These abstract paintings acknowledge the transformation
of the last stretch of the Charles River in Boston. The banks
have been rebuilt with three new parks and new sculptural roadway
now span the basin. Having spent nearly ten years attending civic
advisory committee meetings, I sought to illustrate the scale and
colors of this intensely urban place.
The uses along the banks include tall apartment buildings, elevated
ramps to serve the new bridges, a concrete batching plant, warehouses,
a sports arena, a major railroad station, a rehabilitation hospital
and a house of correction. The basin is also spanned by a viaduct
carrying trolley tracks, a bascule bridge carrying four railroad
tracks and a dam with three locks separating the river from the
harbor and the sea.
To capture the spatial characteristics, I decided to create an
abstract model. It has a pentagonal base supporting five fins of
varying height which radiate like spokes from an empty central
hub. Spanning between the fins are square edged tubes to represent
the crossings: the concrete viaduct; the steel and concrete railroad
bridge; the steel four lane highway bridge; the high cable stayed
ten lane highway bridge; and the low concrete and brick dam.
The model went through some refinement. I wanted glimpses between
the bays so portions of fins were removed in an ordered way. The
spans were set at two heights above the river. The finished model
was illuminated by a high, bright light in order to produce crisp
shadows. It was then photographed. Each bay displayed its distinguishing
features. The photographs informed the paintings' layout drawings.
The colors used in the paintings came from the place. I photographed
the spans and the nearby banks in the morning and afternoon sunlight.
The type and amount of each color was noted. Each face of each
fin has a pattern to guide the position of the square edged tubes
and the position of the appropriate bank colors. Elevation drawings
of the completed model were transformed into the Lower Basin paintings.
Malcolm Montague Davis