Nowhere has felt the impact of the automobile as fully as the United States. It has shaped the American economy, landscape, urban and suburban spaces as well as popular culture to a degree unseen anywhere else. It was the first country to feel the benefits of mass ownership—and the first to have to confront the environmental consequences of an auto-based society, with its energy consuming commutes and social isolation.

The romance of the road, the transcontinental trip across the “big country” and its endless horizon, is emblematic of American culture with its enroute diners and filling stations. The storied road trip has been the subject of photographs, paintings, music and literary tracts from the 1930s New Deal era through the present. Here, we can view through the camera lens of Dorothea Lange, Marion Post Wolcott, O. Winston Link, as well as the paintings of Ed Ruscha and Robert Indiana. As a backdrop to the automobiles, we can experience the precision of a sculpture by Donald Judd and compare it with the crushed relics of the automobile in a work by John Chamberlain.

The range of vehicles contrasts the extravagant tail fins of a giant luxury Sedan with a typical muscle car next to a flamboyantly pained hot-rod and the stripped-down utility of a wartime jeep.