New York Photo Review
Volume 4 Issue 3 January 16 to 22, 2013

The Genetic Wars by Barbara Confino

Cars Cars Cars

Cars, Culture, and the City
Gottscho-Schleisner, L Motors, 175th and Broadway, 1948

Even though there are only 248,000 automobiles registered in Manhattan – far less per capita than other major cities – and pedestrian plazas are (thankfully) taking over Times Square and elsewhere, cars are the stars of this exhibition. It's a wide ranging show and will surely generate appreciative nods of recognition from viewers of a certain age, and probably a great deal of curiosity and interest among those too young to remember say, the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow, Queens.

There’s a lot to see and enjoy; vintage photographs of cars, pictures of cars and celebrities (Monroe, Sinatra and Gleason), film clips such as GM’s Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair, ads featuring cars in New York City settings (including one for the original Ford Mustang at the ’64 World’s Fair,) and a fascinating history of the automobile’s role in the city’s development. It includes drawings of the proposed FDR Drive, and an illustration of what the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which had been conceived by Robert Moses, might have done to the skyline, had it won approval.

Donald Albrecht, the museum’s curator of architecture and design, has paid homage to photography with a small but selective show entitled “Artists Look at the Car and the City” which includes Paul Strand’s iconic wire wheel image; Berenice Abbott’s “Gas Station, East Tremont St.” (Note the 1936 gas prices — 11 cents per gallon); a 1941 Weegee photo of the recently shot Harry Maxwell slumped over the wheel; Garry Winogrand’s classic “Park Avenue, NY”, and for something completely different, Bruce McCall’s illustrated “Dream-O-Rama.”

In the final analysis, this exhibition has plenty of food for thought for everyone, from the car of the future as proposed by GM in 1939 to a conceptual project called “Upway” which combines a photograph of a contemporary Times Square and a model elevated roadway that carries electric powered vehicles only large enough to hold one or two people, reducing carbon emissions by up to 30%.

It’s a history lesson that could make you wish for what was, rather than what is.


Cars, Culture, and the City


Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Ave.
UES         Map

212 534 1672
mcny.org

Wednesday, March 17 to
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Hours: Tues - Sun 10 to 5
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