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COVER STORY

Life Outside The Lines

The 20th centuray was marked by quantum leaps in culture that changed all the rules. Calendar's critics pick the milestones along the journey to 2000

October 03, 1999

Marcel Duchamp, "Fountain." The invention of installation art: The artist buys a porcelain urinal, tips it on its side, signs it and enters it into an unjuried exhibition of avant-garde art in New York--and the sculpture is promptly rejected. By century's end, installation art is everywhere, representing art's status quo.

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1917

Architecture

Le Corbusier's arrival in Paris marks the emergence of one of the 20th century's great--and most influential--talents. During subsequent decades, Le Corbusier would design many of the most important structures in the history of Modern architecture, refining a stripped-down aesthetic modeled on the smoothly functioning machines of the new Industrial Age. Houses would reflect the efficiency of the ocean liner. Cities would mirror the order of the industrial assembly line. Among the world's great Modernist architects, only Frank Lloyd Wright would approach the scope of Le Corbusier's vision.

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1918

Theater

The century's first superstar director, Vsyevolod Meyerhold, stages "Mystery Bouffe," Soviet theater's major post-Revolution flourish, with scenes set in heaven, hell and the North Pole. Meyerhold began as a Chekhovian Moscow Art Theatre actor, but his use of the theater as a directorial and design playground (or nightmare) made people see the world in new ways. Until, that is, Stalin "disappeared" this Jewish anti-totalitarian genius.

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1919

Architecture

The founding of the Bauhaus marked the establishment of the world's first Modernist architectural institution--first in Weimar, then in Dessau, Germany--erasing traditional boundaries separating art, craft and architecture in order to arrive at the Gesamtkunstwerk--the total work of art. In challenging the position of the Beaux Arts academy, the Bauhaus instantly became the most important architecture school of modern times.

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1919

Movies

United Artists, emphasis on "artists," is formed by actors Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin and director D.W. Griffith. The founding of the company was the first shot in what proved to be an even more durable battle between studios intent on making money to the exclusion of everything else and creative individuals who were not averse to profit but felt control over their work was equally important.

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1924

Music

George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" is premiered by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra at New York's Aeolian Hall. The performance provides a kind of legitimization for jazz in the cultural community, and impacts the musical thinking of Ravel, Milhaud, Copland and other classical composers.

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1925-1928

Jazz

Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings produce a series of solos--"West End Blues," 'Muggles," "Weather Bird" among them--in which he virtually invents the idea of jazz soloing over a harmonic foundation. His vocals establish the relevance of a jazz-tinged approach to popular singing.

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1927

Pop Music

Searching for "hillbilly" musicians, New York record executive Ralph Peer finds a long line of hopefuls outside his Bristol, Tenn., hotel room door after he plants a story in a local paper announcing his visit. Among the artists in line: the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, a former train brakeman who would become the father of modern country music. His blues-edged tales of wanderlust and longing have inspired everyone from Hank Williams and Merle Haggard to Bob Dylan and Beck. The two songs Rodgers recorded then became his first Victor single.

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1927

Movies

Al Jolson's ad-libbed albeit ungrammatical "You ain't heard nothin' yet" in "The Jazz Singer" signals the beginning of the movies' sound era--and the end of glorious decades of silence.

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1927

Jazz

The Duke Ellington Orchestra records "Black and Tan Fantasy" and "Creole Love Call" and begins working at the Cotton Club, an engagement that provides steady employment as well as the opportunity for Ellington to create an expansive catalog of music. One of the great innovative voices in jazz history finds its first opportunity for expressive growth. In the same year, the Fletcher Henderson band employs arrangements by Don Redman that establish the feel, sound and instrumentation of the big-band swing style that would dominate popular music in the '30s.

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1929

Art

The Museum of Modern Art is founded in New York. Though preceded by one in Ludz, Poland, MOMA became the century's oxymoronic contribution to the 19th century museum-idea: a repository of present culture, rather than of the past. By the 1980s, every aspiring city wanted one.

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1930

Architecture

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