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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755
603.646.2808
hood.museum@dartmouth.edu

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George L. K. Morris, American, 1905-1975

Composition—Times Square (Composition de Broadway)
1945
Oil on canvas
Bequest of Jay R. Wolf, Class of 1951; P.976.201

 

George L. K. Morris, known primarily as an influential art critic and writer, was a major American proponent of abstraction from the 1930s onward. The subject matter of this almost totally nonrepresentational painting is indicated only by the title and the few words incorporated into its design—“42 ST,” “N.Y.T.” (New York Times), “CAPITOL,” “RIVOLI” (both movie palaces), and “ASTOR” (a grand hotel in the Times Square district). First used as a device by cubist painters to emphasize the two-dimensionality of the painted surface, the inclusion of such words also reflects the ubiquitous presence of advertising and signage in the modern city. Nowhere was this more evident than in Times Square, which then, as now, was dominated by theater marquees and giant billboards. Instead of depicting other identifiable features of the urban landscape, Morris underlines the flatness of the picture plane even further, fracturing it with intersecting lines and arcs and overlapping patches of color and pattern. Although it is tempting to read such images as a kind of cubist cartography, Morris was more interested in expressing what he believed to be the fundamental characteristics of the city: dynamism, movement, and a place where many forces converge. This painting was willed to the College by Dartmouth graduate Jay Wolf, who died at a tragically early age. He had worked at the prestigious Downtown Gallery in Manhattan and passionately collected twentieth-century American art, leaving the College over one hundred works.

Last Updated: 4/29/09