Holiday Inn (1972)
22.0 x 30.0 x
University Club of Chicago
Westermann worked in logging camps as a rail worker in the Pacific Northwest. During World War II he served as a gunner in the U.S. Marine Corps on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, witnessing numerous kamikaze attacks and the sinking of several ships. He toured the Far East as an acrobat with the United Service Organization, and enrolled in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1947.
Holiday Inn (c. 1972) is from a suite of lithographs that Westermann created at the Landfall Press in 1972.
Within his oeuvre, this is Westermann’s third suite of lithographs, created in the later portion of his career. This set of lithographs is distinct for Westermann’s bold and complex color combinations.
While many of Westermann’s lithographs depict fantasy lands, imagined celestial scenes, and dream-like landscapes, Holiday Inn is of a specific American location.
The six- colored lithograph visualizes the Holiday Inn in Danbury, Connecticut, located alongside the once well-traveled area between Route 7 and Connecticut Interstate 84. In his lithograph, Westermann dismantled the actual commercial roadside hotel into a deteriorating building within an overgrown tropical landscape.
In the center of the composition, the high-rise hotel building stands abandoned and in ruin amidst palm trees, exploding volcanoes, and tangled plants and vines. The letters “Holid” perch crookedly atop the building as a shadow to the former “Holiday Inn” crown of letters.
Broken, splintered, and tarnished windows scatter across the building. Over time, nature invaded the building, as seen by the two vines that scale the front of the hotel. Its vacant abandonment is further emphasized at the hotel entrance where the front door is missing, exposing a black open entryway unkempt with plant-life.
The only other sign of human presence in the scene is in the red broken-down car aside the building. The car is a shadow of its former “sporty” self with missing headlights, battered exterior, and a palm tree growing up from the front seat.
There is a distinct use of texture and line to communicate time and deterioration throughout the composition, which can clearly be seen in the car. At times, Westermann applied color with even washes, creating a smooth texture, which can be seen in the red color across the center of the car. But he also used thin lines and uneven color to create a textured surface.
Looking at the bumper, the red has faded and shows the off-white color of the paper beneath it, while black crosshatching is layered atop. This added texture creates the “weathered” diminishing sense of the car in the composition.
Surrounding the uninhabited hotel is a tropical landscape of flourishing plant-life and exploding environment. Left of the hotel, a large volcano spews red lava and billowing smoke across the sky. Throughout the composition, Westermann used complex layering and opaque colors to deepen the dense tropical topography.
Behind the red car, blue, gray, and teal colors are layered atop black outlines that reference vertical plant-life, which forms thick foliage along the horizon. The yellow palm tree sprouting from the car is wrapped and tangled by a vine, whose tendrils suspend in front of two dark blue palm trees in the background.
The scale of the blue palm trees and their placement behind the vines is an example of how Westermann gave a sense of depth and space to the composition. Westermann may have referenced an easily accessible hotel along the well-traveled highways of Connecticut, but his Holiday Inn is a crumbling abandoned building in an overgrown tropical forest.
The layers of bright colors contrast the decomposing building and alternatively highlight the landscape, molten volcano, and colorful sky. In this, Westermann’s Holiday Inn presents a scene where human construction and development does not thrive, but raw nature does.