Oil on linen canvas, circa 1956-60. 914x1270 mm; 36x50 inches. Signed in oil, lower right recto. Signed and inscribed in ink with both the artist's residential address, "555 Edgecombe Avenue, N.Y. 32 N.Y." and his studio address "Studio - 539 W. 152nd St." in ink, upper left verso, and titled in pencil and graphite (twice) verso.
Provenance: the artist, New York; Louise Logan, New York; Pierre M. Sutton, New York; private collection, New York. Louise Logan, the sister of Dr. Myra Adele Logan was married to the artist Elmer Simms Campbell.
Exhibited: Charles Alston, Artist and Teacher, Kenkeleba Gallery, New York, NY, May 13 - July 1, 1990, with remains of the gallery label on the frame back; Challenge of the Modern: African-American Artists, 1925-1945, the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, January 23 - March 30, 2003, with the label on the frame back.
Illustrated: Lowery Stokes Sims. The Challenge of the Modern: African American Artists, 1925-1945, p. 67.
This striking urban abstraction by Charles Alston is an important painting, an outstanding and scarce example of a large modernist canvas. Alston's vision is rooted in his earlier urban nocturnes of the late 1940s, Harlem at Night, 1948 and Untitled (New York Cityscape), circa 1948. Both Alston and Norman Lewis shared a new vision of fragmented urban life against a dark, atmospheric ground. By 1950, Alston had transitioned completely into abstraction, and his Untitled, oil on canvas, 1950, entered in the national juried competition, America Painting Today, was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1951.
While it was dated 1948 in the Studio Museum exhibition, this large canvas, with its loaded and broad brushstrokes appears closer in date to 1960. His 1962 solo exhibition at Dunbarton Galleries in Boston featured Tenements, a very similar 40x50 inch oil painting, illustrated on the cover of the brochure. By 1960, Alston was painting and exhibiting compositions inspired by the urban environment seen from his Harlem at night for inspiration - including paintings like Across the River, 1959. His exhibition at Kenekeleba Gallery included other similar paintings like Nocturne (Across the Hudson River), 1964 and Tenements again, now titled Demolition and not dated. Jennings pp. 23 and 62.