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These activities focus on works of art in the Whitney’s collection and special exhibitions. Through discussion, research, art making, and writing activities, we hope to encourage close looking, foster conversation between students, and connect artwork to classroom learning. Learn about our four artist-centered themes.

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Describe a place.

Ralston Crawford’s paintings of the 1930s and 1940s depict the starkness and function of American industry in simplified shapes on smooth, untextured canvases. His work of this period captured America’s enduring faith in technology and progress. The buildings, pylons, and fences in Steel Foundry, Coatesville, Pa are depicted in sharp-edged, flat shapes with no visible brushstrokes.

Crawford wrote: “My pictures mean exactly what they say, and what they say is said in colors and shapes.” 1 Ask your students to think about that quote. What do the colors and shapes tell you about this place? How would you describe it? What type of building do you think this might be? What do you think goes on inside it? Why?

1. Patterson Sims. Whitney Museum of American Art: selected works from the permanent collection. 2nd ed. Compiled by Kristie Jayne. (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with W. W. Norton & Company, 1994), 69.