The city has been a subject of art for several decades: artists observing, criticizing, and celebrating our relationship to the built environment. This selection of American works provides a glimpse into how our urban world has evolved.
Charles Sheeler’s Delmonico Building (1926) anticipates Charles Demuth’s famed My Egypt (1927), which glorifies a grain elevator. Both depict towering structures from a low vantage point, leading the viewer’s gaze upward and breaking down the composition into clean, geometric lines. Sheeler, an architectural photographer, documented New York’s rapid development and went on to create a series of images of the mechanical workings of the Ford Motor Company, devoid of any human presence and championing the sublime power of industry. Meanwhile, Charles Burchfield’s Rainy Night (1929–30) offers a more narrative view, unfolding as late evening lights are reflected in the wet street, a water tower looms in the distance, a woman climbs into a car.