Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monumentality and the 1930s

This magnificent piece of Art Deco isn't a power station, but is the Landmark Pioneer Tower above the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth, Texas (and my big sorrow is that I'm not in town for the National Appaloosa Horse Society show this upcoming weekend, when it will be full of spotty horses).   It was built in 1936 for the Texas Centennial Exhibition - it's 208 feet tall.   Alas, you can't see its lit up corners at night from where I'm staying ... (I'm in town to give a lecture and co-conduct a seminar).

I was so very struck by its similarity, in its solidity, to some of the big New York buildings photographed by Berenice Abbott that are on show in an excellent exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum (so much fun C19th US painting! including the Thunderstorm on Narragansett Bay, by Martin Johnson Heade, that has a very jagged streak of lightning cutting open the sky, and that by coincidence features in my talk tomorrow).   The show is called American Modern, and puts together work by Abbott, Walker Evans, and Margaret Bourke-White.   I've always liked the Abbott images of street life and windows, and her fascination with printed notices and prices and the clutter in cheap storefront windows, but here, as well, were pictures of deep New York "canyons" - sometimes taken at very vertiginous angles - that also look very like the kind of images that O'Keeffe was painting in NYC in the 1920s.   But here, this tower just sits up, in a rather lonely way, like a square lighthouse.

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