We think of our present time as one where change happens quickly, with trends arising and going out of fashion before impinging on the collective consciousness. It’s a bias based on what we see around us with little knowledge of recent history.
I’m reading about the Impressionist in France and how they radically impacted painting (and subsequently other art forms) over a twenty year period. It’s almost like one day all painting was expected to be a given style and then suddenly it became another style. The world’s expected way to perceive art quickly changed and that reverberated into the future to totally change how artists portray reality.
Following on this change, and influenced by the increasing mechanization of everything in the early 20th century, another radical change took place following a Paris show on decorative arts in 1925 (Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs), a show intended to stimulate new explorations in ornamentation. It was the influences from this show that resulted in the movement known as Art Deco (whose name, oddly enough, wasn’t attached to the movement until 1966). A lavish and distinctive style created in response to the austerity of prior decades, Art Deco drew on many influences but aimed for clean lines, linear perspectives, engineered and geometric looks augmented by the use of interesting and contrasting materials like stainless steel, terra cotta, ebony inlay and glass.
Flourishing in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, a brief spark smothered by the Great Depression, Art Deco’ s imprint on subsequent design schools continues to grace our world in ways small and large. From the Empire State Building to fonts in graphic design, Art Deco remains enthralling for the sense of style it projects and memories of a Golden Age that lasted only a brief time.
I try to photograph Art Deco architecture when I run across it. The designs and styles just make sense to me even though I couldn’t explain why. Perhaps it’s the way the rectangular frame of the camera viewfinder logically bounds the Art Deco shapes seen in it. Here are a few in my collection.