Jan 20, 2023 — Aug 20, 2023

Envisioning the South is an in-depth look at Roger Houston Ogden’s evolution as an art collector. Running the gamut from representational art works to non-objective abstraction and photography his collection and namesake museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, have largely set the agenda in terms of how Southern aesthetics are understood and discussed in art history.

It seems impossible to describe or understand the idea of a Southern aesthetic. Yet a specific and recognizably Southern oeuvre exists within the American art historical canon. The variety of voices emanating from within the South, as well as those commentating from outside lend credence to the existence of a Southern visual idiom. This implied and literal dialog is ongoing and the reason Envisioning the South: The Roger Houston Ogden Collection was undertaken.

The word envisioning refers to Roger Ogden’s prescient and unending desire to document the history and culture of the South via visual arts. However, this process is intellectually fraught and cannot be achieved without debate. While Roger Ogden cannot be said to have the final say as to what Southern art is or should be, his world-class collection has defined the structure most would use within the discursive space of Southern aesthetics. Ogden’s collection reflects his personal connection to the South as well as his interest in supporting the evolving landscape of Southern art. As a result, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Hilliard Art Museum by proxy, is a forum for the discussion of Southern visual aesthetics and art history.

Founded on the simple premise that the collection should include art created by Southerners, those working in the South, or work about the South, these simple parameters bely the complexities that immediately become apparent when Ogden’s collection is used to say something definitive about the South. Yes, Spanish moss or clouds that rise above an expansive delta like meringue on a pie are obviously Southern landscape features, but what do they say about the South? Asking that question is where things like sentimentality or broadly accepted tropes can be transformed into profound statements about what Southern culture is. 

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