Material Culture and Design in the Thirties: NY and the American Design Scene

Parsons School of Design: Art/Design Hist & Theory

Liberal Arts

Undergraduate Course

Graduate Course

Degree Students

Material Culture and Design

Spring 2020

Taught By: Marilyn Cohen

Section: A

CRN: 8443

Credits: 3

Summer 2013 the New York Historical Society presented an exhibition on Reginald Marsh and the 1930s. The exhibition focused on the cultural milieu of New York City during the Great Depression, setting Marsh and other artists of the period in relation to its popular culture. This intensive course returns to that exhibition as a focal point to look at decorative arts, material culture and design during the Depression, a period of acute national self-consciousness. The new technologies of radio and sound movies, documentary photography and newsreels provided a view of the country and its people previously unseen. The course will integrate film (e.g. Astaire and Rogers, Frank Capra, Busby Berkeley, etc.), theatrical productions, documentary photography, and museum exhibitions from or about the thirties with material culture ranging from fashion to sheet music, cars to mural paintings. We will look at streamlining in architecture, furnishings and appliances by industrial designers such as Russel Wright and Donald Deskey as well as at Colonial Revival design. New York City will be the backdrop albeit viewed entirely online. Radio City Music Hall, part of the larger Rockefeller Center, and Marsh’s 1937 Custom House murals will all figure into analysis of this singular moment in American cultural history during which the government itself became a source of patronage in order to maintain and generate American popular spirit. We will explore issues of gender, ethnicity, racism, and nationalism during a period of cultural unrest that nevertheless held fast to the idea of the American Dream rather than surrendering to political turmoil or revolution. The ‘subplot’ here will be an exploration of the ways in which the 30s is re-presented, e.g. Woody Allen films and retro style. We will draw on readings in material culture, cultural history, design, film and fashion studies. The course will be arranged to accommodate online teaching with student participation and contributions essential to make it work.

Open to: University graduate students.

College: Parsons School of Design (PS)

Department: Art/Design Hist & Theory (PGHT)

Campus: Online (DL)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Max Enrollment: 15

Add/Drop Deadline: April 8, 2020 (Wednesday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: May 13, 2020 (Wednesday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Closed*

*Status information is updated every five minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 9:06am 5/29/2020 EDT

Meeting Info:

Days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

Times: 9:00am - 12:00pm

Building: TBD

Date Range: 4/6/2020 - 4/17/2020

Building: TBD

Date Range: 4/20/2020 - 5/13/2020