Los Angeles, CA (Updated March 22, 2011) — The fantasies and realities of flight and space exploration, as depicted through art and photography in the West and around the world, go on display in the Autry National Center’s new Skydreamers exhibition, April 29 through September 4, 2011. The great journey of discovery and its unifying impact on all of us as eyewitnesses will unfold 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.

“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 will showcase 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.

Once airplanes appeared on the horizon, artists were attracted to the shapes, forms, and perspectives aviation offered. Photography became the preferred medium of such artists as Alfred Stieglitz, Margaret Bourke-White, and abstract photographer Aaron Siskind. As flyers forged new frontiers in their strange contraptions, photographers and moviemakers were there with their own odd machines, capturing goggled faces and triumphant smiles. A century of development in both photography and space exploration has led to digital applications that allow contemporary artists, such as Sharon Harper, Michael Light, David Malin, Michel Benson, Jennie Okun, and Robert Weingarten, to reinterpret space.

“We are excited to present this exhibition, which provides a unique view of the Earth from above. The American West has long been a place where people have felt the freedom to explore unique points of views — whether in fashion, music, lifestyle, or artistic expression — and to display works by people who literally rose to the top of the world for a different perspective embodies that imaginative spirit of the American West,” said Daniel Finley, Autry President and CEO.

The fascination with aerial pursuits led to the popularization of aviation heroes in song, stamps, postcards, and many other forms of mass media. Films were made about flight. Books for children, such as Captain Wilbur Lawton’s The Boy Aviator’s Polar Dash, featured heroes who used aviation to solve mysteries or travel the world. Air meets and competitions drew enormous crowds. Thomas Baldwin, daredevil trapeze artist, captivated crowds by being the first to parachute from a balloon in 1885. Imagery of California’s contributions will be recognized with the first balloon ascension in California around 1871, and the first aviation meet in America, held at Dominguez Hills near Los Angeles in January 1910. Photos from various other air meets will also be included.

About the Autry National Center

The Autry National Center, formed in 2003 by the merger of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage with the Southwest Museum of the American Indian and the Women of the West Museum, is an intercultural history center dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West. Located in Griffith Park, the Autry’s collection of over 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts, which includes the collection of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, is one of the largest and most significant in the United States. The Autry Institute includes two research libraries: the Braun Research Library and the Autry Library. Exhibitions, public programs, K–12 educational services, and publications are designed to examine the contemporary human condition through lens of the historical Western experience and explore critical issues in society.

Weekday hours of operation for the Autry National Center’s museum at its Griffith Park location are Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Autry Store’s weekday hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and the cafe is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday hours for the museum and the Autry Store are 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The museum, the Autry Store, and the cafe are closed on Mondays. The libraries are open to researchers by appointment.

Museum admission is $10 for adults, $6 for students and seniors 60+, $4 for children ages 3–12, and free for Autry members, veterans, and children age 2 and under. Admission is free on the second Tuesday of every month. Autry National Center is located at 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA 90027; 323.667.2000,