranging from an albumen print by Timothy H. O’Sullivan taken during the Civil War; photographs documenting pivotal scenes of 1968, including the assassination of Bobby Kennedy; to contemporary works by artists Andy Warhol, Carroll Dunham, and others.

The exhibition is presented in the Museum Learning Center and is accompanied by a sound art installation created with Phillips Academy students called “Speaking of Guns.” The installation compiles excerpts that refer to guns in present-day music, poetry and news headlines. The excerpts were read and recorded in the class room, allowing student voices to fill the gallery with words that “reflect reactions to the national conversation about gun violence and gun culture,” explains the press release.

“The right to bear arms has been central to to the story of America since its founding with the national debate over gun control taking new turns in recent years,” said Judith F. Dolkart, The Mary Stripp and R. Crosby Kempter Director of the Addison Gallery of American art, in a statement. “We look to the Addison’s holdings and the space of the Museum Learning Center as platforms for engaging students and visitors in this broader dialogue.”

-Sarah Stacke

Addison Gallery of American Art Collection
Gun Country
March 10 – July 31, 2018
Phillips Academy
Andover, Massachusetts

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