Gene Autry Museum of the West ~ Exhibits '22
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
[The following is based on a visit to the Autry, the night of Friday August 19th, 2022.]
Having never been to the Autry before, despite working literally around the corner of it - I came in with no expectations.
While at Odd Nights at the Autry, they opened up the ground floor exhibits (to be clear, some, not all) to those attending the every-third-Friday of the month during the summer event.
This made the $5 cover that much more of a bargain - not only being able to enjoy Odd Nights, but have an open and inviting walk-through of the Autry (typically a $14 cover otherwise).
The Autry is as you would expect for a very California, very South-West American, museum. It is boxy, yet airy, with large angular lines. The tiling and color is earthy - inviting and tangible.
What fascinated me before is that the Autry was indelibly affixed, initially, to the life and nostalgia of the 'high' Old West. Gene Autry was, after all, America's 'Singing Cowboy'. He likewise led a life that combined a stint in the Army Air Corps in WWII, the Old West, Hollywood, Radio - all in all, what we would consider very American post-War and mid-century.
However, the Museum was established not only of the angled, romanticized view of the Old West and the Cowboy, but Autry envisioned it honoring the Native American. There was parity in this view, and the Museum has this respect and sometimes duality of these natures.
By example, the current exhibit, encompassing several halls is Dress Codes. The posit of this exhibit is how culture, identity, and South-Western ideals have been wrapped around it. By the catalog, "...[it] deciphers some of the most enduring icons of Western style to reveal the many messages, values, and aspirations threaded through our clothes."
One exhibit focuses on Denim and how the Western 'blue jean' became a symbol of the work person, of counter culture, of rock-and-roll. Another focuses on the Hawaiian sensibilities - typified by its short-sleeved men's shirt, or the traditional cut dress. Old West artifacts display a combination of over a hundred year old leather jackets, most hanging with fringe. Lastly, one colorful exhibit explores the Mexican china poblano - it's history and how the look is enfused in Mexican dress.
All quite beautiful and the displays very open, yet allowing one to focus. I appreciated all of it, but the ability to look very closely at the craftsmanship in the early Hawaiian shirts recalled some of my father's in his lifetime - similar to the dresses that my mother would wear.
The china poblano's history was unknown to me, so seeing this pre-modern dress as a counter culture to impending deluge of Western culture was eye-opening. Also, didn't know about the traditional music of Ángela Aguilar (only exposed to her more recent pop hits) - so now she is in rotation.
The Autry (happily) continues to have some of the 'high' Old West art and artifacts that harken back to a different time - it's heartening to see a thoughtful mix of nostalgia and the current embued through out.
The Autry is adjacent to both Griffith Park and the Los Angeles Zoo - so one should see how a quick visit can be incorporated to another LA-centric packed day. Recommend to plan your visit mid-day when you may need a break from the heat.
POST-SCRIPT: the Museum Store was not open on my visit - c'est dommage! But I did capture some photos that give you a sense of what lay beyond. Sigh!