This unmissable show is a hour capsule of 1930 s America, from the Dust Bowl to Jean Harlow at the movies

A stupendous carry of Wrigleys gum flits like a Zeppelin before the Manhattan skyline. The sky is cloudless cobalt, the East river lies tranquil below. Here is the perfect gum( or so the slogan boastings) in an ideal vision where everything is reduced to pristine rectangles, from the rising skyscrapers to the gum to the abstract thoughtfulness. Pop fused with minimalism three decades in advance: what a overwhelming start to this show.

Charles G Shaw, otherwise known as one of the Park Avenue cubists, is not a refer on everyones lips. Certainly the majority of members of America After the Tumble: Depict in the 1930 s emanates as a revealing , not least because so few employments have travelled outside the US before. This is our first chance to see Grant Woods nightmarishly exuberant vehicle clang, in which a scarlet truck booms over the hill towards an impending pile-up, or his great American Gothic , the long-faced duo standing sentinel before their famous wooden home.

Death on the Ridge Road, 1935 by Grant Wood. Picture: Collect of Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts

And who has come across Alexandre Hogues Mother Earth Laid Bare , in which the raped scenery lies dead in the junk, all her light-green costumes snap away; or O Louis Guglielmis presentiment of Brooklyn Bridge as a shattered wreckage? A female sits startled on one of its mutilated struts, an unexploded bomb in her back. It is 1938: Roosevelt is prophesying war.

This show moves from the Great Depression to the onset of the second world war. Prolonged drought and relentless wind scourged the prairies, leaving them barren. Poverty-stricken farmers fled the Dust Bowl more than a million people displaced in Oklahoma alone. Metropolitans expanded to take in county migrants and refugees from socialist, fascist and Nazi Europe. It was a horrific decade for America, and yet evidently enormous for its painting.

America after the Fall show video

In the truest gumption, these works are signals of the times. They regard an entire American decade intact with their epitomes of factories, piers, gas pumps and turbines, of brand-new skyscrapers heroically silhouetted against midwestern skies, and metropolitans on mounds radiant with prominence. Sailors take shore leave with Lucky Strikes and pornographic ogles; stenographers crowd around the brand-new hairdressing salon; pitch-black roustabouts lug coal on the waterfront for the purposes of the grey bosss pitiless eye.

In Philip Evergoods Dance Marathon , the living dead finalists are only just deeming each other up as a skeleton dangles the prize money from its bony digits. The New Yorkers in Reginald Marshs In Fourteenth Street pour out of the metro looking for love, and quite possibly Antoines permanent waves at $1.75. In Marshs Twenty Cent Movie , girls in flimsies wait for their times beneath signs for Dangerous Bows A drama of human spirits STRIPPED BARE. Billboards teem in the sulphurous light.

This is committed realism by comparison with Edward Hoppers mysterious New York Movie : the usherette alone in her half-lit perimeter by the depart while the crowds watch some murky black-and-white cinema( Frank Capras Lost Horizon , in agreement with the appearances vigilant curators ). Shadows move across the screen and through her centre, as it seems, this lone anatomy lost in the city.

William H Johnsons Street Life, Harlem, 1939. Image: 2017. Photo Smithsonian American Art Museum/ Art Resource/ Scala, Florence

This is as much a show of history decorate as Revolution: Russian Artistry 1917 -1 932, its timely friend at the Royal Academy. But it also presents, as never before, the fabulou various forms of Americas 30 s avant garde. In one gallery alone they are able to startle from Hopper to OKeeffe to the quasi-abstract precisionists, early Jackson Pollock, political Philip Guston and the thick-skulled impasto of William H Johnsons post-cubist couple beneath a chunky Harlem moon.

Several of these painters had been to Europe. Stuart Daviss New York: Paris No 3 is a stunning cultivate, brilliantly designed in all its syncopated flatness. But despite the entitle, it draws little back from France. In Daviss transglobal streetscape, Paris is nothing but an old-time hotel promote Vins compared to the America of glinting gas stations, signposts, mailboxes, high-rises, rising aircrafts and sheer graphic zip. America is excellently new.

This picture was constructed in 1931, the year The Star-Spangled Banner became Americas national chant and Charles Demuth borrowed its words for And the Home of the Brave . This view of a modern factory makes a formidably suave geometry of the chilling tower, telegraph post, windows and brightness, all summarised as an display of perceptive planes and curves. Modernized, hard-edged and stylish, its a carol to the industrial age.

Hanging next to it is Charles Sheelers legendary American Landscape , in which the Ford Motor factory sounds luminous and frozen as a Seurat( minus the pointillism ). Sheeler is just as exacting as Demuth, but there is a suggestion of spiritual despair in his magnificently silent panorama, devoid of all human spirit rail a scooting fleck. After the crash of 1929, Henry Ford fired thousands of workers and set machine guns against objectors at the factory gates.

American Landscape, 1930 by Charles Sheeler: magnificently silent. Photo: Museum of Modern Art, New York/ Scala, Florence

Superbly curated by the Art Institute of Chicago, this is a show of ever-changing images, natures, ideas and styles. It is also perfectly choreographed so that the poor black cotton pickers of Thomas Hart Benton appear in direct contrast to Grant Woods joyful grey sharecroppers, answer, and the gothic spaces in Paul Samples Church Supper expres straight to the window in Woods American Gothic .

It is only when you meet Lumbers masterpiece surrounded by contemporary epitomes of abandoned farms and rural devastation that its down-home, backward-looking quaintness absolutely registries. And what a beautiful decorate it is: linear as a Botticelli and so radiantly clear.

In a picture full of fiercely trenchant paints Alice Neels gallant painting of trade unions organiser Pat Whalen, fists bearing down on the newspaper headlines; Mussolini as a green-faced jack-in-a-box; Gustons sickening Guernica tondo Woods lyrical ruralism still maintains its own. The tycoon and princes of the midwest, their home a clapboard castle, his pitchfork a sceptre.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here