Léger And The Modern Metropolis


Ballet MécaniqueFernand Léger, 1923-24.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Paris was undergoing rapid transformation.New technology engendered a new experience of the surrounding environment, now a kaleidoscope of color and form: trains puffing white smoke across the French countryside, ubiquitous advertisements, and automobiles speeding at unprecedented velocities.


“The City,” Fernand Léger, 1919.

Paris was Léger’s primary metropolitan subject. Napoleon III and Baron Haussman undertook a massive urban planning program during the second half of the 19th century, imposing a rational grid of boulevards and train stations where medieval alleyways once stood. Once Paris had a structure, it was able to modernize, a process that changed the experience of the city entirely.

Léger wrote, “when one crosses a landscape by automobile or express train it becomes fragmented, it loses descriptive value but gains in synthetic value. The view through the door of the railroad car or the automobile windshield, in combination with the speed, has altered the habitual look of things.” In Léger’s mind, it was the artist’s job to depict this new myriad of sensory impressions; the desire to capture speed and fragmented detail led him to a nonrepresentational method of painting, similar to cubism and featuring contrasting colors to provoke feelings of dissonance.

Read the complete article on Architizer here.


Fernand Léger on left, Le Corbusier on the right. Image via.

The Radical Humanity Of Zoe Strauss



Photos: K. Scott Kreider

America is struggling through the second worst recession in its history. The first — the Great Depression — brought with it now-iconic images of breadlines, the dustbowl, the Hoover Dam, and the working poor of America. Integral to the visual history of the Great Depression are the photographs of Walker Evans, who documented the rural poor for the Farm Security Administration. Evans’ photographs, published in “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” have become iconic images relating to the first Great Depression.


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Photos: K. Scott Kreider

Philadelphia photographer Zoe Strauss cites Evans as one of her heroes and inspirations. Strauss’ mid-career retrospective is ongoing now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and provides a look at her ten-year photograph project, entitled “95.” Though “95” is expansive, Strauss’ primary subject matter is the working class, focusing on populations that are either forgotten by the general public, or offered meaningless platitudes by politicians. As part of the retrospective, the Museum has partnered with Clear Channel to place more than fifty billboards of Strauss’ photographs throughout Philadelphia.

Read the entire article at The Atlantic Cities here.

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Photos: K. Scott Kreider