Cities of Light: Photographs from the Chrysler Collection Captures the Essence of the Modern City

  • NORFOLK, Virginia
  • /
  • February 15, 2012

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André Kertész, American (b. Budapest, Hungary, 1884–1985) Eiffel Tower, 1929. Gelatin-silver print, printed, ca. 1939. Museum purchase, gift of Mr. Edwynn Houk, Renée & Paul Mansheim, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Lane Stokes, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Robert K. Molloy, Mr. Robert McLanahan Smith, III, Mr. and Mrs. Richard M. Waitzer, Mr. Calvin H. Childress, Mr. and Mrs. Howard M. Martinez, Jr., and in memory of Alice R. and Sol B. Frank © Estate of André Kertész


The Chrysler Museum of Art captures the energy and vitality of the modern city with its Cities of Light: Photographs from the Chrysler Collection exhibition that is on view until December 30.

This focused exhibition explores the urban metropolis as a source of poetic and visual inspiration for photographers across generations and continents. Cities of Light is inspired by the moniker for Paris, one of the first cities to install electric street lights in 1881.

Photographers have captured shifts in the time of day, the dramatic mood, and the atmosphere of cities around the world with a wide array of light and shadow. Jun Shiraoka, Frank Paulin, and Gordon Parks relay the enigmatic quality of the urban landscape with its dark corners and subterranean recesses.  By experimenting with cropping, André Kertész, Ray Metzker, and Louis Faurer emphasize the oblique angles and obscure spaces imposed by illumination. Cuban artist Abelardo Morell’s camera obscura image juxtaposes a private room against the public space of the city, suggesting the confusion of these boundaries as a characteristic of urban life. 

Several images personify the city as an ungraspable entity containing an unseen, dynamic force. German and Brooklyn-born photographers Ilse Bing and Harvey Zipkin accentuate the strict geometry and overwhelming immensity of the New York City skyline. George Tice’s renowned view of New York from the top of the Chrysler building evokes a limitless frontier of one skyscraper after another. By contrast, in Bob Lerner’s Fancy Free, two dancers weightlessly propel themselves across the Chicago skyline. Finally, Norfolk’s White Way emphasizes the mystical quality of our own city of light.

The Chrysler Museum of Art is one of America’s most distinguished mid-sized art museums with a world-class collection of more than 30,000 objects, including one of the great glass collections in America, and a new Glass Studio. The Museum is located at 245 West Olney Road in Norfolk and is open Wednesdays, 10 a.m. -9 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays, noon-5 p.m. The Chrysler and the Glass Studio are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as major holidays. Admission to the Museum’s collection and Studio glassblowing demonstrations are free. For exhibitions, programming and special events, visit or call 757-664-6200. 

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