The Great Cities' zenith early in the 20th century inspired an international avant garde movement celebrating ordinary elements of the built environment, with music, architecture, film and performance innovations.
Starting with Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand's 1921 classic "Manhatta" (left), wordless collages include (clockwise): the Russian "Man with a Movie Camera" (1929, Dziga Vertov), Floret's "Skyscraper Symphony" (1929), Ruttmann's "Barlin: Symphony of a Great City" (1927).
images, words, ideas, feelings
Writers from Walt Whitman to Charles Dickens were fascinated by burgeoning 19th century places, and poets from Langston Hughes to today's slam poets grew from gritty 20th century cities:
Design and architecture invoked classical civilizations, such as in these trade journals and event posters (right), and paid tribute to other cultures (bottom).
Cities have driven popular music for over a century. Harlem Jazz, Memphis Rockabilly, Detroit's Motown, Seattle grunge...
"A Great Day in Harlem" (below), a collection of 57 jazz greats, from the Art Kane archives (www.harlem org)
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes, “Harlem” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.