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UWyo Magazine

September 2014 | Vol. 16, No. 1

The Artist's Eye

A new Ralston Crawford exhibition at the UW Art Museum provides an all-inclusive framework for the artist’s work.

By Nicole M. Crawford

Ralston Crawford (American, 1906–78) attained artistic celebrity in 1939 when Life magazine featured a full color reproduction of his painting Overseas Highway. However, he was largely forgotten in the art historical timeline less than a decade later. A new exhibition, Ralston Crawford: The Artist’s Eye, is on display at the UW Art Museum through Dec. 20, 2014.

Crawford’s early work placed him with the precisionist artists, such as Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth and Stuart Davis, during the 1920s and early 1930s. Precisionism was one of the first modern-art movements indigenous to the United States that celebrated the American landscape. Crawford painted his urban and rural industrial landscapes using flat planes of color and crisp, articulated lines to portray steel foundries, water towers and other symbols of American industry.

However, he abandoned precisionism in favor of more abstract imagery after he was drafted in World War II. His images became abstract shards of flat, planar color that were shattered remnants of his previous style. With the rise of abstract expressionism and pop art, Crawford’s abstracted images of the aftermath of the atomic bomb test and ruins of postwar Germany became essentially absent from the art historical record.

As a result, most of the scholarship on Crawford has focused on his early work of the 1930s and his association with the precisionist movement. The UW Art Museum’s exhibition, Ralston Crawford: The Artist’s Eye, provides an investigation beyond the precisionist constrains of Crawford’s work in an all-inclusive framework that gives true clarity of Crawford’s oeuvre. Working closely with Neelon Crawford, the artist’s son, this four-year project presents a variety of media: painting, printmaking, drawing, photography and film. Through the incorporation of previously unseen 16mm footage shot by Crawford in the last two decades of his life, his selection process and visual choices and how he explored those become apparent.

To further explore Crawford’s methodical and rational pursuit of image-making in the postwar years, artwork from his early years, original drawing books and drawings are on exhibition and complemented by artwork from the museum’s collection of artists working during the same period. A complete view of an artist’s working process is revealed through this exhibition. Ralston Crawford: The Artist’s Eye sheds new light on Crawford’s mature work and how he is viewed in the development of American art.

Photo: Ralston Crawford (American, 1906-1978), Fishing Boats #4, 1955, oil on canvas, 19-3/4-by-28-15/16 inches, courtesy of the Ralston Crawford Estate and Neelon Crawford.

Corpus Christi II

Corpus Christi II
Ralston Crawford (American, 1906-1978), 1976, oil on canvas, 50-by-36 inches, courtesy of the Ralston Crawford Estate and Neelon Crawford.

Fishing Boats #4

Fishing Boats #4
Ralston Crawford (American, 1906-1978), 1955, oil on canvas, 19-3/4-by-28-15/16 inches, courtesy of the Ralston Crawford Estate and Neelon Crawford.

Blue, Grey, Black

Blue, Grey, Black
Ralston Crawford (American, 1906-1978), 1973, oil on canvas, 50-by-38 inches, courtesy of the Ralston Crawford Estate and Neelon Crawford.

The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of the University of Wyoming

About UWyo

Advertise

Subscribe

UWyo Archives

Contact Us

UWyo Magazine
University of Wyoming
Dept. 3226
1000 East University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
Phone: 307-766-2379
TTY: 307-766-6729
Email: uwyomag@uwyo.edu

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