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On the Road Again

No, despite popular demand, the IMA is not having a Willie Nelson retrospective. What can I say…write your congressman. Maybe next year. Thursday, June 26th is the opening of On The Road Again With Jack Kerouac and Robert Frank.

I’ve had the pleasure to work on the team designing this exhibition and we’re all really excited for next week’s opening. How can you go wrong? Kerouac’s original scroll for On The Road, surrounded by Frank’s series The Americans.

Most of you probably read On The Road in either high school or college. I read it after reading an interview with Bob Dylan, who said that it changed his life. Its crazy, I’ve come across quite a few things in that way. Dylan says he likes it, I check it out. I first became aware of Frank in a modern art class that I took in college.

For those of you not familiar with either works, here’s the backstory:

In 1951, at a friend’s house, Kerouac sat down and started typing On The Road using sheets of teletype paper which he taped together to feed through his typewriter. 20 days and 6,000 words later he had the entire manuscript on eight, fifteeen-foot rolls of paper. The text is single-spaced, without paragraphs, and edited in pencil. Can you imagine creating one of the 20th-centuries most influential novels in 20 days of marathon typing? One word: Coffee. In the gallery you’ll be able to see the first 84 feet of the scroll until August 10th, at which time the other 35 feet will be unrolled.

In 1955, Robert Frank started out from New York to observe and photograph the United States. He traveled the country for two years taking 28,000 photos. What he came back with was black and white depictions of anything but the 1950s American utopia we’ve all come accustomed to seeing in pop culture. Ironically, Frank had trouble securing an American publisher so the book of photographs was originally published in France as Les Américains. In the gallery, you’ll see the 83 photographs Frank chose, arranged in the order of the book.

What I think is going to be a great feature of this exhibition is the educational space. Here you’ll get the chance to sample a real underwood typewriter, just like the one Kerouac used. You’ll see a first edition of On The Road and get to have a seat and view some great documentary footage and interviews, including Kerouac on a 1959 Steve Allen Show, reading from On The Road.

The exhibition opens next Thursday, June 26th. Be here for the opening celebration at 7pm for a concert with David Amram who was a lifelong collaborator of Kerouac’s. The two collaborated on jazz and poetry readings in New York’s Greenwich Village and on many other projects including the film Pull My Daisy from 1959. (written and narrated by Kerouac and directed by Frank). The museum is having a Robert Frank film marathon Sunday, August 17 which includes Pull My Daisy. Grab a new Art For You for more info. It should be a fun time. And it’s all free! So really, what’s stopping you? Come by and let me know what you think.

Filed under: Exhibitions

6 Responses to “On the Road Again”

  • avatar

    Dear Matthew

    thankyou for your nice mention in the fine artice you wrote about upcomng Thursday night openng concert for Kerouac/Robert Frank event at the Indy Art Museum.

    Really looking forward to comg back to Naptown for such an exciting time

    As you know, I have guest conducted te symphony several times including at Connor Prarie and also played Farm Aid with Willy Nelson at the Hoosierdome but this will be my first time doing what i did with jack 50 years ago and have done ever since around the world in concerts i continue to do.

    all best to all Naptownwers

    David Amram

  • avatar
    matthew Says:


    Many thanks for the comments. We’re all excited you could be part of this exhibition! Thursday night should be a lot of fun.

  • avatar
    Diong Says:

    Awesome show! I thought you guys did an excellent job in the arrangement and layout of the pictures.

    Just to have an opportunity to see to see the actual prints in “The Americans” is amazing. Thanks!

  • avatar
    Russ Says:

    Hi Matthew,

    I have a June 1983 issue of Esquire Magazine; Fiftieth Anniversary Issue; How We Lived 1933-1983. It has many articles for each decade. One in the Fifties decade is titled “The Philosophy of the Beats” by John Clellon Holmes. It’s seven pages with picture of Jack Kerouc and references to him and “on the Road. I would be willing to give it to anyone at the museum that would be interested in it. Many other articles covering the thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, and seventies.
    Greenwood, Indiana

  • avatar

    Check out the typewriter exhibit entitled “Beautiful Utility”
    in the IMA Library. This exhibit features an installation of Underwood typewriters from the 1950’s era along with vintage ads and paintings by Indiana Artist: William Burton Lawson.
    This exhibit runs through September.

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