Crawford Ralston: Structures of Time
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Ralston Crawford is an American artist best known for his Precisionist aesthetic style that celebrates the edifices of modern America such as bridges, silos, and grain elevators. Crawford utilized a highly controlled technique in which subject matter was defined by sharp-edged, simplified forms, minimal details, and nominal emotional content. It is less well known that Crawford was a prodigious photographer and produced over ten thousand finished prints, few of which were exhibited in contrast to his paintings. Similar to his paintings, many of Crawford’s photographs are sharp-edged geometric abstractions sparse in contextual or expressive details. Because of this, his photographs form ideal matrices that allow the free exploration of the nature of time. I use Crawford’s examples of photographs contained in the Hallmark Photography Collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, to characterize time in Crawford’s photographs in four categories: momentary, transitory, impervious, or entropic. That is, time that is either transitory and measured, momentary and instantaneous, impervious and lasting forever, or entropic and chaotic without reason or measure. I apply concepts of time among modern thinkers and photographers active during the onset of Crawford’s career. I use art historical evidence and formal analysis to explore Crawford’s photographs and reason how each of his photographs expresses a specific “motif” of time. Time that is either transitory and measured, momentary and instantaneous, impervious and lasting forever or entropic and chaotic without reason or measure. Finally, I have included an appendix that briefly explains the neuroaesthetic underpinnings of how the brain sees art and in what way it relates to the interpretation of Crawford’s photography.
Table of Contents
The Nelson-Atkins Collection -- Ralston Crawford -- Prevalent Thoughts about “Time” during the Early, Formative Years of Ralston Crawford’s Career -- Photography and Time: The State of the Medium at the Onset of Ralston Crawford’s Career -- Ralston Crawford and Time -- A Moment in Time -- Ralston Crawford and the Passage of Time: Transitory Time -- The Precisionist Aesthetic and Time Eternal: Impervious Time -- Entropic Time: Chaos -- Summary -- Appendix: a few words concerning a neuraethetic approach to art