Making the Modern: Industry, Art, and Design in America

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University of Chicago Press, 1993 - 528 pages
In this ambitious book, Terry Smith chronicles the modernist revolution in American art and design - from its origins in the new industrial culture of the twentieth century to its powerful and transforming effects on the way Americans came to see themselves and their world. From Ford Motor's first assembly line in 1913 to the New York World's Fair in 1939, Smith traces the distinctive visual imagery that evolved as the core of American modernity in the first half of the twentieth century. Illustrated with an extraordinary variety of photographs, many previously unpublished, Making the Modern focuses on the key images of modernity - industry and workers, cities and crowds, and products and consumers - as portrayed across the broad spectrum of American experience. Albert Kahn's plant designs, Charles Sheeler's industrial landscapes, Margaret Bourke White's photographs, Diego Rivera's Detroit murals, the design of Fortune magazine, advertising, the FSA historical project - all are cited here in a brilliant synthesis of visual imagery and historical interpretation. Smith reveals how this visual revolution played an instrumental role in the complex psychological, social, economic, and technological changes that came to be known as the second industrial revolution. From the role of visualization in the invention of the assembly line, to office and building design, to the corporate and lifestyle images that filled new magazines such as Life and Fortune, he traces the extent to which the second wave of industrialization engaged the visual arts to project a new iconology of progress. Employing a wide rage of disciplines - including history of technology, business, design, art, advertising, andarchitecture - Smith provides fresh readings of an array of topics including: the nostalgic desire for the past as an essential part of modernity; Frida Kahlo's feminist resistance to masculinist modernization; the popularity of industrial design; the Chicago and New York expositions as consumerist utopias. This broad, challenging work advances our understanding not only of twentieth-century art and design, but also of a crucial period in the history of modern culture.

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Making the modern: industry, art, and design in America

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Smith aims to gain a clearer understanding of modernity by focusing on America in the 1920s and 1930s, decades that shaped modernity and the images that represent it. He points to an iconology of ... Read full review

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About the author (1993)

Terry Smith is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Pittsburgh. His many books include The Architecture of Aftermath, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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