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October 9, 2010

Photographs from the 1910s at the Metropolitan Museum, NYC

"Our Future Is In The Air": Photographs from the 1910s
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

November 9, 2010 - April 10, 2011

The 1910s—a period remembered for "The Great War," technological innovation, social ferment, the influenza epidemic, and the birth of Hollywood—was a dynamic and tumultuous decade that ushered in the modern era. The new age of the automobile, the airplane, and the industrial factory—as it was captured by the quintessentially modern art of photography—will be the subject of the exhibition "Our Future Is In The Air": Photographs from the 1910s, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, from November 9, 2010, through April 10, 2011.

An eclectic centennial exhibition devoted to photography of the 1910s, "Our Future Is In The Air" provides a fascinating look at the birth of modern life through 44 photographs by some 25 artists, including Eugène Atget, E. J. Bellocq, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Eugène Druet, Lewis Hine, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Adolph de Meyer, Christian Schad, Morton Schamberg, Charles Sheeler, and Stanislaw Witkiewicz, among others. Drawn exclusively from the Museum's collection, the exhibition also features anonymous snapshots, séance photographs, and a family album made by Russian nobility on the eve of revolution.

"Our Future Is In The Air" complements the Museum's concurrent presentation of groundbreaking photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand, in the exhibition Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand.

"Our Future Is In The Air" was a popular French slogan in the early 1910s and the title of a brochure promoting military aviation ("Notre Avenir est dans l'Air"). Pablo Picasso, who was very interested in the recent invention of the airplane, included the sentence in one of his 1912 Cubist compositions. Now, the double meaning of the phrase suggests the feelings of excitement and anxiety that characterized the period.

Jacques-Henri Lartigue, a painter who considered photography a hobby, was another artist fascinated by the soaring flight of the airplane, as well as the look and speed of the automobile. The exhibition features a rare early print of one of Lartigue's most memorable photographs, Le Grand Prix A.C.F. (1913). Swinging his camera in a movement that follows a racing car, Lartigue barely managed to catch the speeding machine in his frame.

The camera afforded access to the previously invisible, whether capturing a broken leg bone, revealed in an X-ray from 1916; the swift movements of a smoker lighting a cigarette, in a 1911 motion study by the Futurist artist Anton Giulio Bragaglia; or the hidden life of New Orleans, seen in an extremely rare vintage print of a Storyville prostitute, photographed by E. J. Bellocq around 1912.

At the same time, photography became an agent of democratic communication, and documentary photographers used its growing influence to expose degrading conditions of workers, the injustice of child labor, and the devastation of war. Beginning in 1908, Lewis Hine made 5,000 photographs of children working in mills, sweatshops, factories, and street trades; six of his photographs will be featured in this exhibition, including Newsies at Skeeter Branch, St. Louis, Missouri, 11:00 A.M., May 9, 1910. Hine's reports and slide lectures were meant to trigger a profound, empathetic response in the viewer.

During World War I, photography was utilized to document the mass casualties of mechanized warfare; in the exhibition, an affecting image from 1916, by an unknown artist, shows wounded French soldiers performing drills in the nave of the Grand Palais in Paris as part of their rehabilitation.

Also in the exhibition is an evocative 1918 photograph, again by an unknown artist, of Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks entertaining a huge crowd at a war bonds rally on Wall Street.

In addition, the exhibition includes photographs by several friends and compatriots of Alfred Stieglitz, including Alvin Langdon Coburn, Adolph de Meyer, Charles Sheeler, and Karl Struss, who reacted against the prevalence of snapshot photography by emphasizing the medium's possibilities for artistic expression.

"Our Future Is In The Air": Photographs from the 1910s is organized by Douglas Eklund, Associate Curator in the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Photographs.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028

Related Posts in this blog
The Metropolitan Museum's Department of Photographs
Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand

1 comment:

Edward Merrin said...

Interesting exhibition. Thanks. Incidentally, I recently posted a photo of Tufts from exactly 1910 on the Edward Merrin blog.

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