The RISD Museum of Art will present “Urban America, 1930–1970,” an exhibition of works that reflect cultural shifts in urban centers, Friday, December 1, to February 25.
Between 1930 and 1970, economic and cultural factors contributed to demographic change in America’s cities, leading to the diverse, culturally rich, economically stratified urban centers that are known today. Spurred by the influx of job opportunities surrounding World War II, women entered the workforce in great numbers and the racial makeup of cities changed: by 1970, roughly five million African Americans had migrated to northern and western cities from the rural south. This exhibition from the museum’s permanent collection includes approximately 30 prints, drawings and photographs by American artists who sought to understand and characterize this new urban scene through their art.
Included in the exhibition are works on the themes of nightlife, labor, gender roles, protest and community building in America’s cities. Images by Aaron Siskind, Jacob Lawrence and Roy DeCarava capture the working and residential life of African Americans in Harlem in the 1940s and 1950s. The photographs of Providence artist Carmel Vitullo offer a portrait of the Italian American community of Providence’s Federal Hill in the 1950s. A photo essay on street life in New Orleans by Ralston Crawford examines that city’s community celebrations.
Work by Reginald Marsh depicts working women as vital participants in civic economy, while images by James Van Der Zee, Paul Cadmus and Morris Engel portray leisure time spent away from work at such places as Coney Island. Photography by Gordon Parks and the Boston photographer Jules Aarons characterizes the vitality and excitement of street life in the city. The exhibition concludes with a section on the 1960s civil rights movement as portrayed in the snapshot aesthetic of such photographers as Harry Callahan (RISD) and Garry Winograd.
The RISD Museum of Art is at 224 Benefit Street.
For information, 401-454-6500 or www.risd.edu.