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The Art of JAMA
February 17, 2015

House and StreetStuart Davis

JAMA. 2015;313(7):650-651. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.11583

House and Street, by the American painter Stuart Davis (1892-1964), offers two views of an intersection in Lower Manhattan, New York, as it looked in 1931. The left-hand image is a close-up view of an exterior wall on Front Street, with dangling fire escape ladders and a billboard for the election campaign of Governor Al Smith. The right-hand image looks out from under the elevated train platform at the corner of Front Street and Coenties Slip where the tracks of the “el” followed a smooth curve. Grid patterns made by the ladders and bricks in the left image are repeated in the window frames and supporting structures for the train tracks on the right. The grids expand the perception of space from the flattened front-on view to the folded shapes seen through the frame of the underpass. Planes of contrasting colors further separate the buildings and their facades. Davis developed his ideas about spatial relationships by exploring the urban environment and studying the way its structures occupied fixed positions or framed exterior views. His earliest influences were American painters who took an interest in the whole city, not just its attractions; and European painters with radical ideas for changing the way that people, places, and objects were represented on canvas. These influences come together in House and Street. The left and right panels relate well enough that one image can be kept in mind while looking at the other, producing what Davis called a “mental collage.”

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