Aviation show scheduled for BRM – Chadds Ford Live
When the Brandywine River Museum of Art reopens in June, visitors will be able to see a new exhibit, Ralston Crawford: Air + Space + War, an exploration of the history of aviation and the United States military through the art and personal experiences of American modernist Ralston Crawford. Organized by the Vilcek Foundation, this historic exhibition will present a vast collection of nearly 80 works by the artist, including drawings, photographs, paintings and lithographs from the 1940s that recount his involvement in World War II.
The museum has been closed for renovation since mid-February and is expected to reopen in June.
Highlighting Crawford’s encounters with aviation and warfare from many angles, the collected works illustrate the influence of the artist’s own military service in the US Army Air Force, as well as the commissions he carried out at the Curtiss-Wright aircraft factory in Buffalo, and its mission to document nuclear weapons tests conducted by the US Joint Army / Navy Task Force on Bikini Atoll for Fortune Magazine in 1946.
“Ralston Crawford: Air + Space + War traces the dramatic development of Ralston Crawford’s art in the 1940s, which was influenced by aviation, from his personal experiences in flight to his exposure to aircraft construction and his knowledge of the destruction they caused during the war, ”said Emily Schuchardt Navratil, curator of the Vilcek Foundation. “Crawford’s insight into warcraft in the wake of the Curtiss-Wright commission and his experience – with knowledge of airplanes, military exercises, and propaganda – forged the themes he would explore for the rest of his artistic career.” , added the Vilcek Foundation. Speaker Rick Kinsel. “His mature works vibrate with tension, restoring elements of war, culture and ritual, with horror and awe – and beauty.”
In the late 1920s Crawford studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Barnes Foundation in Merion, then lived and painted in Exton and Chadds Ford, PA in the late 1930s. He was also a Visiting Art Instructor at the Cincinnati Academy of Fine Arts in 1940. During World War II he served in the Weather Division of the Air Force, heading the ‘visual display unit – where he created pictorial representations of weather models for airplane pilots – and continued to work as an artist throughout the war. During this time, he was exposed to “endless airplane tragedies,” which he recorded in works like Bomber, 1944, and Air war, 1944. As the exhibition will illuminate, these experiences had a profound impact on Crawford and marked a major turning point in his life and art.
Ralston Crawford: Air + Space + War was organized by the Vilcek Foundation in collaboration with the Brandywine River Museum of Art and the Dayton Art Institute. The exhibition will be on display at the Brandywine River Museum of Art from June 20 to September 19. Following its Brandywine debut, the exhibit will travel to the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio, in October.
A selection of works from the first presentations of the exhibition will also be presented at the Vilcek Foundation headquarters in New York in 2023. This is the second major exhibition presented by the Vilcek Foundation. In addition to works from the Vilcek Collection, as well as several works on loan from John Crawford, one of the artist’s sons, the exhibition will include major loans from the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Harvard University and other reputable institutions.
A fully illustrated catalog of the exhibition is available from Merrell Publishers, with essays “The War Years of Ralston Crawford” by Rick Kinsel; “Ralston Crawford: Seen from the Sky” by Emily Schuchardt Navratil; “Weather + War + Fortune: The Visual Storytelling of Ralston Crawford” by Amanda C. Burdan, Curator at the Brandywine River Museum of Art; “Ralston Crawford in Context” by Jerry N. Smith; and “Collage: Ralston Crawford, Photograph, Lithograph + World War II” by John Crawford. The catalog includes 270 photographic reproductions of works in the exhibition, the Vilcek Collection and the personal archives of John Crawford.