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Dead Reckoning

Art Green

1980

oil on canvas

84 1/4" x 47 3/4"

Before studying painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Green pursued degrees in industrial design and graphic design. Accordingly, a persistent fascination with architecture and the underlying structural constructs of the engineered world run throughout his large-scale paintings. Like several other Imagists, Green filled his works with references to advertisements; references to soft-serve ice cream cones and Firestone tires, among other products, constitute his personal iconography. However, unlike other Imagists, whose imagery tends to float untethered in space, Green‘s work is structurally supported.

Like many of Green’s paintings, Dead Reckoning is richly layered, with forms that reveal themselves only after a prolonged visual investigation of the work. At the time he painted it, Green was reading about the design and construction of New York City’s George Washington Bridge. Emulating the bridge’s towers, the border of the work encircles a mirror—a nod to Roy Lichtenstein’s Mirror Series. In the background of the mirror, hovering just below the taped-up rectangles that form a pair of legs from a Sears catalog, is the silhouette of Green’s signature ice cream cone. The two images of the painted fingernails are a reference to a nail-polish color chart he found in an advertisement in British Vogue.

Through his densely layered configurations, Green resists any sort of narrative; rather he creates these “visual complexities” (as he called them) with the aim of holding his viewer’s attention for an extended period of time. According to the artist: “an ideal (possibly mythical) viewer I have in mind: a person with some time on their hands, perhaps recovering from a non-life-threatening illness, who has gotten sick and tired of mentally figuring out the repeating patterns in the wallpaper or analyzing the hidden intentions of television ads, and who finally turns their attention to my painting—still looking for patterns and questioning motives.”

Credit

Museum Purchase, through funds from Mr. and Mrs. Frederic Renfert