© 2024 WUGA | University of Georgia
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ralston Crawford painting 

Just outside of Kei Ito’s exhibition in the galleries of the museum, you’ll find Ralston Crawford’s “Test Able,” a work from our collection that speaks to the topic of Ito’s show: nuclear testing. Crawford’s painting takes its title from the first nuclear weapons test after the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945. Operation Crossroads dropped two nuclear bombs in Test Able and Test Baker at Bikini Atoll, a coral reef of 23 islands northeast of Australia. The U.S. government chose it as a nuclear testing site after World War II, forcibly relocating its inhabitants. Although the U.S. attempted to return Bikini islanders and their descendants to the islands, well water remained contaminated.

Crawford, as chief of the Visual Presentation Unit of the Army Air Force’s Weather Division during the war, used his art skills to develop ways to represent weather through easily recognizable symbols, akin to the ones you might see today in a weather report. After the war, Fortune Magazine hired Crawford to document the nuclear weapons tests of Operation Crossroads. He was the only artist among more than 100 reporters and photographers present during the test.

Fortune reproduced two of the paintings, including this one, and a copy of the magazine is in a case next to the painting. The painting features jagged, overlapping forms and twisted lines that collide to represent ships destroyed by the explosion. Yellow and orange curves capture the intense light, heat and toxic fallout of the bombing.

You can see “Test Able” in its current location through July 14.