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Blue Complex

1912 Manierre Dawson Born: Chicago, Illinois 1887 Died: Sarasota, Florida 1969 oil on paperboard mounted on wood 18 x 21 3/4 in. (45.7 x 55.3 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Manierre Dawson 1970.102 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 33B

Luce Center Quote

“One answer to the question ‘What is it,’ is to point to the picture and say, ‘It is that.’ It exists nowhere else.” The artist, 1911, quoted in Adams and Ploog, Manierre Dawson: American Pioneer of Abstract Art, 1999

Luce Center Label

Manierre Dawson’s training in mathematics and architecture inspired works such as Blue Complex, which is composed of building-like structures, angles, and curves. The towering gray shapes suggest a futuristic cityscape of steel and concrete that was probably inspired by the skyline of Chicago. Dawson was one of the first American artists to create abstract images, which he described as “arbitrarily constructed paintings of arranged figures.” He often began with recognizable images, such as people or landscapes, then fragmented the forms to create two-dimensional patterns. (Adams and Ploog, Manierre Dawson: American Pioneer of Abstract Art, 1999)