I came across the photo above this morning which is titled The China Red. It was shot by photographer Jian Wang at Olympic Forest Park in Beijing, China and is the winning image in the Mobile Category of the Smithsonian’s 13th Annual Photo Contest. I spent about five minutes just staring at it, transfixed by the pattern of the shadows and colors. Just a great image.
The color and forms incorporated in the photo reminded me of some of the work from the Precisionist painters such as DeMuth and Sheeler. I thought I would share the following post from back in 2009 about Demuth:
I’ve been a fan of Charles Demuth since the first time I saw his work. He was considered a part of the Precisionist movement of the 20’s, along with painters such as Charles Sheeler and Joseph Stella among many others, with his paintings of buildings and poster-like graphics such as this painting, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold. He was also one of the prominent watercolorists of his time and while they are beautiful and deserve praise in their own right, it’s his buildings that draw me in.
Demuth’s work has a tight graphic quality but still feels painterly to me. There’s still the feel of the artist’s hand in his work which to me is a great quality. There are photorealist painters out there whose craftsmanship I can really admire but who are so precise that they lose that feel of having the artist’s hand in the work. I like seeing the imperfection of the artist. The first time I saw one of the Ocean Park paintings from artist Richard Diebenkorn, it wasn’t the composition or color that excited me. It was the sight of several bristles from his brush embedded in the surface. To me, that was a thrill, seeing a part of the process. The imperfect hand of the artist. I get that feeling from Demuth.
He also had a great sense of color and the harmony and interplay of colors. His colors are often soft yet strong, a result of his work with watercolors. His whites are never fully white and there are subtle shades everywhere, all contributing to the overall feel of the piece. His work always seems to achieve that sense of rightness I often mention.
His works, especially his paintings of buildings, have a very signature look, marked by a repeated viewpoint where he views the buildings above him. His paintings are usually fragments of the building’s upper reaches. There’s a sense of formality in this view, almost reverence. I don’t really know if he was merely entranced by the forms of industrial buildings or if he was making social commentary.
Whatever the case, do yourself a favor and take a look at the work of Charles Demuth. It’s plain and simple good stuff…