Self in the City: Highlights from the Collections of the HRM and Art Bridges

August 14, 2019–August 16, 2020

From the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century, the modern American city became increasingly industrialized. For many, cities offered a range of cultural, occupational, and social opportunities within a bustling community, and yet simultaneously evoked feelings of alienation, nostalgia, and struggle. Works featured in this display span over one hundred years and invite discussion about this urban paradox.

Self in the City comprises nine works that focus on the urban environment and the ways in which cities and individuals contend with each other. Bronzeville at Night, 1949, a lively and vibrant Chicago cityscape by Archibald Motley, Jr., is on loan from Art Bridges, as is The Walls, 1954, a mysterious and eerie urban space by Hughie Lee-Smith (on view through January 2020). Norman Wilfred LewisUntitled (Subway Station), 1945, will then rotate with Lee-Smith’s work. Selections from the Museum’s permanent collection will include images by William Hahn, Daniel Putman Brinley, Barbara Morgan, Junius Allen, Paul Cadmus, Susan Hall, and Jacob Lawrence. The artists present figures within cityscapes from unique vantage points, centering on such topics as migration, industrialization, and personal expression. The environments range from stark, forbidding streets to bustling intersections. In each case, the artist challenges us to consider the merits of blending in or standing out.

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Cities such as New York and Chicago were meccas of migration for people from rural areas and the South in general. Alone and in groups, millions moved north seeking work, community, and, in the case of African Americans, freedom from segregation and violence. Artists, in their own lives, have always had a unique relationship with the urban landscape. The concentration of patrons, museums, art schools, clubs, and commercial galleries in cities was advantageous for aspiring artists from all around the country.

The Hudson River Museum is honored to continue our partnership with Art Bridges for a second year. Art Bridges is a foundation established by arts patron Alice Walton to facilitate the sharing of outstanding works of American art and support partner institutions in expanding and deepening their connection with audiences. Building on last year’s successful collaboration, these masterpieces of American art provoke new ways of interpreting works within our own collection and create a unique context that inspires candid, thoughtful conversations.

With these selections, we invite you to think about how you define yourself in relation to cities. Do cities boost or drain your energies? In an urban environment, have you found freedom or oppression? Do you feel a sense of community or a sense of longing for one?


Support provided by Art Bridges.

Archibald John Motley, Jr. (American, 1891–1981). Bronzeville at Night, 1949. Oil on canvas. On loan from Art Bridges.