THE AMERICAN CITY OF THE 1960S AND 1970S witnessed seismic physical changes and social transformations, including shifting demographics and political protests as well as the aftermath of decades of urban renewal. In this climate of uncertainty, a host of different actors — including photographers, architects, filmmakers, planners and activists — transformed these conditions of crisis into provocative and visually compelling statements about the culture, urban landscape and politics of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
A groundbreaking exhibition, The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, 1960-1980, examines creative responses to dramatic urban changes through the intersection of photography, film, architecture and urban planning. On view from Feb. 21 to June 7, 2015, at the Princeton University Art Museum, the show focuses on the interconnections of art practices and lived realities in these three major American cities, with accompanying print and digital materials.
More than 150 objects — including photographs, photo-based work, film, architectural renderings, planning documents and publications — are highlighted across four galleries in the museum. The exhibition reframes work by renowned artists and architects, such as Martha Rosler, Paul Rudolph, Ed Ruscha, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Garry Winogrand and the firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, while also showcasing pivotal works by underrepresented artists, including Ralph Arnold, Oscar Castillo, Jonas Dovydenas, Arthur Tress and Shadrach Woods.
Though arranged by city, the exhibition focuses on major themes framing common directions of creative response and artistic engagement, including demonstration, preservation and renewal. For example, The New York Times photographer Barton Silverman captured protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago occupying the public space in Grant Park opposite the convention hotel and taking over a public monument. The speed at which such images circulated in print and in television news coverage resonates with the use of social media in documenting contemporary life.
The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago, where it opened in October 2014. Katherine Bussard, the Peter C. Bunnell Curator of Photography at the Princeton University Art Museum, coorganized the show with Alison Fisher, the Harold and Margot Schiff Assistant Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Greg Foster-Rice, associate professor of film at Columbia College Chicago.
A major scholarly catalogue accompanies the exhibition to further explore the connections between critical practices in art and architecture and the political, social and geographic realities of American cities during this transformational period. For example, Bruce Davidson’s two-year study of a single block, East 100th Street (1966- 68), and Romare Bearden’s photo collage The Block II (1971-72) reveal complex portraits of race, poverty and community in Harlem. With more than 300 illustrations, the book features contributions from more than 20 scholars in art history, urban planning, architecture and cultural studies. The catalogue is published by the Princeton University Art Museum and distributed by Yale University Press.
As a digital component, self-guided walking tours of each city are available to view online and access on mobile devices. Each walking tour connects up to 10 objects from the exhibition with their respective sites of engagement in the city. For example, on the New York City tour, users are directed to the former residence of artist Vito Acconci in Greenwich Village. There, starting at the front stoop, Acconci performed the conceptual work Following Piece for a month in 1969 to “follow [a] different person every day until person enters private place.” In this way users can see and experience firsthand how vital these cities were and remain to artistic and everyday life.
–By Erin Firestone