Ralston Crawford American, 1906-1978


Recognized as one of the great innovators of Precisionism in the 1930s, Ralston Crawford grew well beyond his early visions of America flexing its newly industrialized muscles. In his later years he grew increasingly concerned with painting as an abstract process, his mature works dealing with a deeper interrogation of the same scenes as some of the shine wore off them. Working and reworking in various media, Crawford at mid-century produced semi-abstract compositions, maintaining always a strong practice of observation. He pioneered the use of photography both as a tool for the painter and as a semi-abstract medium in itself. Ever an innovator, he broadened and deepened the dialogue of post-war American painting where his colleagues remained entrenched in established styles. His experiments with silk-screening and graphic arts helped him to clarify a slick, almost Pop quality. His attentions, however, were bent not to the shiny and new, but also to the collapsing and decaying. His photographs of jazz musicians have been celebrated and his crisp modernist paintings are in important public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When he died at 71 in 1978, he had already influenced several generations of American artists.

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