Americana Art & Culture

Celebrating Momentous Eras in U.S. History

This month, coinciding with the 241st anniversary of America’s independence, we highlight museum shows that celebrate various aspects of the country’s history and culture. Exhibitions that honor the first African-American player in Major League Baseball, reveal never-before-seen World War I posters, and showcase colorful DIY fashion of the 1960s each capture a unique and fascinating period in the U.S.

Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture at the Museum of Arts & Design
Accompanying the political and social upheavals of the 1960s was the groundbreaking fashion of the era. Members of the counterculture (the hippie movement) embraced the ideals of self-sufficiency and self-expression while rejecting the consumerism and conformism of the previous decade, resulting in a fresh, new, do-it-yourself approach to clothes. Counter-Couture: Handmade Fashion in an American Counterculture at the Museum of Arts & Design celebrates the homemade styles of the ’60s and ’70s with the handiwork of over two dozen individuals. The show is divided into five sections: Funk & Flash, Levi’s Denim Art Contest, Couture, Performance, and Psychedelic Style. On display are colorful garments and accessories incorporating embroidery, quilting, patch-work, and tie-dye, among other techniques. One of the most notable ensembles in the show is a vibrant skirt and top embroidered on prison bedsheets by Mary Ann Schildknecht while serving a two-year sentence in an Italian jail for smuggling hashish. (Through 8/20, Two Columbus Circle)


Until Everyone Has It Made: Jackie Robinson’s Legacy at the Brooklyn Historical Society
Seventy years ago, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base in a home game against the Boston Braves. To commemorate both this seminal moment in sports history and the career of one of baseball’s most courageous and cherished players, Brooklyn Historical Society has mounted the yearlong exhibit Until Everyone Has It Made: Jackie Robinson’s Legacy, featuring archival materials, photography, programs, and other memorabilia. Along with artifacts such as a 1955 World Series championship banner, signed baseballs, third base from Ebbets Field, and a letter from John F. Kennedy to Robinson, there are rare home movies and a look into the latter’s formative years as well as his post-career efforts to improve the lives of African Americans through speaking tours and business ventures. (Through 6/2018, 128 Pierrepont St.)


Posters and Patriotism: Selling World War I at the Museum of the City of New York
Arguably the most famous poster in the world, I Want YOU for U.S. Army by James Montgomery Flagg is an example of the art on display at the exhibition Posters and Patriotism: Selling World War I at the Museum of the City of New York. Like many of his fellow New York artists, Flagg was enlisted by the federal government’s then-new Division of Pictorial Publicity to create posters, flyers, magazine art, and sheet music covers to spur the public into supporting the war. Most of the 60 posters on view, from the collection donated by railroad executive and financier John W. Campbell, have never before been exhibited. Far from simply inspiring the desire to enlist, these works also reflect themes that resonate today, including ethnic and racial loyalty, freedom of the press, and fears surrounding immigration. Also included in the show is the work of the era’s more rebellious artists, whose illustrations appeared in publications such as The Masses, The Fatherland, and Mother Earth. (Through 10/9, 1220 Fifth Ave.)