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Art Deco

Denise K. McTighe

ASAG Journal

March 15, 2023

Art Deco artists and designers made use of a wide range of geometric shapes, including circles, triangles, diamonds, and zigzags, to create striking and bold designs. The Art Deco style emphasizes sleek, streamlined forms that convey a sense of speed and modernity. We can find that Art Deco design often incorporates decorative motifs inspired by ancient civilizations, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mayan glyphs, as well as exotic materials, such as ivory and jade. Designers favored luxurious materials, such as gold, silver, and platinum, as well as the use of precious and semi-precious gemstones. Another point we can make is the color palettes are usually bold and vibrant, with an emphasis on primary colors, as well as metallic shades like gold, silver, and bronze. Often there are features symmetry and repetition in its decorative motifs, creating a sense of order and balance that reflects the era's fascination with technology and progress. Ultimately the Deco style is influenced by the rising industrialization of the early 20th century, with its emphasis on efficiency, speed, and mass production. This is reflected in the use of materials like metal, glass, and concrete, as well as the emphasis on streamlined forms and geometric shapes.

Let's take a look at one work of art from this movement...

Mail Service in the Tropics, 1937 by Rockwell Kent

Art Deco (Regionalism) 🎨
Mail Service in the Tropics, 1937 by Rockwell Kent

"Mail Service in the Tropics" (Fig 1) is a painting by Rockwell Kent, produced in 1937. It depicts the daily operations of the U.S. postal service in a tropical location. Around this time in the 20th century, Alaska and Puerto Rico were the northernmost and southernmost territories serviced by the U.S. Post Office Department. Here the artwork shows postal workers diligently sorting and distributing mail, emphasizing the importance of communication and connection to the outside world. The painting demonstrated the importance of manual labour and government services when many Americans struggled to make ends meet during the Great Depression. It embodies nationalistic undertones, even though it is set abroad with foreign workers. If we conduct a visual analysis of Kent's painting, we can note his unique artistic style, which blends modernist and regionalist approaches. The composition is well-balanced, with the postal workers arranged in various poses around a central point, creating a sense of movement and activity. The bright blue sky and lush green foliage in the background emphasize the tropical location and add vibrancy to the painting. Kent's use of colour is also notable, with warm orange tones on the workers' skin and clothing contrasting against the cool blues and greens in the background.


Fig 1. Mail Service in the Tropics, 1937 by Rockwell Kent
Carol M. Highsmith, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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