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Modern Icon: The Machine as Subject in American Art

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Image of Trolley -- New Orleans

© Robert Frank, from <em>The Americans</em>

Trolley -- New Orleans

1955
10 7/8 x 14 in. (27.7 x 35.5 cm)

Robert Frank
American (Zurich, Switzerland, 1924 - 2019, Invernes, Nova Scotia)

Object Type: Photograph
Medium and Support: Gelatin silver print on paper
Credit Line: Gift of the Genesee Valley School Development Association
Accession Number: 1978.127
Link to this object
Location: Not currently on view

This now-iconic image of anonymous people riding a trolley car in New Orleans was originally published in Robert Frank’s most notable work, the book The Americans (1958). Frank took the photo just a few weeks before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama, ultimately leading to the 1956 Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation on public transportation. The power that trolley cars and other forms of public transportation had to expand and transform the urban landscape was unfortunately equaled by its power to segregate and reinforce oppressive racial and social inequities.

[label text for Modern Icon: The Machine As Subject in American Art exhibition, February 3 – March 6, 2012]

Bibliography
See general information about this series in Art in America, May 2009: "Another Trip Through 'The Americans,'" Leo Rubinfien, pp. 136-145 and 170; Sarah Greenough, "Looking in : Robert Frank's The Americans," Washington DC: National Gallery of Art, 2009: pp. 126-127, 133, 139, 185, 332; repr. p. 232.

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