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The Social and the Real: Political Art of the 1930s in the Western Hemisphere (Refiguring Modernism) [Hardcover]

Alejandro Anreus , Diana L. Linden , Jonathan Weinberg

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Book Description

1 Feb 2006 Refiguring Modernism (Book 4)
During the 1930s, American artists, such as Ben Shahn, developed a mode of representation generally known as Social Realism. This term is given broad new meaning in the anthology brought together by Alejandro Anreus, Diana Linden, and Jonathan Weinberg. They and their collaborators argue that artists of the Depression era believed that their art became "realistic" by engaging the great economic and political issues of society. Through fresh investigation of the visual culture of the 1930s - painting, sculpture, photography, and the graphic arts - the anthology illuminates the struggle for social justice that led artists to embrace leftist ideologies, and fashion an art aimed at revealing the harsh realities of contemporary life. In sharp contrast to earlier studies, "The Social and the Real" contends that the radical, "realistic" art of the Americas during the 1930s was shaped as much by hemispheric exchange as by emulation of the European avant-garde. Alan Trachtenberg, Mary K. Coffey, and the book's other essayists consider Canadian art alongside art from the United States, the Caribbean, and as far south as Argentina. Some of the artists they discuss, like Philip Evergood or Dorothea Lange, are well known; others - the Argentinean Antonio Berni or the Canadian Paraskeva Clark - deserve wider recognition. Situating such artists within the context of Pan-American exchange transforms the structure of the art-historical field. It also produces major new insights. The rise of Social Realism, for instance, is traced back not to the United States in the 1930s, but instead to the Mexico of the early 1920s. "The Social and the Real" makes an assessment of Social Realism that is comprehensive as well as ground-breaking. The opening essays deal with "reality and authenticity" in representations of "the nation." Subsequent essays consider portrayals of manhood, labor, lynching, and people pushed to the margins of society because of religious or ethnic identity. The volume concludes with a pair of essays - one on artists' links with Communism, the other on portrayal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's physical infirmity - that carry the discussion of Social Realism into the postwar period.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press; New edition edition (1 Feb 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 027102691X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271026916
  • Product Dimensions: 26.1 x 17.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,835,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"The Social and the Real looks at 1930s art in a hemispheric context and fills a very real need.... Taken individually, the essays... represent important contributions to scholarship. Considered together, they enlarge in striking and unanticipated ways our understanding of the art of this period." - Alan Wallach, William and Mary College"

About the Author

Alejandro Anreus is Professor of Art History at William Paterson University. He is the author of Orozco in Gringoland: The Years in New York (2001) and the editor of Ben Shahn and the Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti (2001). Diana L. Linden is an independent scholar and a recipient of a J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship. Jonathan Weinberg is the author of Male Desire: The Homoerotic in American Art (2005), Ambition and Love in Modern American Art (2001), and Speaking for Vice: Homosexuality in the Art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and the First American Avant-Garde (1995).

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