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NEW YORK, NEW YORK

A CRAIG F. STARR GALLERY PRESENTATION

Conceived as an homage to New York City during these difficult times, this exhibition includes works made between 1913 and 1931 by artists including John Taylor Arms, Howard Norton Cook, Stuart Davis, Louis Lozowick, John Marin, and Jan Matulka. All of the works focus on the city’s iconic skyline and its singular masterpieces of modern engineering such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Woolworth Building, and Times Square.

The decades between the wars marked a time of rapid artistic development in the United States. With the 1913 Armory Show as a catalyst, American artists were profoundly influenced by the achievements of the European avant-garde. Cubism, fauvism, and geometric abstraction challenged American artists to engage the world around them in new ways. At the same time, American life and culture was changing at an accelerated pace. As Craig F. Starr explains, “The artists working in New York City in this period approached the city’s rising skyscrapers and changing street life with an optimism that really comes across in these works.”

Marin Brooklyn Bridge

Marin, Brooklyn Bridge and Lower New York, 1913 (detail)

"While these powers are at work pushing, pulling, sideways, downwards, upwards, I can hear the sound of their strife and there is great music being played."

- John Marin

P3-5

Lozowick, New York, 1923

Industrialization, coupled with technological developments in building materials and machinery, ushered in a modern era replete with new skyscrapers, bridges, and mass transit. This changing face of the American landscape provided a seemingly limitless trove of visual inspiration for a young generation of American artists who flocked to New York City.

Beginning with John Marin’s series of pulsating cityscapes in 1913, these artists placed their hope for an American art on the artist's ability, as Louis Lozowick wrote, to emulate “the spirit of gigantic engineering feats and colossal mechanical constructions.'' These new mechanical forms and forces, epitomized by New York City’s dramatic architectonic physiognomy, presented themselves as inspiring symbols of unprecedented human prosperity, technical triumphs of a new age of aspiration and achievement.

Utilizing a limited palette of black, white, and grays, these works exquisitely capture the texture and tenor of “the city that never sleeps,” sometimes depicting the city at night or dusk, sparkling with illumination from skyscrapers, as in Lozowick’s New York, 1923. This work, one of Lozowick’s most celebrated, is a composite image that combines impressions of the sharply curving elevated train line at West 109th Street with the Brooklyn Bridge and several skyscrapers, with one half of the composition deliberately executed in a “futurist” style.

“The dominant trend in America of today, beneath all the apparent chaos and confusion, is towards order and organization which find outward sign and symbol in the rigid geometry of the American city: in the verticals of its smokestacks, in the parallels of its car tracks, the squares of its streets, the cubes of its factories, the arc of its bridges, the cylinders of its gas tanks.''

-Louis Lozowick

P6

Lozowick, Traffic, 1930

Other works, like Lozowick’s Traffic, 1930 or Stuart Davis’s Two Figures and El (Sixth Avenue El No. 2), 1931, range from the nearly photorealistic to the mostly abstract, yet both highlight the city’s bustling streets and fabled mass transit system, capturing the staccato rhythm of light and shadow generated by swift-moving train cars and automobiles. After returning from three years in Paris in 1929, Davis was shocked by the scale and speed of New York, yet attracted to its “impersonal dynamics.” In 1931, adapting the formalist discipline of cubist painting to an American context, Davis produced a series of five black and white street scenes. In Two Figures and El (Sixth Avenue El No. 2), 1931, Davis combines separate themes from a 1926 notebook of Jefferson Market, including a Jewish delicatessen sign and a streetlight that have been superimposed with a barbershop pole and gum-vending machine.

