Passing Time: The Art of William Christenberry

June 30, 2006 — July 7, 2007

Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and G Streets, NW)


A painting of a white church in the woods

William Christenberry, Sprott Church, 1974–1975, wood, illustration board, paper, Plexiglas, paint, red soil, The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas

William Christenberry (b. 1936) looks for the spirit of Southern culture in the landscape and architecture of rural Alabama. Drawing upon his formal training, family traditions and a lasting relationship with his native home in Hale County, Christenberry has spent the last 50 years creating a remarkable body of work that is an exploration of all aspects of life and experience. This installation—not a retrospective, but a survey of past and present work, some seen here for the first time—includes more than 60 of Christenberry's photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures and building constructions. Though his work is inspired by the American South, Christenberry's overall themes are universal, touching on family, culture, nature and the spiritual. His artworks are poetic assessments of a sense of place, landscape, aging, memory and the passing of time. Christenberry, who teaches at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, selected the works included; the exhibition complements the adjoining installation of folk art, also selected by Christenberry, from the museum's permanent collection.


The accompanying catalogue "William Christenberry" is co-published by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Aperture Foundation. The catalog includes a foreword by Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and essays by Walter Hopps, Andy Grundberg and Howard N. Fox.


"Passing Time: The Art of William Christenberry" is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.