Victor Gruen: Grayson's, 1939

Victor Gruen and Elise Krummeck, two Grayson's storefronts, circa 1939-40. From Anette Baldauf and Katharina Weingartner's documentary, The Gruen Effect, 2009When the Gruen's left Germany, just before the outbreak of war, they went to New York and did a number of shops (Lederer's, Ciro's) plus eleven branches of Grayson's, a clothing store.  Both of these images contain all sorts of first iterations of something so commonplace that we don't even see them anymore: strange leaps of scale, an ambiguous play of sun, shadow, neon and armature in the signage itself, so that it is never quite the same at any one time, the facade as billboard, the ambiguity about where the sidewalk ends and the store starts – the blurring of boundaries between in and out, private and public: it is all chimerical, but still involved in the serious business of commerce.

How does one make shopping accidental, inadvertent yet habitual, where one drifts into an impulsive purchase rather than marching, money clutched in fist, to buy something very specific?  The blur between cash and credit is anticipated in these storefronts.  Consumption has indeed become inadvertent, the point of purchase is never quite clear.