Bruce Davidson, Untitled, from "East 100th Street", 1966– 68. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York. © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery.

The City Lost and Found explores a turbulent time in the U.S. by looking to the country's three largest cities.

U.S. cities witnessed incredible physical and social change between the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. In a span of two decades, the federal government's War on Poverty was born, whittled down, and effectively neutered all while the communities it served reckoned with the decline of industry and the increasingly dominant role of real estate and finance in urban development.

From Boston to Seattle, any major American city could serve as a case study on this especially turbulent period, but a current exhibit and its corresponding book submit that we need look no further than the country's three largest metropolises.

The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960-1980, currently at the Princeton University Art Museum, explores the master plans, protests, and art that defined the massive shifts that took place within these three cities' streets, homes, and offices during those years.

Left: RichardHaas,Proposal: To Paint the Shadow of Madison Square Garden Tower on the Corner of Park Avenue South and 23rd Street, 1976. Gouache on gelatin silver print, hand colored. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Meta S. and Ronald Berger. Art © Richard Haas / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Right: Julius Shulman, The Castle (Los Angeles, California) 325 S. Bunker Hill Avenue, Demolished 1969, 1966 or 1968. Gelatin silver print. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. © J. Paul Getty Trust.

Curated by Katherine Bussard, Alison Fisher, and Greg Foster-Rice,The City Lost and Found (which also exhibited last winter at the Art Institute of Chicago) seeks to convey the pivotal role each city played for the planners, artists, and activists who called them home during those dramatic decades. In New York, Jane Jacobs wrote the Death and Life of Great American Cities in 1961—two years later, Penn Station was demolished. An empowering mural on 43rd and Langley on Chicago's South Side was erected in 1967—one year later, a live television audience watched police and National Guardsmen clash with anti-Vietnam War protesters downtown. News photographers covering the Watts Riots of 1965 let the world see its traumatic fallout—a Reyner Banham documentary for the BBC fawned over L.A.'s unique brand of sprawl and consumerism seven years later.

The City Lost and Found is a relentlessly stimulating history lesson, but also a chance to consider how we're documenting our urban spaces now. Globalization and profit-driven reinterpretations of Jacobs's theories have given today's American cities a new set of issues with which to grapple. "There are signs that the discourse is shifting once again toward the analysis of the specific social circumstances of central cities," the curators write in their exhibit postscript. "What remains certain is that the image of the city—in the popular media and the arts—continues to play a central role in defining the significance of the city in public discourse."

Romare Bearden, The Block II, 1972. Paper collage with foil, paint, ink, graphite, and surface abrasion on 17 fiberboard and plywood panels. Collection of Walter O. and Linda J. Evans. Art © Romare Bearden Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
Left: Paul Rudolph, Lower Manhattan Expressway, New York City, perspective section, ca. 1970. Ink on mylar. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Right: Kenneth Josephson, Chicago, 1969. Photo collage. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. © Kenneth Josephson.
Garry Winogrand, Hard Hat Rally, New York City, 1969, printed 1978. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Victor S. Gettner, Class of 1927 and Mrs. Gettner. © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery.
Art Sinsabaugh, Chicago Landscape #117, 1966. Gelatin silver print. Art Sinsabaugh Archive, Indiana University Art Museum. © Elisabeth Sinsabaugh de la Cova and Katherine Sinsabaugh.
Harry Gamboa Jr., Decoy Gang War Victim, 1974, printed later. Inkjet print. Courtesy of Harry Gamboa Jr. © Harry Gamboa Jr.

The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960-1980 is on exhibit at the Princeton University Art Museum through June 7, 2015.

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