Exhibitions: Williamsburg Murals: A Rediscovery

Ilya Bolotowsky’s Williamsburg mural was, in his words, “designed to improve proportions in a very shallow day room.” He achieved this with a light-colored background against which vibrantly colored geometric and biomorphic shapes hover in the air in tension with one another. The horizontal emphasis, punctuated by strong diagonals, suggests an expansive space not limited by the actual proportions of the room.

The mural mixed geometric elements with biomorphic shapes, the biggest influence being Piet Mondrian’s paintings, which incorporated primary colors with neutrals in a complex arrangement of contrasting shapes, lines, and colors, to emphasize visual order, harmony, and balance.

Bolotowsky’s employment with the WPA Mural Division was one of the most important phases of his early career, affording him not only a stable job during the Great Depression but also the opportunity to work with artists and designers dedicated to abstraction at a time when it was virtually unknown in the United States.