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Published on February 7, 2008

Author: Teobaldo


Slide 1: How the Modern has fashioned Modernity; and how Modernity has affected the Modern (Trachtenberg) Myth of modern America: progress as social fulfillment, 1800-1880s the dissenting view Myth and function of the Bridge in the story of progress: the role(s) of Reason, in its Kantian, Hegelian meanings engineering vs. architecture: embodying progress and reason? Representing the Bridge and the City: Modernity in the Modern Slide 2: John Augustus Washington Brooklyn Bridge, draft, 1870s, giving form to modernity—to transportive functionality Roebling Family Reason—mastery of nature through technological sublime—meets American manifest destiny. A story of the Enlightenment and Romantic eras. I: The Bridge: A Form for Modernity Slide 3: In general, modernism—since the romantics—developed and indulged an antipathy toward modernity. Reason delivered machinery and progress but, as a utopian project, failed to redeem the world: slavery, exploitative capitalism, degraded nature Slide 4: Fateful Crossroads: Hegel, Roebling, the myth of America, and New York—local story with import: John attends Hegel’s lectures while an engineering student Derives sense of self-actualization from Hegel’s understanding of Reason as displacement of dogma and fulfillment of human potential; that is, does not see Hegel merely as philosophy that completes an arc since Greek logos Materializes this self-actualization in the role of engineer who masters nature by understanding its forces (Faust? Prometheus?) and who understands America as destiny Participates in the secularized myth of America: from city on the hill to metropolis on the continent, in the context of post-Jacksonian manifest destiny: that is, see economic liberalism Merges the necessity of engineering with necessity of westering Slide 5: From John’s writings in ’50s-’60s: PROGRESS/DESTINY: The practicability of suspended railway bridges of large spans, was of great importance to this peculiar country, intersected as it is by numerous large rivers and deep gorges. ECONOMIC CONSTRAINTS:The task of the American engineer is to lay down thousands of miles with extensive bridging, at a cost which would barely suffice in Great Britain to cover the expenses of preliminary proceedings. NATURAL LAW: What means have been used in the Niagara Bridge to make it answer for railway traffic? The means employed are: Weight, girders, trusses, and stays. (Roebling and the coincidence of historical and physical/natural necessities) Slide 6: Granite, stays, trusses, cable: extension and compression The physical: a counterbalance of forces The monumental: a counterbalance of forms and materials Slide 7: Niagra RR , Alleghany, Cincinnati Functionalism accentuated by monuments, quotes of historicism: bridging eras, as US transcontinentalizes; see Schulyer’s criticism Slide 8: Exigency: The poet(s) and engineer(s) meets the real estate developer, Hewitt, and the politician, Boss Tweed— The Modern Spirit: Whitman, Bancroft, Greeley John and Washington Roebling The Corrupt Soul of Modernity: The Commissioners’ Plan The Tweed Ring The Corporation Public Patronage and the Public Corporation Slide 9: Bridge as Skyscraper 1877 1883 Trachtenberg mainly argues that, in mythic terms, the bridge functioned—horizontally—to link America; yet contemporary iconography shows that it challenged the sky and the city as a church or cathedral—a pons. Slide 10: 1900 1920 With build-up south of City Hall, in part because of bridge’s traffic, BB lost iconic dominance Slide 11: As this panorama suggests, by the early twentieth century, the bridge was metropolitanized within a web of urban routes into Manhattan. From, the 1880s on, the skyline becomes the metonym for American modernity—with it Babel and Babylonian implications. See Schuyler/Mumford’s “Skyline.” Slide 12: IIa. The Bridge—Representations in Literature: microcosm of the city Slide 15: IIb. The Bridge—Representations in Art By 1900’s, the bridge becomes a symbolic vehicle for characterizing modernity, and its imagery becomes a catalogue of stylistic movements, over time, that reveal themselves in seeking to define the bridge as a metonym of modernity. Most style challenged mimeticism and beauty. Futurism: dynamism, representation of time/pace in space Precisionism: mimicry of photograpic images of clean machines Expressionism: symbolism of emotional effects “caused” by objects; an interiorized impressionism Cubism: reschematizing objects in space by juxtaposing their facets and capitalizing on multiple perspectives Realism: from impressionism to social realism, a copy of sensed reality, often with political/economic implications Slide 16: Gothic (Historicist), Futurist, Precisionist Interpretation of Cathedral Arch Opening, ‘83 Joseph Stella, 1917-18 Georgia O’Keeffe, ‘48 Stella: “I felt deeply moved, as if on the threshold of a new religion.” Slide 17: Photo Realism—Walker Evans Evans: "...the non-appearance of author, the non-subjectivity. That is literally applicable to the way I want to use the camera and do." Slide 18: Walker Evans, ’29, captures historicist and functional elements in plates for Crane’s poem; but note the angle of the shots, which connote ascension. In-human Elevating Celebratory Involving Man-made Built environment Slide 19: In the ’30s, Evans moved away from the monumentality and claustrophobia of the built environment; he focused—in projects like Let Us Now Praise Famous Men—on vernacular cultures. Slide 20: City as scape Realism Imitates Photography—Marsh Romantic Expressionism--Marin Slide 21: Reginald Marsh, ‘27 John Marin, ‘12 A social realist, Marsh crops the watercolor to borrow the aura of the real from photography; note, it’s a smudgy working port. Marin, who painted the bridge in many styles, here ephemeralizes it in the yellows and blues of nature; is the city naturalized, or nature industrialized? Slide 22: Camille Corot, Nantes, ’30s Claude Monet, Rail Bridge, ’70s Bridges provided geometry to the visual style of Barbizon and Impressionist painters. Of course, they challenged nature with industrialized artifice, positioned—contra the Americans—in middle and background. Slide 23: Two Versions of pons Expressionism, Impressionism, Cubism Marin vs. Monet Slide 24: In Brooklyn Bridge, ’12—one in a series—Marin expressed the forces—the “push/pull”—of the bridge in a field of vibratory color, accented by slashing strokes. In the Rouen series, ’94, Monet bathed the cathederal in fields of light to dissolve its substantiality, to resolve into a surface of colored dashes. Two Series Marin: “If these buildings move me, they too must have life” Slide 25: In Brooklyn Bridge Fantasy, in ‘32, Marin abstracts forms from the skyline, bridge and atmosphere. In a cubist way, he then synthesizes these forms into a series of shallow, overlapping planes that flattens space on the picture plane while suggesting diagonal thrusts into it: push/pull. Note sun and sky in the center, still. Slide 26: III. Representing the City: What Genre, what Style, Iconography for Modernity? If the medieval city was imagined between heaven and hell in mythic space, the Renaissance city often was imaged—when it was imaged—as a thin outgrowth in the middlescape, between sea and sky. Breugel Vermeer Slide 27: Canaletto, Venice, ’1630s-40s Canaletto repeats the formula that somehow the city is not against nature but infused and embraced by it. Public space is noticeably not, hectic and not crowded; but it is a locus for transport and travel—movement. Slide 28: The Impressionist Rendering of the City: Nature Vs. the Urban The Individual Vs. the Crowd Class Vs. Caste Spectacle Vs. Stability Leisure Vs. Work Slide 29: In Boulevarde des Capucines, ’73, Monet’s flickering strokes dissolve figures in random motion across streets where traffic is barely segregated. The tinting unites the whole, but now nature—a group of trees—is surrounded by city; and sky is relegated to the top third. Slide 30: T. J. Clark and others have argued for a symbiosis between Impressionism and the city, especially Paris: Haussmann and the erasure of old Paris Construction of boulevards: crowds and spectacle Dissolution of class into fashion—appearance Association of iconography of change—the bustle of the new–with style of representation that concentrated on the immediate From Caste to Class, from Court to Recreation Slide 31: In St. Lazare, as in many others works in the ’60-’80s, Manet depicted the urban bourgeoisie in cityscapes—here, a rail station-- and parks on the city fringes. Here, the child and guardian are together but apart, (self-) absorbed while both watched and watching. They possess the anonymous individuality, glimpsed by a passing spectator (you) whom, to Baudelaire, characterized the urban flaneur. Slide 32: Manet, A Café; Road-Mending Slide 33: Glacken, City as Pastoral: Cental