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perfectly into the roaring 1920’s. The movement’s birth can be traced back to the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels Moderne (the 1Society of Decorator Artists), held in 1925 in Paris, where artists such as Maurice Dufrene and Emile Decoeur explored new territories towards modernism.1 The movement blossomed and pushed the idea that art is a habitat, and can influence every part of daily life.2 Soon, art deco was everywhere; architecture, interior design, industrial design, fashion, jewelry, and visual arts had all become artistic canvases. Materials for the works included crystal and glass, inlaid woods, gleaming metals, and rich fabrics. Characteristics of the style include linear, and often symmetrical compositions, sleek, clean shapes and simplification of more complicated forms. The movement often alludes to technology while capturing feelings of glamour, elegance, functionality, and modernity. Art Deco also pioneered a relationship between art and consumerism. In some sense, the movement represents a paradox: is portrays an exclusive world of wealth and excess but can be experienced by everyone. Because of its use in commerce and everyday life, Art deco is thought to be one of the most lingering and mainstream movements. However, the term Art Deco wasn’t coined until 1968 in a retrospective exposition in Paris. 1 Although the movement included many different mediums, Art Deco still strongly impacted the traditional fine arts. Tamara de Lempicka’s painting, Green Bugatti, done in 1925 is perhaps a work that can truly represent the movement. The painting depicts a sophisticated woman, dressed in driving gloves and cap, in the driver’s seat of a sleek turquoise automobile. The piece shows the Art Deco’s interest in technology with the woman looking completely in her element in the car, which relate to ideas within the Futurism style of speed and technology. The painting also depicts sleek lines, simplified forms, and a holistically glamorous image. The woman is clearly well off, and hoping to reveal her beauty to the viewer. The lines in her face, and the draping of her outfit are slightly exaggerated and sleek, in true Art Deco fashion. The color palette of reds, teals, and tans within the painting were also popular colors within the style. Tamara Lempicka’s paintings also reveal some of the cubist roots that Art Deco stems from; the abstraction of the tan fabric in the background is very geometric in form, despite the true shapes of the objects. Art deco pulled from abstracting by simplifying forms, but never to the extent of having the subject matter obscured. The modern movement also reverted from the multiple perspectives of cubism, to a single perspective. One of Lempicka’s other works that successfully shows the relationship between Art Deco and cubism was her Four Nudes painting, done in 1925. In comparison to Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, there is a direct relation between subject matter, color, composition, and attention to the female nude. There is even some remnant abstraction, primarily the woman in the foreground of Lempicka’s image, where the woman’s hip juts out from
her body in an unnatural manner. However, the glamour and stylized simplicity are the overwhelming factors in the Art Deco representation. 1 The Art Nouveau movement saw a large growth when it connected with Electricity in it’s beginning stages. When these combined so began a commercialized liberation from design constraints provoking the “preoccupation with lighting between 1895 and 1905. Not only bona fide lamp designers but sculptors, glass artists, ceramicists, and metal workers utilized the new discovery.” The downfall of this movement however, was a weakness it possessed in that it was not focused on functionalism. The electric bulb in its beginning years probably had less than ten watts of intensity. Because lamps were being created with the sole goal of beautifying the item the “artist-‐designer lost sight of their intended use” often times. This caused function to be sacrificed for “embellishment, to the point where it is often difficult to determine the intended use of some…objects amongst the profusion and ornamentation with which they are adorned.” The lamps were becoming pieces of art rather than performing their primary function of being able to provide light for it’s intended area. As electricity continued to grow and the wattage increased Art Nouveau lamps began to get hotter and were “generated more heat than light.” As a transition occurred “objects began to resemble their intended use as designers absorbed the lesson…’form follows function’ ushering in the Art Deco style.” From Art Nouveau to Art Deco many style characteristics were lost. The spectral details were rid of the design and metal and glass mediums were used to add effect rather than merely color. Simultaneously wall mounts, constructed of metal were seen as a more effective presentation of the lamp. Further emphasizing the necessity for the fixture’s elements to be subordinate to its lighting ability. 3 Sculpture also provided a foundation for artists to explore the Art Deco style. One of the most well known experimenters of the time is Paul Manship. As a sculptor, he explored Art Deco as a means to “combine the force of machines with the sensuality of organic shapes.” His images were classic, such as sundials, or ancient mythology, but they were represented as smooth, sleek figures, in graceful motion. A prime example of his work is his Diana sculpture, done in 1925. The work depicts Diana, the young warrior goddess, and her dog, Actaeon, from classical Greek mythology. Although the figure is crafted out of bronze, she appears to be almost porcelain, with simplified bodylines and elegant movement. Her hair, as well as the dog’s fur, are stylishly abstracted to match the style of the form. 2 “ The most important of the circumstances peculiar to America that formed the character of American Art Deco was the existence of the skyscraper. In 1925 there were no skyscrapers in Europe; in America, the skyscraper, as a multistory, metal-‐frame building, had a history that went back forty years.” These buildings, skyscrapers were such a prominent aspect of the Art Deco movement because of how modern they were; made of smooth brick, stone, and sleek glass. The Skyscrapers were contained in New York mainly because, “New York, not Chicago, was to be the Art Deco city…its architects were more open to European influence, and the new style coincided with an unprecented boom in office building.” The earliest a skyscraper was built outside of New York was the Telephone Building in San Francisco reaching twenty-‐six stories, completed in 1925. The building was
