Ranch Gates of the Southwest: Manifestations of Individualism


  • Henk Van Assen and Daniel M. Olsen, "MM", Highway 163/191, North of Moab, 2009.

Tailored to The Printing Museum’s space and mission, “Ranch Gates of the Southwest: Manifestations of Individualism” features select photographs by Daniel M. Olsen and Henk Van Assen that highlight the letter forms and typography of ranch gates, while also emphasizing their cultural significance toward a changing American identity. The exhibition—developed and produced by Van Assen, Olsen, and Texas Folklife curator Nancy Bless—is based on a related book by Van Assen and Olsen published in April 2009 by Trinity University Press in San Antonio.

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. Standing out, often in a treeless landscape, ranch gates are pragmatic and ornamental, workaday and symbolic, modest and monumental, private expressions with a public face. They are also a physical manifestation of the individualism associated with the American southwest. As a visual language, the naming and claiming of the territory that lies beyond the gate’s arch offers a variety of typographic, conceptual and sculptural possibilities.

The text contained in the exhibition will offer a critical look at these artifacts and will address issues ranging from cultural aspects of rural life, to writings that rethink design issues through analysis of these vernacular forms. The exhibit will invite viewers to explore the resonant visual language and multiple meanings of these American icons.

This exhibition is taking place in conjunction with the FotoFest 2014 Biennial: The Fifteenth International Biennial of Photography and Photo-related Art, March 15 – April 27, 2014, Houston, Texas.