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Release Date: February 13, 2020

American Art, 1900–1950: The City
February 21, 2020
East Building, Ground Level, Gallery 106A

Charles Turzak, Man with Drill, 1931 woodcut. Image: 308 x 236 mm Sheet: 354 x 290 mm. National Gallery of Art, Washington Reba and Dave Williams Collection, Gift of Reba and Dave Williams

Charles Turzak, Man with Drill, 1931
woodcut
image: 308 x 236 mm
sheet: 354 x 290 mm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Reba and Dave Williams Collection, Gift of Reba and Dave Williams
2008.115.4790

The National Gallery of Art has recently installed more than 25 prints and photographs from the collection celebrating the soaring skyscrapers, massive steel bridges, and the increasing commotion of New York's city streets that captivated artists working in the first half of the 20th century. Exploring various ways to convey the awe-inspiring scale and speed of the modern American city, artists were drawn to the mix of social classes and portrayed a wide range of city-dwellers at work, engaging in leisure pastimes, or going about their daily lives. The dynamic geometry of the skyline and the vitality of the city offered endless sources of inspiration—dramatic shadows cast along cavernous streets, rhythmic lines of drying laundry, the swirling forms of Coney Island's amusement rides, and the dazzling lights of the city at night.

Technological advances in photography, such as handheld cameras and faster shutter speeds, enabled new visual practices that included off-kilter, oblique views and vantage points, as seen in photographs by Ruth Orkin and Lisette Model.

Printmakers also experimented with cropped compositions and variant proportions to underscore verticality or broad expanse. They took advantage of the tonal effects of different techniques, represented forms abstractly, and created inaccurate juxtapositions of structures—as seen in a Charles Turzak's woodcut and an etching by Samuel L. Margolies—to heighten visual impact.

The installation is curated by Shelley Langdale, curator and head of modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art, and Diane Waggoner, curator of 19th-century photographs, National Gallery of Art.

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