constructed by James Miller and Timothy Pflueger, it’s construction was a “complete surprise to the architectural profession…Miller an Pflueger became the most successful Art Deco Architects in San Francisco.” Art Deco skyscrapers infiltrated into most American cities skylines in the late nineteen twenties. The Art Deco movement lasted a little more than ten years; in America it began to be overtaken by the Streamline Moderne movement in the early to mid nineteen thirties. This style of ornament “is not, perhaps, one of the great styles of history; no really great architect took it up; the depression came before it could reach its highest development; its masterpieces are only masterpieces of Art Deco. Yet it was a style that gave scope to the kind of creativity that even minor talents may possess.” 6 Architect, William Van Alen constructed the Chrysler Building between 1928-‐ 1930; the building was being built during the great height race in the midst of the “skyscraper war”. “In a skyscraper war, unlike a Western gunfight, the architect who draws first loses. Whoever builds first can be outdone”. This height race was a competition between William Van Alen and H. Craig Severance. These architects were former associates who’d recently parted ways and now were competing head to head to construct the world’s tallest building. The Chrysler Building was “finished” first, stating that is was reached 925 feet above the street level. At Van Alen “completing” his Building Severance took that opportunity to make his tower about 2 feet taller “so that is could peer down on the Chrysler Building.” 4 Van Alen however, had secretly been constructing a giant metal spire to top off the tower. The huge stinger was released just as Severance was finishing up his building; the addition raised the building’s tip to 1,046 feet above the street level. With the Spire mounted the Chrysler Building became the world’s tallest building for just under a year when the Empire State Building surpassed it. Made up of 77 floors and nearly 5000 windows. Building is constructed of white and dark gray brick and the top crescent petals on the spire and the gargoyles/eagles are stainless steel. Giving it a very sleek modern feel. All of these Art Deco touches are what makes it such a recognizable structure and beautiful addition to the New York Skyline still today. As the influential movement, later named, the Art Deco period, was gaining momentum among designers, architects, and eventually, artists of all mediums and backgrounds, each section of the United States of America regionally adapted to the Art Deco style. Meaning, in simultaneity with the growth of the Art Deco movement was the growth, in popularity, of the Southwestern adaptation, Pueblo Deco architecture. The Southwest “is a region, which, in conjunction with southern Colorado, has a history, that differ in important respects the those of the rest of the United States. In prehistoric times it was inhabited by Indians who lived in towns, or pueblos, which were built of stone and mass adobe…”6 This Pueblo Deco style of Art Deco developed in the Southwest region of the United States, more specifically in Western Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Pueblo Deco styles “reflected the cultural and historical inspirations of the area” through this art form. This included many Native Navajo and Pueblo motifs for decoration and ornamentation. 5 Art Deco was truly a representation of it’s time: it reflected the glamour and progress of the twenties and pushed existing boundaries of modernism. Despite its end in the 1930’s, Art Deco made a lasting impression on American culture and had a strong resurgence in the 1960’s. Remnants of the movement can still be seen in
Claridge, Laura P., and Tamara De Lempicka. Tamara De Lempicka: A Life of Deco and Decadence. New York: C. Potter, 1999. Print.
Rand, Harry, and Paul Manship. Paul-Manship. Washington: Published for the National Museum of American Art by the Smithsonian Institution, 1989. Print. 77.
Alastair. "Art Deco Lighting." The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 1 (1986): 20-22. Print.
Chee, ed. "When New Yorkers Started Looking Up." New York Times [New York City] 26 May 2005. Print. Thomas, ed. "Pueblo Deco: The Art Deco of the Southwest." The Journal of San Diego History 31 (1985). Print. Marcus, and Carla Breeze. Pueblo Deco. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1984. Print.
Arwas, Victor. Art Deco. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1992. Print. Claridge, Laura P., and Tamara De Lempicka. Tamara De Lempicka: A Life of Deco and Decadence. New York: C. Potter, 1999. Print. Daniels, Mary. "Pueblo Deco: Americana Architecture." Chicago Tribune [Chicago] 11 Nov. 1990. Print. Duncan, Alastair. "Art Deco Lighting." The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 1 (1986): 20-22. Print. Hillier, Bevis. The World of Art Deco. New York: E.P. Dutton and, 1971. Print. Pearlman, Chee, ed. "When New Yorkers Started Looking Up." New York Times [New York City] 26 May 2005. Print. Rand, Harry, and Paul Manship. Paul-Manship. Washington: Published for the National Museum of American Art by the Smithsonian Institution, 1989. Print. Ruthven, Madeleine. "Chrysler Building." Poetry 50.2 (1937): 77. Print. Scharf, Thomas, ed. "Pueblo Deco: The Art Deco of the Southwest." The Journal of San Diego History 31 (1985). Print. Whiffen, Marcus, and Carla Breeze. Pueblo Deco. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1984. Print.
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