cover of book

Fantasies of Precision: American Modern Art, 1908-1947
by Ashley Lazevnick
University of Minnesota Press, 2023
Cloth: 978-1-5179-1313-7 | eISBN: 978-1-4529-6936-7 | Paper: 978-1-5179-1314-4


Redefining the artistic movement that helped shape American modernism

In the early decades of the twentieth century, a loose contingent of artists working in and around New York City gave rise to the aesthetic movement known as Precisionism, primarily remembered for its exacting depictions of skyscrapers, factories, machine parts, and other symbols of a burgeoning modernity. Although often regarded as a singular group, these artists were remarkably varied in their subject matter and stylistic traits. Fantasies of Precision excavates the surprising ties that connected them, exploring notions of precision across philosophy, technology, medicine, and many other fields.

Bookended by discussions of the landmark First Biennial Exhibition of Painting at the Whitney Museum in 1932, this study weaves together a series of interconnected chapters illuminating the careers of Charles Sheeler, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Charles Demuth. Built on a theoretical framework of the writing of modernist poets Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams, Fantasies of Precision outlines an “ethos of precision” that runs through the diverse practices of these artists, articulating how the broad range of enigmatic imagery they produced was underpinned by shared strategies of restraint, humility, and slowness.

Questioning straightforward modes of art historical classification, Ashley Lazevnick redefines the concept that designated the Precisionist movement. Through its cross-disciplinary approach and unique blend of historiography and fantasy, Fantasies of Precision offers a comprehensive reevaluation of one of the defining movements of artistic modernism.

Cover alt text: Charles Sheeler painting, “Upper Deck,” of white machinery in sunlight is framed by thin, intersecting lines. Title appears above and below.

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