Exhibitions: Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties

George Copeland Ault: Brooklyn Ice House

George Ault’s distinctly unpeopled Brooklyn Ice House is typical of the reductive twenties realism praised by critics for its pleasing blend of modernism and naïveté. The impulse toward simplification offered a link to a simpler American past in which the individual had thrived. Ault’s strange but forceful palette and the hermetically closed forms of the industrial structure lend the image a mysterious air. He relieved the strict geometries of the architecture with the brittle forms of leafless trees, so common to twenties landscape imagery, and with the oddly lyrical plume of black smoke—the picture’s most emphatic sign of life.