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About the Artwork

Boy with Tire is, in large part, a play on compositional design that constitutes a well-crafted study in rhythm, repetition, balance, implied line, and directional forces. The rudimentary tire forms the centerpiece, its significance underscored by the work's title as well as its curved form, a counter to the sharp angles found on the buildings and fence. Also of importance is the enigmatic shadow that expands in the foreground at the boy's right. In light of these elements, the work must be considered in relation to a well-known painting by Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), Mystery and Melancholy of the Street (1914), in which a young girl runs across a deserted public square with a stick and hoop towards an ominous shadow around the corner. In addition to the circular symmetry between Lee-Smith's tire and de Chirico's hoop, Mystery and Melancholy also shares other key elements with Boy with Tire, including distorted spatial configurations, elongated forms, and a psychological exploration of childhood memories that were critical to surrealist theory.

In the year that Boy with Tire was completed, Lee-Smith was engaged in extensive studies of de Chirico's work. He produced a series of paintings of slender youths running or striding along train tracks and in empty squares, armed with cast-away playthings like tires and wooden rods that evoked warrior shields, swords, or spears. Such objects endowed these young boys, in an America marked by urban disarray and race- and class-based inequities, with confident, heroic qualities that evoked the idealized warrior-athletes of ancient Greece. In all of these ways, Boy with Tire and other works by Lee-Smith from this period must be considered as far more than mere commentary on urban poverty in America. They must also be placed in context with the work of other early- to mid-twentieth-century artists whose works employed psychoanalytical examination to ask larger, philosophical questions about meaning, existence, and human capability in modern life.

From: Beuchamp-Byrd, Mora J. Bulletin of the DIA 86, no. 1/4 (2012): 34-35.

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About Our Prints

DIA Custom Prints offers exclusive custom reproductions of artworks in the collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Hand-made in the USA using gallery-quality materials, we create prints as true to the original work as possible, using strict color management protocols and state-of-the-art printing technology.
Many of the works offered through this store are exclusive and not available anywhere else. We are continually adding new artworks to our offering, so be sure to check back regularly as you build your own gallery. A variety of molding styles means our custom framed prints can match any type of decor.

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DIA Members will receive their 10% discount for all DIA Custom Prints purchases. If you are Member, enter the email address associated with your membership when you check out; once your Membership has been validated, your discount will be applied. Member discounts cannot be combined with other offers.