Seeing America In Isolation: American Artist George Ault Showed Us The America He Saw In Shades Of Darknes
George Ault (October 11, 1891 – December 30, 1948) was on the outside but rather than banging on the widows, he withdrew a pace and watched in silence, an artist with what poet Charles Bukowski called “this terrible itch for solitude”.
Ault shares his view of looking in at the America of factories, business, homes and machine-processed things through his realistic paintings. His America is quiet and still, where the lonely everyday beauty of the world is ‘caught in a moment of absolute stillness and ever so slightly abstracted’.
Often it’s night and we’re looking at the clear, smoothed, clean-edged, flat-toned buildings in a chiaroscuro of shadow and a single artificial street light.
“The setting is the same in each case,” writes Roberta Smith in The New York Times, “a solitary streetlight, the same bend in the road, the same collection of barns and sheds – but seen from different vantage points. In them, Ault has summoned up the poetry of darkness in an unforgettable way – the implacable solitude and strangeness that night bestows upon once-familiar forms and places.” His solitude is felt keenly in the series of five paintings based on Russell’s Corners from different vantage points, four at night when the place is punctured by a “piercing seemingly sourceless light”. Sanford Schwartz notes in the The New York Review of Books: “Ault fine-tunes your eyes. He makes you aware of delicate light effects that happen, as it were, behind your back.”