Art: New York Was His Wife

To some people, the Brooklyn Bridge is just a bad buy; to the late Joseph Stella, it was the high altar of the American dream. In its shadow, he once wrote, "I felt deeply moved, as if on the threshold of a new religion or in the presence of a new divinity." His paintings of the bridge made him the foremost U.S. adherent of futurism, the Italian-born industrial-minded art movement that added space to cubism in the blurring and breakup of the realistic image.

Through the years, his stark and commanding image of the bridge, its cables arranged in sparkling prisms and...

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