Exhibitions: Williamsburg Murals: A Rediscovery

Balcomb Greene, Untitled, From the Williamsburg Housing Project Murals

Balcomb Greene’s mural, painted in a palette of grayish blues and warm ivory tones, is characterized by a sense of order, space, and openness.  Works such as this one, which he later called his “straight-line, flat paintings,” were influenced by Piet Mondrian and the Abstraction-Creation group, artists who emphasized pure elements such as line, color, and shape, and rejected recognizable subject matter and narrative elements.

During the 1930s, Greene supported himself as a commercial artist, writer, and editor. He produced three murals for the WPA, a significant boost to his career at a time few opportunities existed to exhibit or sell his work. Sadly, in 1940, a fire in his studio destroyed most of his work, as well as that of his studio-mate Albert Swinden. His Williamsburg mural remains, then, as a rare example of his early work as well as one of his most important canvases.