Other works, like Lozowick’s Traffic, 1930 or Stuart Davis’s Two Figures and El (Sixth Avenue El No. 2), 1931, range from the nearly photorealistic to the mostly abstract, yet both highlight the city’s bustling streets and fabled mass transit system, capturing the staccato rhythm of light and shadow generated by swift-moving train cars and automobiles. After returning from three years in Paris in 1929, Davis was shocked by the scale and speed of New York, yet attracted to its “impersonal dynamics.” In 1931, adapting the formalist discipline of cubist painting to an American context, Davis produced a series of five black and white street scenes. In Two Figures and El (Sixth Avenue El No. 2), 1931, Davis combines separate themes from a 1926 sketchbook of Jefferson Market, including a Jewish delicatessen sign and a streetlight that have been superimposed with a barbershop pole and gum-vending machine.

Woolworth

Cook, Times Square Sector, 1930

Around the same time as Davis, Howard Norton Cook created his own series on New York’s skyline, including Canyons, New York, 1928 and Times Square Sector, 1930, which highlight, in his words, “the endearing serrated skyline of the most exciting modern city in the world.” Like many of his peers, Cook combined details of close observation with lessons learned from his study of Cézanne and cubism, maintaining a delicate balance between an image of reality and abstract form.

While many of these works focus on the city’s skyline, especially its impressive formal geometries, others like John Taylor Arms’s Gates of the City, 1922 or Marin’s Woolworth Building, No. 2, 1913, focus on single architectural marvels, almost as if they were portraits, inanimate constructions of brick, mortar, and steel which reflect the vitality of the city’s human occupants. As Marin wrote in 1913, “the whole city is alive; buildings, people all are alive.” While much of this spirit of “urban optimism” waned in the 1930s due to the Great Depression, these works themselves stand as monuments to a singular period in New York City’s artistic legacy, one which captures the vitality of this constantly evolving metropolis.

AVAILABLE WORKS

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John Taylor Arms (1887-1953)
Gates of the City, 1922
Etching and aquatint
8 1/2 x 7 7/8 inches

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Howard Norton Cook (1901-1980)
Times Square Sector, 1930
Etching
12 x 9 15/16 inches, image

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Howard Norton Cook (1901-1980)
Canyons, New York, 1928
Woodcut
12 x 5 inches, image

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Stuart Davis (1892-1964)
Two Figures and El (Sixth Avenue El No. 2), 1931
Lithograph
11 x 15 inches, image

 

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Louis Lozowick (1892-1973)
Traffic, 1930
Lithograph
9 1/8 x 16 1/8 inches

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Louis Lozowick (1892-1973)
New York, 1923
Lithograph
11 7/16 x 9 inches, image

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John Marin (1870-1953)
Brooklyn Bridge and Lower New York, 1913
Etching and drypoint
6 3/4 x 8 1/2 inches

 

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John Marin (1870-1953)
Woolworth Building, No. 2, 1913
Etching with drypoint
12 7/8 x 10 3/8 inches

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Jan Matulka (1890-1972)
Arrangement - New York, c. 1925
Lithograph
16 1/4 x 12 5/8 inches, image

 

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John Taylor Arms (1887-1953)
Gates of the City, 1922
Etching and aquatint
8 1/2 x 7 7/8 inches

Howard Norton Cook (1901-1980)
Times Square Sector, 1930
Etching
12 x 9 15/16 inches, image

Howard Norton Cook (1901-1980)
Canyons, New York, 1928
Woodcut
12 x 5 inches, image

Stuart Davis (1892-1964)
Two Figures and El (Sixth Avenue El No. 2), 1931
Lithograph
11 x 15 inches, image

 

Louis Lozowick (1892-1973)
Traffic, 1930
Lithograph
9 1/8 x 16 1/8 inches

Louis Lozowick (1892-1973)
New York, 1923
Lithograph
11 7/16 x 9 inches, image

John Marin (1870-1953)
Brooklyn Bridge and Lower New York, 1913
Etching and drypoint
6 3/4 x 8 1/2 inches

 

John Marin (1870-1953)
Woolworth Building, No. 2, 1913
Etching with drypoint
12 7/8 x 10 3/8 inches

Jan Matulka (1890-1972)
Arrangement - New York, c. 1925
Lithograph
16 1/4 x 12 5/8 inches, image