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 editioned 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 Trestle Trains 1978 (Tate P12063), two toy steam engines face each other on a precarious wooden trestle bridge The trains rear up like mountain goats locking horns to see which of the two will be able to pass. The sunset effect of the background’s graduated tones of pink and yellow lends the scene a sense of finality, like a final showdown.
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, reproduced p.37 in colour.