Broken Myths. Rhetoric of industrial landscapes:Precisionism and its involvement with sociological matters during the New Deal period
Transformation associated with social, technological and economic changes and the pride taken in the achievements of progress is subject to modern landscape depictions. Through this visualization of technology and progress, Precisionist images represent an important reference for early 20th century’s historical, sociological, technological and cultural changes. They not only reflect society’s transition regarding aspects of production processes, but also play an important role for the nation’s understanding of identity and modernity. Art’s critical handling on the part of these political and economic parameters is therefore not limited to the Ashcan School and Social Realism but also applies to Precisionism: Within the political and economic crisis of the New Deal period the Precisionists follow their own aesthetic ideals and create their own social history of art – therefore becoming ‘silent’ voices of protest, with their ’wagging finger’ only visible to close observers of their art.
My dissertation will examine how Precisionism came to serve some artists as means for a technology- and socio-critical controversy and handling. The main question addressed is how shifting social, technological and economic environments find visual transfer into paintings. Along with artists Louis Lozowick and George Ault, main focus will be put on the commissioned works of Charles Sheeler.