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BR - Mead - street 1 'DWNTN'  (nutintheshell.blogs

Our walk begins one evening near a subway station entrance in the Chinatown district. A garbage truck pulls away from the kerb and a warm orange glow lights the interiors of apartments above the shops, whilst the blue night sky can’t hide the towers that rise beyond


This image is more formally and symmetrically designed than it first appears. The building lines to the left and right carefully enclose the action vertically, with the softer background tower and the roofscape below giving a horizontal. Key to its effectiveness,  however, is the shimmering, wet surface of the street. It dissolves the tension set up by this framing, breaking up the reflection of the bright shop lighting and the figures into an Impressionistic mass of colour. The great British architectural perspectivist Cyril Farey, active between the wars, was an acknowledged master of this technique, grounding his illustrations of clients’ buildings in rain-washed streets populated with colourful cars and people (

BR - Mead - street 2  'corner'   (hmadzo)

On another corner, the evening continues. A man gets into a car by an arcaded building as a Metrokab passes. Customers patronise a kiosk outside Gib’s Corner Convenience store. The aging buildings are enlivened by splashes of advertising lighting that also daub the wet street; the blue panel which curves toward the kerb will appear again soon



This is the first of a sub-set of three images that are clearly a progression along the same street. The canyon-like effect, extending into and up out of the picture, locks this particular street into the wider city. Mead’s use of red, yellow, blue and green, the four psychological primary colours, now begins to emerge. The sharp angles of the architecture are counter-pointed by the rounded forms of the advertising displays, the lack of colour by the presence of colour (hmadzo)

BR - Mead - street 3 'Metrokab' (

Further along the street from the middle of the previous image, a Metrokab waits to be hailed. The fare is unlikely to be one of the bums on the sidewalk. The late nineteenth century buildings are encrusted with retrofitted electrical boxes, and cabling snakes over their façades from generators in the street. In contrast that blue, fluidly-moulded electroluminescent advertising sign floods the street with light and colour



This painting’s viewpoint, with the picture plane parallel to one elevation of a single building, recalls a Greek frieze. This allows the façade to be delineated with the intricate retrofittings in a manner that assumes something of the quality of a Mayan temple relief carving. Depth within the picture is created through the impressive drafting and colouring of the shop interior, which draws the viewer in. The night-blue colour wash applied to the splay end of the building acts as a background for the output from the yellow streetlight. The detail of the trash receptacle, traffic lights and streetlamp (not present in the previous picture) impress (

BR - Mead - street 4 'SALONS'

We are now a little further to the left in the same street, beyond the blue and yellow sign. To the left is an entertainment saloon complex, carved out of an old theatre (interiors for Taffy Lewis’s Snake Pit club were shot at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles). Ground cars crowd the street



A dramatic diagonal pulls the viewer deep into the image, the eye being led from front-left to rear-right. The greenish cast is an unusual but effective approach to a night scene. We can now see just how the awning-like blue display unit functions in relation to the street

BR - Mead - street 5 'kerb' (blog-stuttgarter-zeit

The bustling heart of the club district. A dancer – or a hooker – sits in an elevated  bubble, looking for the next client or dozing from the last. Another traffic signal unit obstructs the sidewalk. Is that Deckard’s car?



This phenomenal painting, with its precision of brushstrokes, shading of light and dark and extraordinary sense of perspective, is quite simply a masterpiece. The separation of planes of focus and distinctions between areas of one colour and another, such as the brightly-lit area to the right behind the fat dark columns, is superb. The eye is rewarded wherever it falls (


BR - Mead - street 6 'WLK' (hmadzo)

Another street in the area. The view is dominated by the transparent tubes projecting from the building on the right, homes for dancers and strippers. Glimpses of a combined traffic and pedestrian signal stack and a Metrokab; both are cut off by the edges of the frame, a device used from the late nineteenth century to suggest a snapshot of a wider ensemble has been captured



Again, a mix of acidic greens, yellows and blues is used to enliven the scene and suggest the activity and energy of the location. The various gradations of transparency of the tubes and the complexity of their placement against a similarly transparent cube behind are all skilfully worked (hmadzo)

BR - Mead - street 7 'Sumo'  (hmadzo)

The oppressive nature of the Los Angeles of 2019 is finally revealed. A forest of super-skyscrapers with their articulated surfaces fills the entire frame beyond the immediate vicinity, where a sumo contest is being projected onto a large outdoor screen



The emphatically vertical orientation draws the eye upward. This, the compression of the action into the lower half of the image and the contrasting colour palette for the upper section all recall Japanese prints and their influence on the work of James Abbott McNeill Whistler. This painting is doubly rare, in itself and in its illustration of a specific scene, intended to be shot on the Burbank backlot with the sumo contest inserted via front projection (hmadzo)


Posted May 2012

Chris Rogers  |  Writer on architecture and visual culture

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