Director, Glenn Lowry: Assistant Curator, Esther Adler.
Assistant Curator, Esther Adler: George Ault once referred to New York as "the inferno without the fire," and I think this nervousness about urban life and what it meant for American society is readily visible in this painting.
Glenn Lowry: While many American artists celebrated the nation’s growing cities during the first half of the twentieth century, Ault’s paintings suggest a different point of view.
Esther Adler: Ault gives us a long view of this New York City street, and we have buildings appearing on either side, but we don’t have any real detailing here. We’re not seeing windows, doors, any signs of life or people in the street.
We know from earlier studies for the painting that that green shadowy outline on the left-hand side was actually a neon sign for beer; but in this final version of the painting, it’s been so abstracted that it’s just this floating outline. We also have these two glowing orbs at the bottom, which are probably streetlights. But because this image is so pared down, they’re kind of glowing as these beacons of either hope or despair along this very empty street.