White Rectangles, Number 3 (1939) is filled with white, blue, gold, and rust-colored geometric shapes that produce a collage-like effect. Some of the forms, particularly those near the center, are defined with strong black outlines, while various patterns and textures articulate others. Artist Irene Pereira (1907 – 1971) used a number of different tools, including, possibly, the blunt end of her brush, to carve into the paint surface, creating troughs that enhance the paints physicality and, in repetition, suggest industrial production.
Pereira made this work while a member of the Design Laboratory, a cooperative school of industrial design established under the Works Progress Administration. The school advocated applying abstract design principles not only to painting and sculpture, but also to industrial design and even architecture.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.
The title of this work, One Third of a Nation (1939) references President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1937 inaugural address in which he proclaimed, “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” One Third of a Nation is also the title of Arthur Arent’s1938 play, which emphasized the plight of the poor and was funded by the WPA’s Federal Theater Project. In this painting, O. Louis Guglielmi (1906 – 1956) draws attention to the horrid living conditions during the Great Depression. The forms in the foreground resemble coffins, and subsequently suggest a similar reading of the brick tenements behind them. The floral wreath adorning the building’s cornice reinforces this metaphor.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.