.... __ __.-- -__. _. c..-____j

So good L they named it twice

From the art nouveau style of The

Chrysler Building to the engineered

elegance of The Brooklyn Bridge, the architecture of New York has proved a dynamic source of inspiration for many visual artists. Robin Baillie took a 'alk around New York, New York and discovered that printmakers love it [00.

In New York tlte Future fourid a home. Now. at the end of the 20th century‘s drive into modernity. here is an opportunity to look back at the images resulting front that experience.

The rtiajor US print collectors. Reba and Have Williams. have culled ltltl prints of the city front their extensive private collection. to form this touring exhibition. On display iii the dintly- lit l’rint (iallei'y round tower of Glasgow's lltrnterian. tlte works take on the spectre of an alchertrist‘s bltreprints fora projected Babylon. l’rcsented iti all its triessianic energy. here is the city whiclt. in forming itself. defies the heaycns

The exhibition begins with the irrimigrant‘s landfall sighting of Manhattan harbour t.\’t'rc )‘orA Sky/inc. I936). A vista encapsulating a future of hope. freedom arid opportunity. Nowhere is the ideological nrore firntly stamped into art image than in this work by the Paris born Reginald Marsh. Rornariticism's towering peaks have transpired irtto the Manhattan skyline. Longing and aspiration are projected onto a man-made mountain ratige.

This optimism is rarely disappointed Sky scrapers bend and sway (Marin and Bltrmenschcin) but they don't topple iri this selection. The few dissonant notes are struck by Rosenberg's crowded skulls fleeing from the Wall Street crash of WI). arid Martin Lewis's (How oft/re (in. from the same y. at. which contrasts art etnaciated tenement dweller with the illuminated tower of the \V‘oolwoith building uptown. More usually how cy er the starry tw itrklc ot the city at trigltt is presented in fairy tale yronder. lirrs mood continues to the present day w ith ix onnc Jacqttettc's Mary cl (‘onrics scene seller. .vl. I'trt/ lit u of3.i’rrl Street. where headlights glow like tit‘ellres

As the collectors point out. New York resides as tnuch in its images as irt its concrete reality. lts landscapes must be recovered in art.

How do we conceive a city"? As a map. a panorama. a series of views‘.’ New York. above all cities. defies the landscapist's powers. The impenetrable wall of

52 The List 10-23 Feb I995

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‘3} .'§’.

Miracle of architecture: Richard Haas‘s etching of the Flatiron Building

th- skyline at. ts as a barrier to the pleasures of a rerr ding perspective and the hot'i/on. This structural audacity. this blottrtt': out of the sun. inspires awe arid nnca ~c at the same time. liriiciging itito this world of glancing raj. \ and caycrnous shadow the prrntmaker rs bcttc; equipped than tirost to describe it.

('t ion: r. alt-grit tn these pictures. as black ink is etched. inscribe-l. scored. cut arid dug itito copper- plate. y‘ ood and si-ine iti the task of depicting the ct)lt)s‘stls. in the prints simplifying aesthetic. the medium and the message fuse together. revealing a city of flat plartcs and hard edges. form complementing c ontcrit

The works on display are divided irtto sections: the l)ockfront. l'he Bridges. Skyscrat 'rs. ’l‘ranspor‘t. The City at Night and The View froth the Suburbs. The

show begins w ith a pastoral image of l’l‘tispc‘c‘l Park. and an early scene of a r\'ew York fartn amid the tenentents. by another immigrant. the linglish artist Mary Moran. \\'e are still iii familiar academic territory when we encounter art impressiyc l’ir'ancsi- style triumphal arch. now demolished. commemorating (ieorge \K'ashington. This image partners Steiner‘s 'l'lrc {mun/tum of .‘tlut/rson Square. which captures the destruction of the old to make way for the new. presenting the island on the Hudson as the new Rome. 'l‘hese historical y icws are quickly discarded when the city starts to generate its distinctive futuristic geometry.

Set free by the new architcctrrral method of the boxed steel—girder frame. the skyscrapers begin to shoot upward: this alien grandeur dottiiriates S.l.. Margolies's Mon '5' ('uuyouy of l‘)3(i. which resembles a Hollywood stagesct. revealing. as curator Marlin llopkittson points out. “King Kong's cycsview.‘

This structural audacity, this blotting out of the sun, inspires awe and unease at the same time. Emerging into this world at glancing rays and cavernous shadow the printmaker is better equipped than most to describe it.

The artists are always at ftrll stretch rn their attempts to unite the rarefied heights of the skyscraper with the social world at ground-leyel. ()ne attempt to bring these two worlds together is shown in the depiction of a ticker-tape parade. r\"or'r'ni/)er Ill/r. by William Meyer'orwitr. Deriving directly frorii Monet's llag-str'ew rt boulevard scenes. this pupil. the American Impressionist) (’hilde ll1rss;rrit captures the movement ofair and light arorrrrd tlrc Flatiron Building on \\'ashrngton's Birthday in Win. Another itt this win is l’cnnel's Sc‘llltll'lllspll'c‘tl tire/Iotitit. Flo/tron Bur/time. John Marin also irrrportcd a European trtodernist vision. producing animated. llow ing etchings. Brook/tn Iii/tree .\o o. and lion/northlitrr/r/ure t'/'/tc [Ll/11"). His work is some oftlic best in the show. bringing lortli tltc dynamic energy arid the counteracting masses of the great city.

Sadly New York‘s vibrant street lilc is largely absent from this exhibition say c fora gritty scene of drunks captured by Marsh in it .tlonrore or May. Daugherty also returns the social context as he shows scrap-ctillcctors arid labourers at work beneath Brooklyn Bridge. as a handsome yacht skims past on the Hudson. This rn turn anticipates the ‘:\.s|1can' school. excrttplitrcd itt the work of John Sloan. represented hct‘e by two scenes ol'tireertwich \"illage. one featuring a rooftop soitee ofboheriiians.

'l'hronghont the exhibition the benign ‘l ’ptowrt‘ image manages to hold sway. glory ing tn New York‘s emblematic ability to represent the .-\rrtcrican dream.

'l'his rcyealing exhibition of rarely seen prints presents its with the evidence of the construction of the city ‘s itirage. poised as it is between fantasy and reality. 'l‘hey proyc that arty picture of New York w ill be invested with the same pow er for its. that icons of the Tower of Babel had for cai‘liet‘ ciy'ilisatiotts.

New York. New nut- l’l‘t/rts oft/1c ( i/_‘. ISIS!) NW) at Htt/tterrrm xil'l (:‘u/lcry. (i/(ty‘g’rm‘, Sol // l'icl) /.i April.