To reach the permanent collection at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, visitors must first walk through a long corridor. It’s likely some visitors will breeze right through, heads immersed in the museum map. Maybe they’re on a mission to see the iconic Frederic Remington sculptures. You know the ones: a saddled-up cowboy, whip held high, holding tight to the reins of a bucking bronco.
But a slow-moving, observant viewer will pause to see “Double Vision,” an exhibition by Stephanie Syjuco, on display through Dec. 31. In it, Syjuco reframes famous works from the collection, including the Remington sculptures, to explore the ways in which artists helped create the West of the American imagination.
When Syjuco was commissioned to create a work for the museum, the invitation was simple: Come spend time with the art and respond to it in some way. For Syjuco, the response was easy.
“So much of the artwork in the collection helped in the construction of these narratives of Western expansion,” Syjuco says from her home in Oakland, Calif. “I wanted to create a display of these artworks from this time, which are really stories from that time that didn’t necessarily reflect the realities of those landscapes.”
She pulled together works that contained themes of “Manifest Destiny,” the 19th century idea that the United States was ordained by God to expand its democratic ideas across North America. She enlarged two chromolithographs by Albert Bierstadt with picturesque interpretations of the Western landscape to become the wallpaper for the corridor, and she created large theatrical curtains to serve as an endcap.
On one wall, she placed a series of prints, titled “Manhandled,” which contain various hands found in paintings throughout the collection. On the other, she’s hung photographs of museum staff caring for the Remington statues.
“I have a real deep respect for museums and collections and the people who care for them,” Syjuco says. “We tend to think of these works as historical objects, but they are cared for and curated by people very much in the present.”
This exhibition comes at a time when museums are trying to maintain relevance by recontextualizing works from the past. At the Kimbell Art Museum, just a few hundred yards away, visitors are invited to reconsider Judith and Holofernes, a 17th century work by Artemisia Gentileschi, by placing it side by side with a contemporary interpretation of the same ancient story by painter Kehinde Wiley.
In much the same way, the Filipino American artist is asking viewers to look twice at these works in the Amon Carter Museum’s permanent collection and reconsider the various layers of context.
“When we’re in a museum, we look at artworks in a very isolated way,” Syjuco says. “And sometimes when we are looking at an artwork we recognize, it’s so familiar we don’t even look at it in a real way.”
In this case, placing the artwork in the transient space of a hallway, which asks a viewer to pay closer attention, is exactly the point.
Stephanie Syjuco’s “Double Vision” runs through Dec. 31 at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Free. cartermuseum.org.