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Rocket Age Exhibition Opens at Lisanby Museum

Rocket Age: The American Spirit in Art, 1950-1980

by Mary-Hope Vass


This spring, the Lisanby Museum at James Madison University hosts Rocket Age: The American Spirit in Art, 1950-1980 from Jan. 21-April 19. Featuring works from the Madison Art Collection, JMU’s permanent art collection, this exhibition continues the university’s involvement in American Evolution 2019, a statewide initiative commemorating the 400th anniversary of events in Virginia that continue to define America. A celebration of the diversity and cultural impact of American artists, Rocket Age examines how postwar events impacted modern art, and how artists used their creativity to influencemodern American culture.

For hundreds of years following the arrival of the first Europeans, American art was heavily influenced by European artistic styles and trends. Political change ushered in a new era of American art following the global upheaval caused by World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945). As America became a world power, the migration of significant European artists transformed New York City into the world’s artistic capital. American artists were no longer simply responding to artistic trends of Europe; they were actively shaping the development of modern art. This exhibition features works from 1950 to the end of the 1980s, exploring not only the works of important American artists, but also how these artists responded to and helped to shape the common culture of our nation during decades of immense change.

The exhibition is organized into four sections corresponding to different decades. Each section explores socio-political changes as well as artistic movements of the decade, while featuring works that exemplify the zeitgeist. In keeping with the Madison Art Collection’s mission to foster an informed appreciation of the rich diversity of the human experience, visitors will encounter drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures, and ceramics. Works within the exhibition include those by familiar names such as Andy Warhol, Elliott Rewet, and Robert Rauschenberg, as well as fascinating works by Dorothy Gillespie and Toshiko Takes,
among others.


January 24: Opening Reception and Curator’s Tour, 3-5 p.m.

February 21: Coffee and Conversation, 2-3 p.m.

March 21: Coffee and Conversation, 2-3 p.m.

April 18: Coffee and Conversation, 2-3 p.m.

Coffee and Conversation: Meaningful, interdisciplinary dialogues on questions of diversity, ethics, and art led by JMU faculty members. Using works of art as anchors for discussion, visitors will actively engage with scholars in various fields of study and become interpreters of artwork. 

The exhibition and all associated events are free and open to the public. Visit Lisanby Museum online at or on social media ( or @LisanbyMuseum) for updates.


The James and Gladys Kemp Lisanby Museum presents dynamic, high-quality exhibitions featuring works of art from the Madison Art Collection. Serving both the university population as well as that of the surrounding community, the Lisanby is dedicated to celebrating diversity, scholarship, and the pursuit of knowledge


Festival Conference and Student Center, 1301 Carrier Drive, Harrisonburg, VA 

Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Media Contact: Jen Kulju, College of Visual and Performing Arts,


Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2019

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