The Hippo


May 24, 2020








Charles Sheeler, (American, 1883-1965), Amoskeag Canal,1948, oil on canvas, 22 1/8 x 24 1/8 in., Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire. Museum Purchase: Currier Funds, 1948.4.

Upcoming events

There are events associated with the show through August; here are the ones coming up.
“Urban Landscapes” Exhibition Tour: Saturdays, June 11, July 16, Aug. 13, at 11:30 a.m.
Creative Studio: City Collage: Saturday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., make a city scene using collage materials, for adults and children (free admission for NH residents 10 a.m. to noon that day)
In Perspective: Manchester’s Future Cityscape: Sunday, June 12, at 2 p.m.; Bob McKenzie, former city director of planning and community development, will explore 1990s Manchester and how events then shaped the city today; David Preece, executive director of the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, will discuss the current master plan; Susan Silberberg, founder of CivicMoxie, will share community vision for the Manchester Millyard, RiverWalk and downtown areas
Big Apple Express! Saturday, June 25, from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., $105, bus ride to NYC
Storytime in the Gallery: Roberto the Insect Architect: Monday, June 27, at 11:30 a.m., hear story, create bug house, for kids ages 2 to 5, all welcome
See “Urban Landscapes: Manchester and the Modern American City”
Where: Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St., Manchester
When: On view June 11 through Aug. 29
Admission: $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $9 for students, $5 for youth, free for kids younger than 13
Contact: 669-6144,

Urban art
Currier’s latest showcases the city’s influence on art

By Kelly Sennott

 The Currier Museum of Art’s latest exhibition stars the place artists always seem to flock to: the city.

Manchester in particular is featured in “Urban Landscapes: Manchester and the Modern American City,” on view June 11 through Aug. 29, but mostly, the show tells the general story of the city and its role in art. It contains photos, paintings, prints, mixed media, film and sculpture representing cities all over the country — Manchester, Portsmouth, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and the list goes on.
The Currier partnered with the Millyard Museum, the Manchester Historical Society and the City of Manchester in constructing this show’s content and programming, which include a trip to New York and tours around Manchester’s parks, public monuments and Amoskeag Millyard. 
There were a lot of different ways curators could have gone with a show like this, but narrative was most important.
“We had a lot of conversations about it, but we wanted to tell a story. … I think when you come here, you’ll understand a lot better how artists reacted to the urban environment in the turn of the century,” curator Kurt Sundstrom said during a visit to the museum last week, when the pieces were unhung and the gallery still smelled like fresh paint.
“Urban Landscapes: Manchester and the Modern American City” is presented in themes portioned throughout the gallery. The first theme explores city people and chronicles the social and technological changes during the 20th century due to the lightning speed at which communities evolved. 
In these images, visitors will find a woman reading on a subway and the outside of a cinema plastered with movie posters; a woman walking a duck via leash and a couple of nuns retreating from a meat market. Other pieces depict people on rooftops — doing laundry, sleeping there due to heat, or embracing there, like “Love on the Roof” by John Sloan.
“With all the houses and buildings so crammed together, there’s also that idea of voyeurism for artists — where you can be looking out your window across an alley, and you can see into the next person’s window — that’s something that really only happens in cities,” curator Samantha Cataldo said.
Nearby, Sundstrom gestured to a few black and white prints containing dark shadows and people walking alone.
“There’s this sense of loneliness, too,” Sundstrom said. “Even though there are 8 million people living in [New York City], everybody’s very isolated.”
At the center of the gallery is a tiny theater playing two films: Manhatta, a 1921 short documentary by painter Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand, and Street, a 2011 flick by James Nares. The latter was filmed with a high-speed camera rigged on a car and recorded at a speed so slow, it’s like watching a moving photograph traveling around New York City.
“These films are almost 100 years apart, but they’re by artists who are similarly interested in capturing what the burgeoning city looks like,” Cataldo said. “People can get that kind of contrast. But it’s not necessarily a history lesson — it’s more about these artistic views and interpretations of these important moments.”
Another section showcases the city’s role as a stage for political activism, with photos from big protests and events. Many document the civil rights movement, highlighting everything from Selma to Obama’s inauguration. 
The most modern theme looks at the inspiration the city’s aesthetic gave to artists, showcasing the angles and geometry of the urban world in abstract art. Many of these works focus on light, shadow, reflection or perspective. 
“Those are elements you can see throughout the show, but we thought it was important to highlight it because it’s really associated with the city. Being inspired by the geometric shapes of all the buildings and the speed of the trains and automobiles and all that kind of added to this American style of abstraction,” Sundstrom said. “When these skyscrapers were going up, people were taking bets they would tip over. People couldn’t believe the engineering was stable enough. And then people were going to the top of these tall buildings and getting a completely different view of the city.”
And, of course, there’s a big portion of the show inspired by Manchester, from formal art, like Charles Sheeler’s oil paintings of the millyard to the Manchester Historical Society’s photos reprinted by New Hampshire Institute of Art Professor Gary Samson. This story, Sundstrom and Cataldo said, is about how the mills acted as the driving force in Manchester, transforming it from a farming town to one with international prominence. It’s important, they said, because it’s in the midst of another kind of transformation.
“Mill cities like Manchester have gone one of two ways in recent years. Manchester’s just finally starting to turn the mills into lofts, and they’re being used for different things — they’re really an asset now. In a lot of other cities that were manufacturing cities, [the mills] are still shuttered, and they’re just kind of these monuments to a past,” Cataldo said. 

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