George Ault’s paintings of urban and industrial scenes are customarily associated with the geometric-based images of the Precisionists (including Joseph Stella, Charles Sheeler, and Niles Spencer). However, Ault’s moody urban scenes differ from the optimistic views of the city most often produced by the Precisionists.
Sullivan Street, Abstraction illustrates Ault’s interest in the dark and mysterious aspects of urban structures. Set in his neighborhood of Greenwich Village, the painting portrays Sullivan Street as desolate and enveloped in hazy darkness. In his words: “The village … is never romantic at noon … . The city needs haze. In this harsh light you see all the ugly details–you see the city crumbling to pieces.” In the painting, the only source of light comes from the central, seemingly static subway car and the eerie glow of the street lamps that hang in space like a ghostly collection of stars. In effect, Ault employs Precisionist style and subject matter, but depicts the urban scene with a dreamlike, surreal quality.