Artwork of the Week: September 1, 2019
Mahonri M. Young (1877-1957), Riding the Girder, c.1940, oil on canvas, 42 3/8 x 39 1/2 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of the Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959.
An urban realist painter, Mahonri Young called his paintings of workers “a tribute to honest toil.” His depiction of skyscrapers, painted while he lived in New York City, lends a monumental and heroic quality to laborers in the burgeoning metropolis. Between the two world wars, a great boom in construction and industry solidified America’s identity as a world power and economic giant. While wealthy industrial tycoons received much recognition for America’s advancement, the nation’s industry was built on the back of immigrant workers, represented by Young’s two figures precariously perched on a girder high above the ground.
See Riding the Girder in the current exhibition In the Arena: The Art of Mahonri Young, open through September 21, 2019, at the BYU Museum of Art.