Chicago #85, 1964
Art Sinsabaugh (United States, 1924–1983)
Silver gelatin print
11 3/4 x 19 1/2 inches
Gift of Ed Zagorski 1985-38-1
Art Sinsabaugh worked in the tradition of the Institute of Design in Chicago (where he studied) and its predecessor in the same city, the New Bauhaus, founded by László Moholy-Nagy in 1937. Moholy-Nagy taught the value of arriving at self-expression through experimentation and encouraged students to challenge and stretch traditional forms. Sinsabaugh brought these values to his art, and taught them to his students.
Sinsabaugh's Chicago Landscape series was completed after his famous Midwest Landscape series, in which he used a radically unconventional format, printing his 12 x 20-inch negatives as small as 1 x 20 in order to emphasize the prairie's flatness and the visual activity on the horizon. He once said, "I began to think of Chicago again and I wanted to show it as a prairie city—I felt it to be a horizontal city."
Sinsabaugh made the photograph Chicago #85, like much of his work in the series, along one of the expressways that had recently been cut through city neighborhoods, opening up perspectives that had not previously been available. Here Sinsabaugh, typically, describes the space through a procession of narrowing strips—highway surfaces, fences, rail tracks and platform, secondary roads, lines of parked cars, and, finally, the strip of houses and commercial buildings that constitute the neighborhood. It is a space that denies the viewer entry. Sinsabaugh again and again used this approach to describe, in his words, "the neighborhoods...laid bare and their very bowels exposed." Meanwhile, on the sunny expressways, the speeding cars are so blurred by movement as to resemble pure energy.
Text by Edward Zagorski, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008