|BEER BELONGS GALLERY 01|
|BEER BELONGS GALLERY 02|
|WELCH'S FOR PURE ENJOYMENT|
|THE CHEVROLET WAY|
|JOHNSON AND JOHNSON|
|WHO ME? GENERAL ELECTRIC 1942|
|WELCOME EASTER WITH GRANDMA MOSES 1960|
Douglass Crockwell was born in Ohio in 1904 and was known as a highly competent and conscientious commercial illustrator. There is more known about his other career - as an avant-garde abstract animator. He began making films in 1931. His films include, Motion Painting No 1(1949) ; Glen Falls Sequence 1946 and Long Bodies (1947) Many of the images you see above are from this very period and it is a tribute to him that such meticulous technique was expending in two directions often thought to be mutually antagonistic - abstraction and figuration.
He died in 1968 in Glen Falls NY where he had lived much of his life. See exhibition catalogue, film as film ACGB Hayward Gallery, London, 1979.
What makes Douglass into Crockwell rather than Rockwell? Firstly he has an unerring and unfailingly ingenious sense of composition. He favours the depiction of checked materials, which hover uneasily between flatness and the rounded. This perhaps accords with his interest in his film work in transdimensional simulation. Sharply defined areas of a bold red, often in stripes, and used in several areas of different materials, lace together to make a sort of unified plane that transcends the meaning and the space. Straps and belts act as foils to the stripes - see above. Perhaps he saw this most ingeniously used in Japanese woodblocks. The equal weight to form and negative form increases the flatness of the overall impact, yet the domestic content pulls it out into another spatial dimension.
Secondly, he achieves many compositional innovatations that jar the sense of ease and familiarity which should have been at the heart of his gentle domestic scenes. Windows and doors frame figures in a deliberately bold way. Figures in the distance are treated with the same tonalities as their foreground equivalents, inducing a spatial unease. The frame of the composition can radically cut off elements of the figure. A father descends to breakfast, forever without his head. A beach scene has an urgent hand and arm suddenly intruding from the left.
Thirdly, the result of his sheer professionalism in inventing domestic scenes with clear trajectories through space and interlocking built structure, but seen in an unnerving sense of dimensional slip and tense relationship between elements, create a sinister quality to human interaction. Whereas Norman Rockwell slips easily into the satiric and caricatural, letting the steam out of his depiction of the American people, Crockwell intensifies the psychological content without the caricatural. Look at the Welch compositions for a sotr of frozen hysteria in the face of the product. I felt that Rockwell played Meissonier to Crockwell's Degas. Think about it.
Rockwell is celebrated uncritically.
Crockwell is accepted hardly at all.
Both were capable of ghastly sentimentality. Yet the weight of literature attached to Rockwell ensures his work is constantly in front of the public. It is clearly time for at least one anthology of Crockwell's achievements and the relationship between his commercial illustration and his exercises in avant-garde film-making.
An intriguing aspect of Crockwell's career is the production of diagrams for lectures given by Edward Teller, the Father of the H-Bomb. These may indeed give some clue as to the repertoire of forms he allows himself in the animated abstractions.