Alexander Nemerov
Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2011, English
Nonfiction, Art and Cultural History
10 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches, 152 pages, 87 illustrations
ISBN: 9780300172393
Suggested Retail Price: $45.00

From the Publisher. An American painter usually associated with the Precisionist movement, George Copeland Ault (1891–1948) created works that provide a unique window onto the uncertainty and despair of World War II. Despite early commercial success in the 1920s, Ault eventually withdrew from both artistic and political worlds in 1937 and set up his studio in a tiny house in Woodstock, New York, where he produced evocative scenes of barns, telephone wires, and streetlights that utilize precise alignments and geometries to impose a symbolic order on a world in crisis.

To Make a World is the first publication on Ault in more than two decades, and it features nearly 20 of Ault's paintings alongside those of his contemporaries, including Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, and Andrew Wyeth. Author Alexander Nemerov explains that despite Ault's remote location and reclusive lifestyle, his paintings represent his fear for the precarious state of the world and reflect an emotional response shared by many artists and the nation at large.

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Phil Patton

Written to accompany an inspired exhibition first mounted at the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.; currently at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri; and due at the Georgia Museum of Art next year, the book reveals a powerful overlooked artist, George Ault. The book and the exhibition focus on five paintings made between 1943 and 1948 depicting the crossroads community of Russell’s Corners near Woodstock, New York. Ault was a sort of darker, deeper cousin of Charles Sheeler or Charles Demuth or even Edward Hopper. Poor, critically neglected, isolated, he committed suicide in 1948.

Ault’s paintings, like those of Sheeler, Demuth, and Hopper, also have a lot to teach us about architecture and space and the emotions associated with both. The space Ault painted is also cinematic, or theatrical—it could be a set for a darker, never-performed Thornton Wilder play. Nemerov sees Ault in the context of Precisionism or Neue Sachlichkeit and ambitiously uses him as a lens to look at visual thinking in America in the 1940s. The wide-ranging text is perhaps overreaching but also intriguing with its references to film noir and documentary photography.

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