Emblematic of modern life, the metropolis has long been a topic of fascination in the visual arts, literature, music, and beyond. Cities with a high population density have seen a dramatic rise fueled by economic development and improved social structures over the past seven decades. The world’s population living in urban areas has doubled from 25 percent in 1950 to about 50 percent in 2020. With the need to accommodate expanding populations, cities are facing complex questions, including social and urban planning, public health, mass transportation and congestion, zoning, and gentrification. Among other current issues are socio-economic inequity, threats to biodiversity through construction and pollution, poor air and water quality, violence, and crime. The metropolis is a place of opposites, sometimes extreme: economic opportunities and social mobility exist next to poverty and exclusion. All of these elements affect our perceptions of the city, some more consciously than others.
This exhibition asks the question, what informs and shapes our experience of the city in the 21st century? The works on view take into consideration not only visual components but also sensory perceptions and collective memories of urban life that impact our minds and bodies and structure our lives in unexpected ways. Urban Impressions, with its decentralized and multisensorial presentation, illustrates how the metropolis is a space in flux that is made of tangible and intangible elements that impact our individual perception and highlights how artists help us to untangle the complexities or transcend the realities of urban life.