The Whitney Museum of American Art is proud to present Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, the first major exhibition to explore the art and legacy of Harry Smith. The exhibition will feature works by Smith, including paintings, drawings, films, photographs, books, records, textiles, and ephemera. The exhibition will also include rare archival materials from Smith's personal collection, such as his notebooks, correspondence, and occult paraphernalia. 

Harry Smith was a man of many talents and interests. He was an artist, experimental filmmaker, bohemian, mystic, record collector, hoarder, student of anthropology and a Neo-Gnostic bishop. He is best known as the compiler of the Anthology of American Folk Music (1952), which served as a catalyst and influential source for the folk revival of the 1960s.

The exhibition will showcase Smith's diverse and eclectic oeuvre, which reflects his lifelong fascination with esoteric spirituality, folk culture, alchemy, and cosmology. Some of the highlights include:

  • His groundbreaking animated films, such as Heaven and Earth Magic (1962), which used cut-out images from old catalogs and magazines to create a surreal and mystical narrative.
  • The artist’s rarely seen film Mahagonny (1970–80), which creates a portrait of urban America with a mesmerizing, hectic, and repetitive showcase of four films presented simultaneously while an original score from the Brecht-Weill opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1930) plays at high volume.

The exhibition is curated by artist Carl Bove and by Rani Singh, a leading authority on Harry Smith and the director of the Harry Smith Archives at the Getty Research Institute. Singh has been studying Smith's work for over 25 years and has published several books and articles on his life and art. She has also organized several screenings and exhibitions of Smith's films and paintings around the world. 

Fragments of a Faith Forgotten will offer a unique opportunity to discover the extraordinary creativity and vision of Harry Smith, one of the most influential and enigmatic figures in American culture. The exhibition will also explore how Smith's work resonates with contemporary artists and musicians who share his interest in spirituality, folklore, and experimentation. The exhibition will be on view at the Whitney Museum from October 4th 2023 to January 28th 2024. A member preview will be held from September 28th to October 2nd 2023.

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