The Bay Bridge: A Work in Progress

L: Peter Stackpole, Untitled (cable spinning, Telegraph Hill in the background), 1936. Gelatin silver print. Potential Museum Purchase (Museum purchase, Pritzker Fund for Photography). L11.53.5. Courtesy of the Peter Stackpole Estate. R: Dong Kingman, The Raised Bridge, ca. 1934. Watercolor over graphite on wove paper. Bequest of James D. Hart. 1991.74.5

The Bay Bridge: A Work in Progress, 1933–1936

February 1, 2014June 8, 2014

Celebrating the completion of the new eastern span of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, this exhibition presents a newly acquired group of photographs by Peter Stackpole (1913–1997) documenting the bridge’s original construction in the 1930s—the first works by this important Bay Area photographer to enter the Museums' collection.

Scaling the dizzying heights of the unfinished structure over the course of three intense years, this young photographer moved freely among the construction workers, telling their story of death-defying labor in a series of striking photographs that record one of the most ambitious public works projects in California history. In the midst of the Great Depression, many artists were drawn to the spectacular site, inspired by the bridge’s modern engineering, to capture its bold industrial forms and commemorate the heroism of the American workforce.

This exhibition juxtaposes Stackpole’s photographs with prints and drawings of the Bay Bridge construction by his contemporaries, many of whom earned their living under the auspices of San Francisco’s Federal Art Project. Artists include Dong Kingman, Otis Oldfield, Arthur G. Murphy, George Booth Post, and John Stoll, The exhibition also features a small selection of original studies from the firm of renowned San Francisco architect Timothy Pflueger, who contributed to the design of the original Bay Bridge.