Thursday, February 28, 2008

Art Deco

Today I went around my hometown and took photos of Art Deco buildings. I've never really noticed them before but they are quite stunning. Art Deco is a lost art that slowly disappears each time a Deco building is torn down or remodelled. Of course, Art Deco was not only a type of architecture. It also influenced automobiles, aircraft, clothing and other everyday parts of people's lives right down to their bathroom mirrors and dressers.
The Art Deco period went from the 1920s and ended as a mainstream art style in 1939 though it continued for a short time in the U.S. after 1939. Other countries continued it well into the 1960s. World War Two and mass production spelled the end for Art Deco in the United States.

Art Deco is difficult to describe. It uses lines and simple shapes to create striking designs. Stylization and Idealization are the rules of Art Deco. As seen in the photo below, the woman is stylized and simplified but appears somewhat like a Greek goddess in all her glory.

Like I said, quite striking. This motif can be found in Warsaw, Poland.

Art Deco can perhaps be traced to the idealism of the period. Though the Great Depression hit during the middle of the Art Deco period the idealism and hope for a greater society was still quite strong. It was the Art Deco-spawning idealism that also gave birth to such political movements as Fascism and Nazism in an attempt to bring about that greater society. And once these idealistic movements turned ugly (specifically during the Second World War) the Art Deco style that is often associated with them died out. The rejection of Fascism and Nazism also brought about the rejection of Art Deco.It's quite unfortunate, actually.

The Empire State Building is perhaps the most famous Art Deco building and was at one time the tallest building in the world. And, after the destruction of the World Trade Center, the it is once again the tallest building in New York City.

The above photo shows my favorite Art Deco skyscraper, though it's not the Empire State Building. It's the one in the background, the Chrysler Building.
And the highly polished gothic eagles scream of the 1930s.
Of classic car hood ornaments. Of sleek 1930s racing planes. The spirit of the Golden Era.

When buildings had wings...literally.
It is a feast for the eyes.

Here are the pics I took around town today. Enjoy.

I don't know the date of this sign but it is definitely Art Deco style. Interestingly, this sign is from the J.C. Petersen haberdashery that belonged to my great-great grandfather, the store selling out in the 1990s. He came to the U.S. from Germany by himself at the age of 16 at the turn of the century, not knowing a bit of English. He received ownership of the shop when his partner died and it stayed open for roughly a century.

A very simple example of Art Deco, this building was originally and still is apartments.

Schools are often great places to find Art Deco influence. Both of these are dated 1939, the last year of the major art movement.

And the most spectacular of the Art Deco buildings in Boone: city hall. Again, like the schools above, this was built in 1939.

This plaque could help solve the mystery as to why the schools and city hall were all built in 1939. It seems there was some sort of economic initiative or project put into place in Boone in 1939 funded by the federal government. Interesting. To help recover from the Great Depression, no doubt.

The interior of city hall appears to be relatively unchanged.

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