Sunday, 29 August 2010

Hydrocarbon Heaven

Butadiene is a petroleum by-product. In the 1940s the United States War Department constructed several large butadiene plants to produce synthetic rubber for the war effort of which this refinery in Port Neches, TX is one. It makes an unlikely postcard subject but such installations are not without their admirers. Their formal qualities were especially attractive to Precisionist painters and Charles Sheeler made many paintings of these distinctive industrial structures. Their potential for generating profits is very attractive to institutional investors for whom their aesthetic qualities are a matter of profound indifference. Upton Sinclair brought the pioneering days of the oil industry to life in fiction while Raymond Chandler escaped from the industry by writing short stories for Black Mask. The American economy has been driven by oil for almost a century so it is unsurprising to find it featuring as a postcard theme. This selection of cards includes a variety of approaches from the sublime celebration (Signal Hill at Night, Oil Well in Oklahoma) to the resolutely banal record (Pumping Station No. 2).

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