AllSoundC
PHOTO BY ERIC NORBOM
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All Sound

Rob Womack

enamel paint on wood

37" x 59" x 22"

 

Although this painting resembles 1930s New York City, the urban landscapes that recur in my work are always imaginary in order to establish a dream-like quality not linked to a real place. For this sideboard I gathered images from many artists, including Edward Hopper, George Bellows, Isabel Bishop, the Precision- ist painters Bernard Boutet de Monvel and Charles Sheeler, Jean Dunand, and architectural draftsman Hugh Ferris. I also looked at photographic images of New York City from the 1920s and ’30s, and graphic design from the period, including geometric-patterned textiles and Fortune magazine covers. I listened to a lot of Billie Holiday and Lester Young and watched early noir films.

The challenge was pulling taut, 1930s-style painting compositions and angular jazz-age rhythms together from one surface plane to another, and weaving the colors and textures of an era into the painting. Most important, I was trying to find that elusive zietgeist that might have inspired the original designer of this sleek and cosmopolitan piece. Thematically, I wanted to include the romantic urban melan-choly and isolation found in so much of this period’s art.

The title, All Sound, comes from a circa-1930 photograph showing the construction of the Chrysler Building. Far in the background a movie marquee reads “all sound,” referring to the new feature of talking pictures. The cinematic allusion and the way the title pinpointed a particular moment in time, concurrent with the era of the sideboard, was appealing. Additionally, in a more poetic way, I liked that this silent room was somehow coexisting with all sounds.

All Sound is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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