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The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2021

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FEB 2021 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: New York

37. (West 8th Street)

In September 1936, a painting is included in a show at the A.C.A Gallery of honorable mentions from a contest sponsored by the American Artists’ Congress. The canvas depicts a thronging torchlight protest march on an unidentified Manhattan avenue. Red and gold banners, one of which sports a hammer and sickle, identify the march as allied with the American Communist Party. In the foreground a protestor in a workman’s cap carries a sign reading “Nazis Murder Jews.” The painter, then a participant in the WPA easel division, had herself attended the march and based the marcher with the sign on an artist friend. One reviewer singles out this painting, which she believes “would be an excellent picture from the point of view of color, design and emotional significance if the big bold black-and-white sign carried by one of the marchers at the head of the parade, didn’t throw the rest of the composition completely out of gear by serving to tear a visual hole in the canvas.” The artist later responds that far from being too obvious, the anti-fascist sign (in the painting and in reality) was hardly evident enough: “If they had noticed that sign, thousands of Jews might have been saved.”

(Alice Neel, Sid Gotcliffe)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2021

All Issues