Above and Below: Skyscrapers to Subways in New York City, 1913-1949


New York City underwent an unprecedented urban transformation during the first half of the 20th Century. The development of the skyscraper had a huge impact on the evolution of Manhattan. The tall buildings were virtual self-contained cities offering a range of services and resources to those who worked in them. Concurrent with the building boom was the ongoing expansion of the city subway. The growth of the transit system created greater flexibility in the relationship between where people lived and worked. No longer did people have to find living accommodations in close proximity to where they worked. This exhibition looks at the evolution of New York City through the eyes of printmakers who, like the social critics of the day, had mixed views if the city’s development. Artists like Charles Sheeler saw compositional opportunities in the soaring architecture. Martin Lewis and S.I. Margolies celebrated the dynamism and excitement in the changing landscape. Other artists were concerned skyscrapers dehumanized the workplace and that the subways would destroy the tightly knit fabric of the city’s neighborhoods. Above and Below examines more than an architectural period, it explores how the changing landscape of the city affected the residents and their lifestyles.