William Conger Ashland (1990)
Oil on Canvas 57.0 x 77.0 x 0.0
University Club of Chicago

Conger ashland 1990

Ashland (1990) is a large-scale oil on canvas from the latter part of Conger’s productive career. The title specifically points to Chicago’s urban environment by being named after a city street.

Layers of swooping, sliding, and crossing forms animate the composition with urban references to the grid, streets, and buildings of Chicago.

Without the title’s reference, this artwork also stands apart from any connection to the urban environment, and is a highly refined abstract composition. Ashland pulsates with interweaving lines and shapes speeding across and under one another in contrasting colors.

One of the widest forms in the composition is a rectilinear band of deep turquoise green hue, highlighted by lighter green tones, that runs in a slight arch horizontally across the middle of the canvas.

By vertically layering three different bands of orange across the turquoise green form, color contrast, layering, and directionality draw emphasis to this area of the composition. The orange forms branch vertically upward and outward in a V formation from the bottom edge of the canvas to the left and right edges of the top of the composition.

The center of the work is an active junction point of implied movement and contrasting colors and direction. Throughout the composition, shapes are highlighted and shaded so they appear to be arching, turning, and twisting in space, and not just flat atop the canvas.

The highlights also create a unified sense of motion between the many forms. Looking across the overall composition, thin white strokes run horizontally across the various forms and layers. The repetitive horizontal highlights unify the different rectilinear forms and enhance a sense of depth in the composition.

The title of the painting references suburban Chicago, thereby allowing the compositional forms to suggest the architecture in an urban or metropolitan scene. On the other hand, the forms and colors are so organically shaped that the work is a world in itself, divorced from any reference to reality.

In this duality, Conger’s abstract Ashland is a buzzing junction of electric colors and imagined forms.

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