Park, ‘05, Tugboat, ‘12 French Roots: In the ’70s and ’80s American realists coalesced in the Movement. Later, the Ten but were at best ignored, at worst berated. They applied the anti-academic/anti-neoclassical style of Manet and the early Impressionists to American scenes, converting Central Park into the Tuileries and New York Harbor into Monet’s Thames. New York(ers), too, became nature Slide 34: As with the Avante-Garde in Europe, the American Impressionists challenged academic, neoclassical taste. Several centers subsequently evolved from the ’90’s to the ’30s: The Ashcan Social realists, yielding to the social(ist) realists and regionalists in the ’20s-’30s who critiqued American from the left and right. The 291 crowd of secessionists and their followers who championed, eventually, cubism, futurism, and precisionism. The Dadaists, Surrealists, and Expressionists who set up shop in NY and eventually yielded, after a wave of German immigrants in the ’30s-40’s to the abstract expressionists. Slide 35: Social Realists: Affected by social theorists like Henry George and reformers/documentarians like Jacob Riis (How the Other Half Lives, above left) and Jane Addams, the Eight subdued their palettes and emphasized figuration of social subjects. The Eight in theAsh-can School included the leader Henri, Glacken, Luks, Bellows (Cliffdwellers, ’13, right), and Sloan. Slide 36: Sloan, in Hair Dresser (up), and Bellows, in Times Square (right), blot out the sky and nearly thrust us into the passing throng. Hine, Playground Slide 37: The Secessionists modify, then reject Realism, in another wave of European influence: Photographers Futurists Expressionists Dadaists Precisionists Their views of the city contrast their styles Slide 38: The Photo-Secession Gallery of Steiglitz (left) and Steichen became a center of innovation, attracting the likes of O’Keeffe. It supplied painting with the styles of romanticism and precisionism in 291. O’Keeffe’s building punctuates black night with white rectangles. Radiator Building (Hood) Flatiron (Burnham) Slide 39: Photographic Romanticism: The skyline, though, continued to be seen—here photoographed—either romantically in Whisteresque mist and tint (Steichen, Flat Iron) or in hard-edged fashion (Evans, Step-back) that accented the clean line of step-backs the international style. “I decided to photograph what was within me.” Slide 40: Nude Vs. Rude: The Armory Show, in 1913 introduced the Fauves (Expressionists), Cubists, and proto-Futurists (Duchamp; left) to a disgusted American public. See Teddy Roosevelt’s review. Nude Descending a Staircase, ‘12 Slide 41: Romance or Farce: Typical of Americans who modified realism, Marin in Woolworth, ’12, and Lower Manhattan, ’22, celebrated the energy in the city. However, Duchamp’s Bride, ’13, and ready-made, Fountain, ’17, use industrial materials to mock the purposeless of life and the loss of meaningful monuments and iconography. Slide 42: Precisionists: Charles Sheeler to emphasize the hard-edge of modern design but echoed its provincial, functional roots. He created city and industry scapes without people: River Rouge, Buck County, City Interior in the ’20s and ’30s. Slide 43: Among the rain and lights I saw the figure 5 in gold on a red firetruck moving tense unheeded to gong clangs siren howls and wheels rumbling through the dark city. Demuth, Figure 5 My Egypt Slide 44: Hopper, Sunday Morning; Nighthawks Kill the street? Muffled light exposes the ruddy quality of the street in Sunday Morning, oddly absent of people: peaceful or without human touch? The glare in Nighthawks pours over the isolated figures onto an empty street. Hopper typically squeezes out the sky, geometrizes the city, dirties light and, unlike earlier realists and Impressionists, removes people, leaving mainly what they’ve built. Slide 45: Hopper, Approaching the City, the City, Chop Suey, ’27-’32 Slide 46: Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park Series, ’60s-’70s Slide 47: Neo-Plasticism Mondrian began as a conventional naturalist, in the Dutch manner. In 1908-14, under the influence of Fauves and Cubists, he rejected mimeticism and moved toward an abstraction of nature that emphasized essential relation in space and color. Slide 48: Estes revived photo-realism. He purged environments of dross like the precisionists; like the Impressionists, He presented city as a spectacle—of glimpsed reflections

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