AIR LAND SEA: A Lithographic Suite by William Crutchfield

On View: July 19, 2019 - November 4, 2019
Release Date: April 3, 2019

Pasadena, CA—The Norton Simon Museum presents a small exhibition of William Crutchfield’s intricate and highly imaginative lithographic suite AIR LAND SEA. Crutchfield, a master draftsman who possessed a wry wit and a lifelong fascination with engineering and transportation, produced this series at the renowned Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles in 1970. This exhibition marks the first time that the entire suite—one of the nine un-numbered editions traditionally reserved by Tamarind—has been shown together at the Museum since its donation in 1972.

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, William Crutchfield (1932–2015) received a traditional studio training at the city’s Herron School of Art and later at Tulane University in New Orleans. In 1967, he moved to Southern California and settled near the shipyards of San Pedro, amid views of the bustling Port of Los Angeles. This industrial setting provided the artist with plenty of inspiration for his mechanically derived artworks (the artist once professed that the 1928 transatlantic flight of the Graf Zeppelin was one of his prime spiritual sources). The move also gave him the opportunity to create a more public persona after many years of teaching; that same year, he created a series of lithographs for print publisher Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles and began regularly exhibiting in galleries. By 1970, he was granted a fellowship at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, where he created his incisive suite AIR LAND SEA.

AIR LAND SEA demonstrates the artist’s fascination with modes of transportation and humankind’s fraught relationship with modernization, themes he explored frequently throughout much of career. On the title page, which spells out the words Air Land Sea Alphabet, each letter alludes to the subject matter of the series: an A, for example, is shown as a rocky, tree-covered tunnel; an R, the front of a propeller plane; an L, the curve of a two-lane road. The series continues with twelve prints, each more inventive than the next.

Cathedral Steamer, number eight in the suite, shows a large ocean liner sailing confidently at sea. In place of steam funnels are three Gothic spires, each tethered to the next by standing rigging—an unexpected confluence of architectural elements that demonstrates the artist’s satirical point of view. Zepp, number nine, depicts a zeppelin airship ascending into the skies. Its seemingly effortless buoyancy is betrayed by four smokestacks atop the framework, suggesting that something other than internal gas cells keeps the aircraft aloft. Narrow-Gauge Valley, number twelve, illustrates a locomotive chugging along an unseen rail. Smoke and steam billowing from its stack transform into a mountainous landscape, complete with valleys, clouds and a river, as if envisioned by the train itself.

Crutchfield’s images can be interpreted as lighthearted humor as well as critical commentary, and the two were not mutually exclusive in his mind. As the artist once remarked, “A lot of people have the idea [that] things that are humorous are not deep. But that’s not so.” Feats of engineering are often viewed with awe and wonder, and Crutchfield seems to marvel at them as well. But his interpretations and interventions encourage the viewer to look deeper, and to reconsider the innovations as well as the implications of progress.

AIR LAND SEA is organized by Curatorial Associate Tom Norris and presented in the Museum’s small rotating gallery on the main level from July 19 through November 4, 2019. To complement the exhibition, three additional works on paper by Crutchfield from the Museum’s collection will be installed in the modern and contemporary art wing. These include an original ink and watercolor on paper, Duesenberg, Model J, 1931 from 1968, and the large-scale lithographs Eucalyptus II and Tamarind-Tanic, both of which were created at Tamarind in 1970 and explore similar themes to those in AIR LAND SEA.

Press Contacts

Leslie Denk
(626) 844-6900
[email protected]

Emma Jacobson-Sive
(323) 842-2064
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Images for the Press

William Crutchfield's title lithograph spelling the words AIR LAND SEA, Tamarind Lithography Workshop, 1970

William Richard Crutchfield (American, 1932-2015)
Air Land Sea Alphabet, 1970
Lithograph
Sheet: 12-1/2 x 11-1/2 in. (31.75 x 29.21 cm.)
Norton Simon Museum, Anonymous Gift, 1972
© 2019 William Crutchfield

The ninth print in William Crutchfield's AIR LAND SEA series, depicting a zeppelin

William Richard Crutchfield (American, 1932-2015)
Air Land Sea IX: Zepp, 1970
Lithograph
Sheet: 12-1/2 x 11-1/2 in. (31.75 x 29.21 cm.)
Norton Simon Museum, Anonymous Gift, 1972
© 2019 William Crutchfield

The seventh print in William Crutchfield's AIR LAND SEA series, depicting a fanciful hot air balloon with Fiji island in place of a basket.

William Richard Crutchfield (American, 1932-2015)
Air Land Sea VII: Fuji at Pisa, 1970
Lithograph
Sheet: 12-1/2 x 11-1/2 in. (31.75 x 29.21 cm.)
Norton Simon Museum, Anonymous Gift, 1972
© 2019 William Crutchfield

The twelfth print in William Crutchfield's AIR LAND SEA series, depicting a train with a valley scene in place of its steam.

William Richard Crutchfield (American, 1932-2015)
Air Land Sea XII: Narrow-Gauge Valley, 1970
Lithograph
Sheet: 12-1/2 x 11-1/2 in. (31.75 x 29.21 cm.)
Norton Simon Museum, Anonymous Gift, 1972
© 2019 William Crutchfield

The eighth print in William Crutchfield's AIR LAND SEA series, depicting a steam ship with Gothic spires in place of its steam funnels.

William Richard Crutchfield (American, 1932-2015)
Air Land Sea VIII: Cathedral Steamer, 1970
Lithograph
Sheet: 12-1/2 x 11-1/2 in. (31.75 x 29.21 cm.)
Norton Simon Museum, Anonymous Gift, 1972
© 2019 William Crutchfield

The eleventh print in William Crutchfield's AIR LAND SEA series, depicting a car driving through a wall of waves.

William Richard Crutchfield (American, 1932-2015)
Air Land Sea XI: Skiff Car at Malibu, 1970
Lithograph
Sheet: 12-1/2 x 11-1/2 in. (31.75 x 29.21 cm.)
Norton Simon Museum, Anonymous Gift, 1972
© 2019 William Crutchfield

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About the Norton Simon Museum

The Norton Simon Museum is known around the world as one of the most remarkable private art collections ever assembled. Over a 30-year period, industrialist Norton Simon (1907–1993) amassed an astonishing collection of European art from the Renaissance to the 20th century, and a stellar collection of South and Southeast Asian art spanning 2,000 years. Modern and Contemporary Art from Europe and the United States, acquired by the former Pasadena Art Museum, also occupies an important place in the Museum’s collections. The Museum houses more than 12,000 objects, roughly 1,000 of which are on view in the galleries and gardens. Two temporary exhibition spaces feature rotating installations of artworks not on permanent display.

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