Walker Warehouse, 1953
Gelatin silver print
34 x 25.1 cm
Restricted gift of David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg, 1976.225
In the 1930s Aaron Siskind was active in the New York Photo League, leading classes of advanced students in a social documentary project called the Feature Group. Meanwhile, he undertook photographic studies of vernacular architecture on Martha’s Vineyard and in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. When he came to teach at Chicago’s Institute of Design in 1951 (where he remained for 20 years), he was thus perfectly suited to lead the Sullivan Project, a three-year, comprehensive documentation of the buildings in the city designed by the influential architect Louis Sullivan. In the 1950s, urban planners and developers across Chicago undertook massive demolition projects that brought down scores of Sullivan’s outstanding creations. Siskind photographed the Walker Warehouse, designed in 1886–89, just as it was being torn down, focusing on Sullivan’s elegant use of ornament even in utilitarian structures. Siskind’s picture emphasizes the shallowness of space and the play of light within the image’s rectangular boundaries.
— Permanent collection label
AIC, "Taken by Design: Photographs from the Institute of Design, 1937–1971," March 2–May 12, 2002; traveled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, July 20–October 20, 2002; and Philadelphia Museum of Art, December 7, 2002–March 2, 2003. (David Travis and Elizabeth Siegel)
Travis, David and Elizabeth Siegel. 2002. “Taken by Design: Photographs from the Institute of Design, 1937–1971,” Exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago/University of Chicago Press. p. 137, cat. 177, pl. 129.