The United States’ westward expansion during the nineteenth century was justified by the concept of “manifest destiny”—the notion that the virtue and taming influence of American settlers preordained the settling of the West. The Manifest Destiny Billboard Project explores this theme through a series of billboards along Interstate 10 through Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Launched in fall 2013, the project will conclude later this spring in Los Angeles.
Ten artists have each contributed a “chapter” to the project, for a total of about 100 billboards that mesh with the landscape and explore the conflicting ideas surrounding manifest destiny in a variety of ways, incorporating new and existing text, photography, and other works of art.
The artists, mainly based in Los Angeles, with two from New York and one from Berlin, include John Baldessari, Sanford Biggers, Matthew Brannon, Zoe Crosher, Eve Fowler, Shana Lutker, Jeremy Shaw, Daniel R. Small, Bobbi Woods, and Mario Ybarra Jr. Some produced different designs for each billboard, while others, like John Baldessari, adopted the common advertising strategy of repeating the same image on multiple billboards. Baldessari’s contribution was installed around San Antonio, Texas, in September–October 2014. According to the press release, the diptych, titled Love and Work, “conveys the ultimate dichotomy of Manifest Destiny and the American Dream.”
On the project website, a map for each chapter shows the locations of billboards around the city and displays their removal date. Public programming and social media dialogue (#LANDMD) have accompanied the works.
The Manifest Destiny Billboard Project was presented by the Los Angeles Nomadic Division (LAND), a nonprofit founded in 2009 and committed to curating site-specific public art installations. It was conceived by Los Angeles-based artist Zoe Crosher, and curated by Crosher in collaboration with LAND’s director and curator, Shamim M. Momin.