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Federal Art Project Documents

    Publishing Information

    Abstract Murals

    Burgoyne Diller

  1. The Williamsburg Housing Project consists of twenty buildings which are being erected under the supervision of the PWA and the New York Housing Authority. The architectural design is functional. These buildings contain social rooms which were open to the WPA/FAP for decoration. The decision to place abstract murals in these rooms was made because these areas were intended to provide a place of relaxation and entertainment for the tenants. The more arbitrary color, possible when not determined by the description of objects, enables the artist to place an emphasis on its psychological potential to stimulate relaxation. The arbitrary use of shapes provides an opportunity to create color patterns clearly related to the interior architecture and complementing the architect's intentions.

  2. The twelve artists selected for this project include several who are recognized as being among the country's leading abstract painters, notably Stuart Davis, lan Matulka, Francis Criss, and Paul Kelpe.

  3. These men have exhibited widely and are represented in many private collections. The balance of the group is composed of younger artists, namely: Byron Browne, George McNeil, Willem de Kooning, Balcomb Greene, Ilya Bolotowsky, Harry Bowden, Eugene Morley, and Albert Swinden. These painters are comparatively little known, but their work on this project has received special commendation from critics. Because of common limitations, this group will have the unique opportunity to collaborate in solving technical problems, to experiment with new media, and to redefine their approach to painting. Centering activity in this manner can easily lead to establishing a clearer direction to be taken by young American painters interested in abstraction.

  4. Abstract murals are also being designed for the Newark Airport by Arshile Gorky, a Project artist whose work is well known and represented in many collections. These murals will be placed in the second floor foyer of the airport administration building which is to be used as a lounge for visitors. Gorky's interest in the forms that have evolved under aero-dynamic limitations and his clarity in relating these forms on a two-dimensional plane has resulted in a mural admirably suited to its location. Its exciting color patterns lend themselves to the stimulating experience of a visitor to this center of contemporary activities.

  5. These murals, as well as many others, symbolize the effort that is being made by the WPA/FAP to stimulate rather than to restrict the direction of painting, which, in the last analysis, should be the artists' prerogative.