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The Final Cut: Route 66

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Review

Photographs by Gerd Kittel. Thames & Hudson, 2002. 175pp. £19.95 Designated in 1926, decommissioned in 1985, Route 66 was called the 'Main Street of America', writes Andrew Mead . Stringing together one small town after another, it stretched 2,500 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. Gerd Kittel shows it as it is today, sidelined by new highway systems and air travel, but still part of the American psyche. It evokes both the open road of the automobile age and the pioneering movement west of a century before.

Though shot in colour, Kittel's photographs have something of Walker Evans about them. As Evans did in the 1930s, Kittel looks head-on at a vernacular shed with half-eroded lettering on its tile-hung gable; he records the paraphernalia of barber's shops and garages, the chrome-bright diners, the signs and slogans that punctuate the trip. At New Devil's Elbow in Missouri, Route 66 is ill-maintained and empty, its central reservation verdant and wild. The store at Galena, Kansas, is preserved in aspic, apparently unchanged since the 1950s.

There are motels scarier than anything in Psycho - if the proprietors don't get you, the wallpaper will; though at the Siesta, Moriarty, New Mexico, it looks as if Dan Flavin, not Antony Perkins, dropped by to fix the lights.

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