Fortunately, a traveling exhibition, now closed, is well documented in a book of the same name. Assembled in its pages is a diverse selection of efforts by photographers, painters, sculptors, performance artists, architects, and planners to make sense of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles between 1960 and 1980.
This period was characterized by an array of tumultuous social and political changes. Certain transformations moved at a lurching pace, from deindustrialization, large-scale planning, and the periodic destruction of historic buildings to the flight from the inner city by the white middle class. Others hit like explosions, including demonstrations surrounding civil rights and the war in Vietnam and other political clashes.
The book presents a discerning mix of work by the still famous figures (Gordon Matta-Clark, Ed Ruscha, Reyner Banham, and Paul Rudolph) and the oft-forgotten (photographer Art Sinasbaugh, the Los Angeles Asco collective, and architect Shadrach Woods). As a whole, the project is not encyclopedic but atmospheric, conveying a mood of the urgency and vitality of the American city during this period of change. As this book shows, the best work on the city reveals the lines of power woven into its social, financial, and physical fabric.