Ranch Gates of the Southwest: Manifestations of Individualism

Flying W Ranch Gate, Photo by Daniel M. Olsen

Ranch Gates of the Southwest:
Manifestations of Individualism

Western Folklife Center
Wiegand Gallery

August 14 through
December 11, 2010

The ranch gate is one of the most recognizable cultural artifacts of Americana, representing the people and landscapes, history and folklore of the American West. As ranches are consolidated and ranching becomes industrialized, the number of ranches is dwindling and the handcrafted gate is becoming a thing of the past. Across the west, the ruins of derelict gates are the landscape equivalent of ghost towns, signs of once thriving places, now abandoned and left to the elements.

Ranch Gates of the Southwest
is a traveling exhibition produced by Texas Folklife Resources, with photographs by University of Texas design professor, Daniel Olsen and designer Henk Van Assen. The exhibition is based on their book, Ranch Gates of the Southwest: Manifestations of Individualism, published in 2009 by Trinity University Press and available in the Western Folklife Center Gift Shop for purchase (give us a call at 888-880-5885, extension 234).

The exhibit invites viewers to explore the resonant visual language and multiple meanings of these American icons. Like a cowboy’s ornate belt buckle, the gate signifies membership in a unique fraternity, and frames the entry into a ranch with a theatrical and ceremonial air. In a desolate, treeless landscape they are signs of human occupancy, a point of transition between the public domain of the road and the private, expansive grazing ground that supports the ranching way of life. Dwarfed by the immensity of the landscapes they inhabit, ranch gates are local monuments to the grand space of the American West.

Ranch Gates of the Southwest: Manifestations of Individualism was organized by Texas Folklife with support from the University of Texas at Austin, Design Division, Department of Art & Art History, and the College of Fine Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art, and a grant from the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division.

This exhibition and related programming was made possible through the generous support of the Nevada Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Union Pacific Foundation and individual contributions to the Western Folklife Center stakeholders and members.