- Art History News: Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art
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- Art and Commerce: The Challenge of Modernist Advertising Photography
What goes unmentioned in the catalogue texts are posters and commercial art. Art Deco echoes Precisionism in the preference for simplification, impersonality, mechanical subjects, subdued colour and so forth. Art Deco is not discussed in the catalogue essays.
In addition to paintings, the exhibition includes a range of sculpture, prints, drawings, and photographs. The remainder of the items in the show are examples of excellent and uncompromising design from the inter-war period: book-covers, furniture, a lamp, radio, even a Cord Phaeton automobile.
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Sheeler is not only the leading Precisionist, he is one of the most important figures in the history of early Modernist art in America. His realism is a touch dry but is never pedantic. He knew enough to keep pictures free of fussiness and he simplified to the degree necessary. Ebsworth, His machine paintings are freer than the art that came afterwards. Joseph Stella is unusual in the degree of freedom and dynamism in his art.
His views of the Brooklyn Bridge emphasise the swooping tension of the cables. Oil on canvas, 48 x 30 in. This exhibition includes one of her night-time views of skyscrapers and the catalogue illustrates another, the famous Radiator Building — Night, New York They show buildings rather than the workers or the dramatic even picturesque smelting of iron. The paintings of Charles Demuth are less naturalistic and feature the multiple lines and flat planes that one can find in Orphism and Cubism.
Art History News: Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art
The radically simplified bridge views of Ralston Crawford are as concise as Art Deco posters. Much of Precisionism relies on photography: it is either photography or derived from photographs. The exhibition contains photographs by Precisionists. Paul Strand is the best known of the Precisionist photographers and film makers.
His documentary film Manhatta made in collaboration with Sheeler is a landmark of American cinema. Photographs in the exhibition include well-chosen examples by Margaret Bourke-White, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Jean Steichen, Ralph Steiner and a number of photographs taken by painters.
Where the sources and paintings can be matched, both are included for purposes of comparison. The fact that he only painted between and is a painful loss to us. Only eight paintings by him survive. The exhibited Watch is one of the masterpieces of Modern art. Its restrained colour, flat facets, accuracy and exquisite finish make it stylistically closer to Post-Cubism than Precisionism but the spirit of the art is pure Precisionism.
Analysis by horologists suggests that while the depiction of the workings of the watch is accurate, the main spring appears defective. It may be that this poignant impairment was deliberately introduced by the artist, who had a lifelong struggle with his homosexuality, and may have wished to use symbolism of dysfunction. The find of the exhibition is George Copeland Ault Technically, his paintings conform to most aspects of Precisionism in approach and subject; where they differ is tone and implication.
His architectural views are imbued with more atmosphere than those by other Precisionists. The views of unpeopled scenes in snow, mist and at night have a degree of melancholy and ambivalence absent from other Precisionist art. His best paintings have a meditative quality missing from more typical examples of Precisionism.
It is not great art but it is powerfully compelling — all the more so because it exerts its hold in an inexplicable manner. Judging on this evidence, political critiques of Precisionism seem misplaced. See our disclaimer. Charles Sheeler was one of the most noted American painters and photographers to embrace the iconography of the machine.
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But was he high priest or heretic in the religion of mass production and technology that dominated his era? Karen Lucic considers this intriguing question while telling us Sheeler's story, and showing us how Sheeler produced images of extraordinary aesthetic power that provocatively confirmed America's technological and industrial prestige in vivid detail.
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Art and Commerce: The Challenge of Modernist Advertising Photography
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