When Modernism Was Still Radical: The Design Laboratory and the Cultural Politics of Depression-Era America

Shannan Clark


"This article examines the history of the Design Laboratory, which was founded in 1935
by the Federal Art Project as the first comprehensive school of modernist design in the United
States. The Laboratory embodied the vital connections that existed between modernist design
and radical political and social activism in the United States during the 1930s, providing a
vibrant point of contact between the business culture of America’s industrial design
entrepreneurs, the artistic experimentation of the Depression-Era avant-garde, an unprecedented
public art bureaucracy, and militant labor unionism and consumer activism. Following cuts in
government funding in 1937, the school continued operation as a cooperative sponsored by a
radical white-collar union before financial difficulties forced it to close in 1940."

Full Text:


American Studies. ISSN 0026-3079.

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