Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Deco




PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Art Deco - was it a style or a fashion? There are always fashions; they change as quickly as the clothes that embody them.  Style is, as one friend recently put it, the outward form of spirit. 

What led so many artists from the 1920s to 40s to draw their imagery from the utilitarian forms of commerce and of industry? Art Deco often proclaims mass production as the key to utopia. Radio City, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State are not only triumphs of technology but radiant, Deco cathedrals of optimism. At the Bauhaus the materials and forms of industry were elevated to principles of Beauty that also prompt the darkly foreboding paintings of Feininger.

What does all this have to do with radios designed to look aerodynamic, and places that appear at the mention of white tie, top hat and tails and whirl on to Gershwin's taxi horns and saxophones still strong when Gene Kelly dances to them at MGM? How does that sleek, heroic imagery resonate in the satire of Chaplin and how is it transformed by Hopper and  in numerous dystopian visions whether Lang's Metropolis, Kafka's Amerika, Huxley's bottling plants and decanting rooms, ...but we will all quickly begin adding our own examples to the list.  It is an art style that didn't even have a name until the 1960's, and we can still put it on like a fashion.  

Can style be sought or must it be left unwatched to germinate and grow?