For the People
When: July 12 - March 11, 2007
About the ShowDrawn primarily from the permanent collection of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, this exhibition presents approximately thirty preliminary drawings for murals from the 1930s and 1940s. A turbulent period in America's history, this era saw record numbers of workers unemployed along with intense interest in national and regional identities and international politics. Though quite often overlooked today, American mural paintings of these years infused everyday life with a communal vitality, covering walls with oils or frescoes that revealed artists' heightened interests in historic or contemporary issues. James Daugherty, for instance, is represented by an energetic, modernist watercolor on the theme of New England's Puritan and abolitionist past, made for one of his murals at Stamford High School in Connecticut, sponsored by the federal Public Works of Art Project. Studies for murals for post offices in Delhi, Poughkeepsie, and Rhinebeck, New York, by Andrée Ruellan, Judson Smith, and Olin Dows are also included, as are drawings for the Rincon Annex of the San Francisco Post Office by Anton Refregier.
The mural movement in Mexico, which had emerged in the twenties, spurred numerous American artists to travel there to paint frescoes. Featured in the exhibition are several drawings from the early 1930s by Woodstock artist Marion Greenwood, prepared for murals for the Universidad San Nicolás Hidalgo in Morelia and the Mercado Abelardo L. Rodríguez in Mexico City. Alongside these large-scale works that extol Mexican workers and farmers are documentary photographs of the murals and their settings, by Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo. These and other rarely exhibited mural studies by Ben Shahn, Arshile Gorky, and other American artists are presented here, executed in a range of mediums, including transparent watercolor, gouache, charcoal, graphite, and oil. The exhibition is organized by the Lehman Loeb Art Center and is accompanied by a checklist with essay by Patricia Phagan, curator of prints and drawings. It is generously supported by the Smart Family Foundation, Inc.