US Highway 1 was painted by Allan D’Archangelo in 1962 and is displayed on the third floor of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC today. D’Archangelo was considered a leading artist in the first generation of American Pop. US Highway is one of his iconic Pop images. In 1962, D’Arcangelo took a series of photos of US Highway 1 on the East Coast, and this painting was the first in the series. This painting is a prime example of his signature compositional format which is a surreal, almost dreamlike quality. “For D’Arcangelo, the road is a place without time and without characters—just the hypnotic repetition of road signs and billboards and the forward motion of the car” (“US Highway 1”).
US Highway 1 features a long strip of asphalt cutting through the landscape and plunging toward a vanishing point on the distant horizon. Dark green silhouettes of trees line the two-lane highway, and the sky above is a solid plane of dark blue. The space is flat and penetrating, and signs along the highway look like they “float” over the road.
Within this description of the basic composition of the visuals in painting, there are many individual elements of design, and visual elements present in this painting.
The first element I notice is the color scheme of the painting, and the contrast.The painting as a whole is very saturated and bright but on opposite ends of the color palette which creates contrast. The color scheme is split down the middle of the painting creating contrast because the top half is very bright and the bottom half is very dark. The dark hues and tones of the bottom half help to highlight and create contrast between the tress and the highway and the signs and lines. The bright yellow Sunco sign, US 1 sign, and the dotted line stand out to emphasize these common elements seen on highways.
The dotted line also stands out to help establish the linear perspective of the painting because it leads right to the vantage point of the painting. The vantage point, which is the point where the white dotted line ends helps to give the painting depth. The diagonal lines of the road, both the sides of the road and the white dotted line are lading lines to further emphasize the vantage point, giving the painting linear perspective and depth.
Another major element of this piece which adds to the contrast is the use of negative space. The painting as a whole id not very busy; it is a simple piece. Almost of third of the painting is just plain blue, depicting the sky, which is negative space in the painting that adds to the saturation and contrast of the painting.
The positioning of the signs also add a visual element because they are asymmetrical, and different sizes, adding to the concept of depth in the painting. The Sunco sign is higher and larger making it appear as if it is closer, and the US 1 sign is lower and smaller making it appear as if it is farther. Also, both signs do not have post, and therefore, appear as if they are floating adding to the dreamlike quality of the painting. The signs are also layered on the trees and darkness adding to the depth of the painting.
Overall, I really like the painting, I think the saturation and leading lines create very intriguing visuals, and the contrast helps to highlight certain elements of the painting that are important to it. The only thing I might change are the telephone lines, I did not think they added anything to the piece, so I would remove them. However, D’Archangelo is an amazing artist, and did a wonderful job with this piece.
“US Highway 1.” Smithsonian American Art Museum. Smithsonian Institution, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.