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Chew on This

Charles Green Shaw was a bit of an anomaly in the Depression era. He was independently wealthy and part of a group of artists called the “Park Avenue Cubists,” which referred to both their social status and their desire to introduce abstract art more broadly to the United States.

In 1936, he saw an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art called Fantastic Art, Dada, and Surrealism and was inspired to create this painting. First he photographed an actual pack of Wrigley’s gum against a photograph of the lower Manhattan skyline and then worked the idea out on canvas. While the pack of Wrigley’s is presented realistically and seems to hover above the rest of the image, the underlying skyline becomes an abstracted collection of polygons reminiscent of a city.

Shaw presented this image to the Wrigley company with the hope that they would purchase it and turn the image into advertising posters. But alas, they turned him down. However, it remains a testament to Shaw’s commitment to unite abstraction with consumer culture.

Visit this painting in America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s, open through September 18.

Image Credit: Charles Green Shaw. Wrigley’s, 1937. Restricted gift of the Alsdorf Foundation.