Ralston Crawford (American, 1906 – 1978) was acknowledged as an important living artist when, in 1938, Life Magazine reproduced his iconic painting, Overseas Highway. Known for his images of America’s industrial landscape such as bridges, grain elevators and shipyards, the advent of WWII changed everything for Crawford as Abstract Expressionism developed in New York soon thereafter and he was forgotten. Considered an abstract artist working in the Precisionist style, Crawford pursued and evolved his work over the next 40 years until his death without much recognition or acclaim.
Ralston Crawford: The Artist’s Eye revisits Crawford’s image making from the 1950s until his death. He worked in a variety of media—painting, printmaking, drawing, photography, and the moving image—considering each completed work as a final work of art. His until now unseen 16mm footage gives witness to his “eye,” his selection process, and his visual choices. Through his filmic work, it becomes clear that Crawford’s use of bold elements of form was not an invention, but seen by him in a routine way. The exhibition incorporates works of diverse media in order to understand how he pursued new content and new techniques for his images, simultaneously revisiting familiar subjects.
Crawford’s interest in industrial subjects stems from his time as a child traveling the Great Lakes with his father and then as a young sailor. He studied art at the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles; the Pennsylvania Academic of Fine Arts and the Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA; and the Hugh Breckenridge School, East Gloucester, MA. Crawford’s work is included in such prestigious collections at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.
Ralston Crawford: The Artist’s Eye is presented with three additional exhibitions: Early Work, Drawing and Photographs, and Contemporaries, which provide a broader context within which to explore and understand the artistic work of Ralston Crawford.
Funded by Pat Guthrie Special Exhibitions Endowment Funds, Ron and Patti Salvagio Endowment Funds, an anonymous gift, FMC, UW Art Museum Gala Funds, Wyoming Public Radio, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming Arts Council through the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming State Legislature