Arts and Crafts Utopia

How we live, and how we might live.

Month: April 2015

Collated reviews of Left Front

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 10.38.56 AMI’ve been posting individual reviews of The Left Front as they’ve come to my attention, but now that the exhibition has closed at the Grey Gallery, I thought it would be useful to have them all (at least the ones that I know of) collated in one place. One of the great pleasures of curating the exhibition has been the thoughtful, intelligent responses it inspired.

The New Yorker: “Left Turns: The Radical Art of the Nineteen Thirties” by Peter Schjeldahl (1/26/15). “A fascinating scholarly show…a show that I wish some museum would take as the seed for a major, broadly inclusive exhibition.”

Financial Times: “A look back at the political art of the 1930s highlights a lost moment of moral clarity” by Ariella Budick (2/2/15), “…the show as a whole evokes an era when a large cohort of artists woke up each morning fired with a sense of social purpose.”

New York Observer: “Seeing Red: NYU’s Grey Gallery Revisits America’s Socialist Moment in Full” by David Ebony (2/2/15). “Today, as union members make up less than 10 percent of the U.S. workforce, and economic disparity gets more extreme by the day, it might be the time for artists and the intelligentsia to take another look at America’s “socialist moment” that is so thoughtfully and skillfully illuminated in this show.”

Tablet: “Occupy Wall Street! The Jewish CP-Friendly 1930s Version” by J. Hoberman (2/5/15).

Guernica: “Re-Examining the radical art of the “Red Decade” by Roslyn Bernstein (2/25/15). “The timing for mounting an exhibit on the history of art in political activism was perfect.”

Artforum.com: “Critic’s Pick” by Jason Farago: A “large and important exhibition.”

Hyperallergic.com: “Picturing a Communist Revolution in the U.S.” by Becca Rothfeld (2/16/15): “Different artists disagree as to how communist convictions are best or most effectively visualized, and the best part of The Left Front is the methodological tension that underwrites the varied approaches on display.”

Bedford + Bowery: “This Exhibit of Radical Art Speaks to the Power of the Pen” by Robin Cembalest (1/12/15): “fascinating, thought-provoking show.”

Artefuse.com: “The Left Front at the Grey Gallery,” by Daniel Gauss (2/12/15): “…the predominant approach in this show is to document the social wrongs of the time, and there’s something really amazingly exciting and fun, even 70 years down the line, about seeing artists just laying the naked truth of the corruption, exploitation and abuses of their society out there for anyone to see.”

The Indypendent: “The Red Decade: Art with a Gritty Heart” by Gerald Meyer (3/10/15). “This show powerfully contradicts the canard that the Communist Party imposed social realism as the sole aesthetic style on artists.”

Cartoonbrew.com: “The Left Front” by Stephen Persing (2/20/14): “Co-curators (and Northwestern doctoral candidates) John Murphy and Jill Bugajski have done a fine job of scholarship and, I hope, started the ball rolling for future studies of the period.”

Left Front Podcast Interview

Industrial Frankenstein

Henry Simon – Industrial Frankenstein, 1934

Thomas Seely of Art Uncovered was kind of enough to host me and Jill Bugajski on his podcast to discuss The Left Front. Thomas asked interesting, relevant questions and it was a pleasure to discuss with him some of the exhibition’s central themes and ideas. One of the most abiding pleasures of working on The Left Front was giving interviews and gallery talks with my co-curator, Jill, whose intellectual curiosity and articulate enthusiasm never ceased to inspire and educate me. At this point we’ve done television, print and podcast interviews, and I’ve appreciated every opportunity to promote an exhibition I feel really passionate about, and get the word out about artists I consider wrongly neglected or overlooked. (I’m also pleased that people keep bringing up Henry Simon’s Industrial Frankenstein, since it’s one of my personal favorites from the show, but one that had a precarious life on the checklist until we finally installed.) Check out The Left Front interview and other Art Uncovered podcasts here.