Creeping Pavement explores artists’ changing attitudes toward urban spaces over the course of the late nineteenth to twentieth centuries, as depicted through a variety of media. This exhibition was curated by members of the 2019–2020 Student Museum Collective—Sylvia Bosco ’21, Joseph Hilleary ’20, Cassie Jackson ’22, Sabrina Lin ’21, and Ben Wu ’18—and is supported by the Becker Fund for the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
In America, cities are places of contrast and connection. They bring people together, yet often highlight the tensions that divide us. Cities are home to both the wealthy and the least privileged. Inhabitants hail from near and far, yet all see themselves as a part of the city’s identity. Thus, the art created when these urban centers developed offers a unique perspective on American life in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Tracing the evolution of the American city as it grew into its own distinct environment, this exhibition explores the many ways artists reacted to the rapid urbanization of American life. From the landscapes that foreshadow the industrialization and commercialization to come, to more recent urban views, the selected works of art interrogate the concept of the city, asking: Where did the city come from? Who was it intended for? How did it create and change the fabric of community? Artists highlight the many different facets of a perpetually developing urban landscape, investigating the ever-changing qualities that characterize the city today. The artists encourage us to look critically, quizzically, and lovingly at big cities like New York, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. These images inspire us to find continuity and to celebrate our shared humanity, even as we still grapple with the social, political, and environmental ramifications of urbanity. If recent events have demonstrated the vulnerability and even the fragility of cities and their inhabitants, these photographs from the past provide a powerful reminder of their resilience.