This work is from a series called Five Trains, which forms part of the body of work Crutchfield produced at the Tyler print workshop in New York from January 1977 to January 1978. The works are lithographs produced from stone and aluminum plates, with a separate plate for each colour. Crutchfield made his drawings with litho-crayon, pen and air brush. The works are printed on Arches 88 mould-made paper in editions of forty-eight with between fourteen and seventeen artist’s proofs.
Born in Indianapolis, Crutchfield studied at the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, where he later worked, Tulane University in New Orleans and the State Art Academy in Hamburg. Earlier prints such as Alphabet Spire II 1972 (Tate P04153) show a strong interest in graphic design, with block-like letters taking on a sculptural quality. Crutchfield also produced three edition sculptures in cast bronze at the Tyler workshop in 1977 based on text and numerals conceived in three dimensions.
Crutchfield’s prints are whimsical in nature, characterized by simple cartoon-like drawings and humorous subject matter. Each print in this series uses the motif of a train to depict a number of simple puns. In Elevated Smoke 1978 (Tate P12064) clouds of steam emitted by the engine seem to be solid, boulder-like objects, rather than something gaseous. These large purple globules are passed back over the top of the carriages by an elaborate system of scaffolding and pulleys.
William Crutchfield: Five Trains and Zeppelin Island, Tyler Graphics Ltd., New York, 1978, reproduced in colour, unpaginated.
Tyler Graphics Catalogue Raisonné, 1974-1985, Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis, USA, 1987, pp.110-15, reproduced p.114 in colour.
Sean Rainbird, ed., Print Matters: The Kenneth E. Tyler Gift, exhibition catalogue, Tate, 2004, pp.36-7.