Urban Abstractions: Photographs from the Collection, Museum of the City of New York, NY


Christian Tuempling, Night

May 1 – August 2, 2009

New York City’s distinctive architecture and urbanism, and the opportunities the cityscape provides for photographers to explore visual experimentation and abstraction, will be the subject of an exhibition on view at the Museum of the City of New York. Urban Abstractions: Photographs from the Collection will feature some 35 images (3 in color)— by 20th-century masters, and an unknown shutterbug—each expressing artistic vision and personal aesthetic sensibility through photography. The exhibition features images from the Museum’s renowned collection of photographs of New York City; works by Edward Steichen, Aaron Rose, Berenice Abbott, Samuel H. Gottscho, Andreas Feininger, Aaron Siskind, Sigurd Fischer, Scherril Schell, and others will be on view.

The duality between photography as a means of documentation and as a medium of artistic expression came to the foreground in Europe and the United States in the early 1900s. Photographers such as New Yorker Alfred Stieglitz elevated the medium into an art form by capturing the world in much the same way that Impressionist painters rendered the fleeting and transitory with paint and canvas. In Germany in the 1920s, photographer Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and others presented their surroundings as asymmetrical patterns similar to those being created by architects and painters of the Bauhaus school. Over the next decades, photography intersected with other art movements from Cubism to Abstract Expressionism. In New York City, visual icons such as the street grids, skyscrapers, reflections in nighttime store windows, and the city’s almost hallucinogenic network of lighted signs propelled individual artists to capture the metropolis as pure visual form.