Niles Spencer the Precisionist. A lost figure on the fringe of a fringe art movement.

Gas House District, 1932.

In Fairmont, 1951.
The Silver Tanks, 1952.
Abstract Architectural Composition, ca. 1950.
Precisionist Cityscape, 1950.
American painter Niles Spencer (1893–1952) photographed at a party at the home of Yasuo Kuniyoshi. c. 1921. by Yasuo Kuniyoshi.

Niles Spencer & his work is often associated with The Precisionists, a loosely knit group including Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, Louis Lozowick, George Ault, Elsie Driggs and Ralston Crawford. Precisionism pared down the massive landscape of industrial America to sparse dynamic, anglar compositions characterized by flat surface and simplified images. They used glorification of machine and industry to celebrate of the promise of future and progress.

Complex times made reassuringly simple and sophisticated.

Spencer painted painstakingly slowly, revising and reworking his compositions over and over and over until he was happy. Every surface on a Spencer painting is made up of multiple loosely brushed layers of subtle, tonal colour changes. This process makes Spencer a unique figure, if not within, on the fringes of Precisionism. It also means that, in the flesh, on the canvas in front of you and not on a screen his paintings evoke an emotional response and create a certain, tangible mood.

Well known and respected amongst fellow artists and museum curators, Spencer was described as being reticent and introspective. His working methods were slow and methodical and he had just 2 solo exhibitions in his lifetime. Either unwilling or unable (or both) to promote his work in what was a competitive environment, Spencer and his work were often missing from the important shows of the period. Spencer’s total output was miniscule, a result of his slow methodical working methods and his early death in 1952.

His work is truly minimal.

The record price for a Spencer at auction is $332,500 USD.

Waterfront Mill, 1940.

Near Washington Square, c. 1928.

Near Avenue A, 1933.

City Walls, c. 1921-22.
Ventilators 1948.
Steel Country, 1937.

City Scene c.1928.

Buildings, 1924.

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