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In the fall of 1927 Charles Sheeler was commissioned to photograph the Ford Motor Company plant in Dearborn, Michigan, often referred to as the Rouge plant. With the launch of the new Model A, automobile production began that same year. Sheeler's Rouge commission was part of a $1.3 million advertising campaign to generate excitement and public interest in a new modern automobile and powerful new plant. Sheeler–fascinated by cars and American industry–claimed that the commission was "a job made to order" and "incomparably the most thrilling [subject] I have had to work with."

Sheeler spent about six weeks at the massive Ford plant, which covered 1100 acres and employed about 75,000 people. Over the course of his stay, he struggled to make visual sense of such a vast enterprise, finally deciding to document "details of the plant and portraits of machinery," rather than panoramic views of the factory and its famous assembly line. The majority of these views show the early stages of the automobile manufacturing and areas that deal with steel production. The Rouge was the largest industrial complex in the world, distinguished by its independence from outside suppliers. Most notably, it had its own steel foundry. Iron ore was brought in by freighter, converted into steel and transformed into the engines, frames, bodies, and parts to make a complete automobile. Criss Crossed Conveyors–one of Sheeler's best-known works and an icon of modern photography–is featured alongside such images as Pulverizer Building and Ladle on a Hot Metal Car. In the end, Sheeler made fewer than 40 photographs at the Rouge, but the series is considered his most critically acclaimed and is regarded as the high point of machine-age photography. Twenty-three Rouge images are included in the exhibition.