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The City

Towering skyscrapers, massive steel bridges, and the hubbub of city streets captivated artists working in the first half of the twentieth century. Roaming the rapidly changing urban environment, they explored ways to convey the awe-inspiring scale and speed of the modern American city. For photographers, technological advances such as hand-held cameras and faster film and shutter speeds enabled new visual practices, from off-kilter, oblique views and bird’s and worm’s eye vantage points to the blurred effects of motion. Printmakers likewise experimented with cropped compositions and varying proportions to underscore verticality or broad expanse.

Drawn to the social strata of the metropolis, artists portrayed a wide variety of city-dwellers going about their daily lives. The dynamic geometry of the skyline and vitality of the city offered endless sources of inspiration, from the dramatically cast shadows of cavernous streets, the cadence of drying laundry suspended in rows, and the swirling forms of Coney Island’s amusement rides to the repeating curves of ornamental lampposts and the dazzling lights of the city at night.

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