American Dreams: Classic Cars and Postwar Paintings

February 14, 2019 to May 19, 2019

Organized by the McNay, American Dreams: Classic Cars and Postwar Paintings explores the ingenuity and innovation of postwar America. This period, known as America’s Golden Age, witnessed the explosion of Abstract Expressionism, Pop art, and Op art; the mass production of automobiles; and increased wealth and consumerism. The exhibition presents 10 classic cars as modern sculpture, alongside paintings from the McNay’s collection and select loans.

Characterized by exaggerated tailfins, wraparound windshields, and generous chrome detail, these classics of the 1950s and 1960s were called dream cars. From a rare 1948 Tucker Torpedo—one of only 51 Tuckers ever made—to the beloved 1963 Chevrolet Corvette, a pinnacle of vintage ’Vette design, many of the cars on view pushed design boundaries through expansive volume, nontraditional color combinations, and highly styled flourishes. Additional highlights include a 1957 Pontiac Star Chief convertible with missile-shaped side trim, and a 1956 DeSoto Firedome sporting factory colors of pink and iridescent plum. Classics restored to factory-correct interiors and exteriors are joined by several restoration-modification (“resto-mod”) cars, most notably the Spurs Camaro restored and generously lent by Larry Mills, Executive Vice President, Holt Companies, San Antonio.

Abstract paintings from the McNay’s collection include strong representation of women artists, including Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Dorothy Hood, and Joan Mitchell, alongside their male contemporaries Sandu Darie, Friedel Dzubas, Hans Hofmann, Ralph Humphrey, George McNeil, Larry Rivers, Theodoros Stamos, and Frank Stella. Pop pictures by Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Ed Ruscha—some on loan for the exhibition—illustrate the movement. Op paintings include a striking oil by Edna Andrade, a monumental work by Larry Poons, and a pulsating acrylic painting by Julian Stanczak. Together, these artworks represent key developments in American art just after World War II and through the 1970s.


American Dreams: Classic Cars and Postwar Paintings is organized by the McNay’s Head of Curatorial Affairs, René Paul Barilleaux; Head of Education, Kate Carey; and Assistant Curator Jackie Edwards.


From top:

Tucker Torpedo, 1948. The Richard L. Burdick Collection. Photo by Trent Sherrill.


Edna Andrade, Space Frame C, 1965. Oil on canvas. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters through the Childe Hassam Fund, 1968.13.

© Estate of Edna Andrade


Friedel Dzubas, Untitled, 1959. Oil on canvas. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Museum purchase with the Ralph A. Anderson Jr. Memorial Fund, 2006.74.


Robert Indiana, The Metamorphosis of Norma Jean Mortenson, 1967. Oil on canvas. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin, 1999.94.

© Morgan Art Foundation/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York