Label copy March 28, 2009 Deep, lonely, dramatically shadowed wastelands, devoid of human beings, were Sage’s perennial subjects. In Bounded on the West by the Land under Water, four spare structures rise at different angles from the landscape, crowded together as if a crystalline growth, looming over a vast and empty landscape. The sharp edges of the forms, mysterious light, and almost invisible brushwork suggest the melancholy, isolation, and desolateness of industrial sites. The sense of foreboding is amplified by the lack of relationship between the title and what is portrayed, a practice borrowed from Surrealism. This canvas marks the first appearance of the painter’s scaffolding motif, which she went on to explore almost obsessively. Scholars pondering the lonely intensity of her paintings have offered explanations for the mysterious structures they feature. Some argue they are rooted in a traumatic memory of ruined mansions she saw as a child in the San Francisco earthquake of 1908; others say they resulted from a psychic vision of collapsing buildings and burning scaffolding she reported having one night in Italy in the early 1930s.
Subject matter An expansive, lonely, empty space is occupied only by the spare presence of scaffolds and buildings whose physical structures do not quite make logical sense. The image expresses the melancholy, desolateness, and crazy logic potential in human-made landscapes, like industrial sites and cities.
Physical Description Four spare industrial structures rise at different angles into an empty landscape. On the viewer's right, a scaffolding rises from the lower corner and angles to the left. On the left, another scaffold structure runs from the bottom corner along the left edge. In the middle, a building-like structure rises from the bottom of the composition and leans into the visual space, resting on a long rectangular solid that is draped with a cloth.
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