It's easy to forget, considering how much technology we interact with today, that the roots of modernism have everything to do with making sense of the machine. The industrial machine offered modes of production, quickness of industry, and a brand new aesthetic, and the degree to which modernism is about sorting this out can be easy to overlook. Thankfully, the Wolfsonian-Florida International University Museum on Miami Beach continues to explore the speed, steel, and strength of our early modernist moment through the propaganda and ephemera of the era. Their new exhibit, Speed Limits, gets at the increasing pace of life in the early part of the 20th century, and reminds us how artists and designers reconciled themselves to the larges technological shift the world had seen. Have a look at the slideshow here, or better yet, get down to the Wolfsonian in person. Speed LImits runs through February 20th, 2011.
This lithograph, called People Work-Evening from 1937 by the American Benton Spruance shows the teeming urban hordes toing and froing both above ground and below.
Investment of Capital in Soviet Maritime Transport is a postcard circa 1930 that ran in a Moscow publication called IZOGIZ. Not only does the work lionize Soviet industry, but the looming ship suggests the inevitability and the inexorable push of technology. Courtesy of � 2009 Silvia Ros All Rights Reserved.
This untitled watercolor by Italian Tulio Crali is from around 1935. Clearly indebted to the Futurists, I love the way speed is suggested here with whirling propellers and shifting cubist planes.
Speed Your Message is an ad from around 1931 designed by the Englishman Albert E. Halliwell. It was published by Imperial and International Communications Limited.
This postcard by French artist Francis Vareddes tells you all you need to know about the thrilling promise of the automobile. Courtesy of � 2009 Silvia Ros All Rights Reserved.
Clearly vigor wasn't limited just to the machine as this New York periodical Physical Culture from 1927 shows. Courtesy of � 2009 Silvia Ros All Rights Reserved.
This Pirelli tire clock comes from around 1950, but it's inclusion on say a bedside table shows how deeply the notions of industry and speed had penetrated into contemporary life. Courtesy of � 2009 Silvia Ros All Rights Reserved.
Look close and you'll see that alongside the power of sheer speed in a lot of the objects in this show, you'll also see a mounting paranoia and unease with the rise of the machine. Here the city appears noisy and chaotic, and who hasn't cursed a clattering workman first thing in the morning. Ah, but work must be done. This woodcut is called Man with a Drill, is from around 1935 and was made by the American artist Charles Turzak. Courtesy of � 2008 Silvia Ros All Rights Reserved.
To me this is the perfect expression of the unsettled quality that more and more technology can inspire. Entertainments like Metropolis and City Lights showed different faces of that fear, and this one shows a far more pedestrian malady: insomnia. This ad from around 1935 is for Neurinase Alepsal. Courtesy of � 2009 Silvia Ros All Rights Reserved.