Monday, August 19, 2013

Art for “the People”—A Very Select Bibliography

The focus here is on a subset of ‘visual arts’ and is confined to a fairly small geopolitical region of the globe. 

“The arts, high and low, can express and develop our understanding of who we are and of what matters to us—a thought that Hegel developed in his ideas of art as the articulation of a culture’s self-understanding, even if in his hands that powerful insight was applied to generate an overly simplistic view of art’s historical development. [….]

…[T]he notion of beauty is not to be construed merely in terms of pleasure in sensory presentations, but has to allow for the possibility of the beauty of objects and traits, such as moral ones, which cannot be perceived directly. The existence of moral beauty means that a work’s moral character can be a beauty in the work [and this is not to be confused with either ‘moralism’ or ‘didacticism,’ rightly used as terms of aesthetic derogation]. One of the most influential modern accounts of the value of art is the cognitive one, which holds that works of art have their artistic value in part through their cognitive merits. …[T]hrough linking cognition to imagination, art can teach us about ethical values, as well as about other matters, …and this cognitive merit can be an aesthetic merit too. Finally, an important aspect of our valuing of works of art is the way that they move us emotionally, and this aspect of our experience of art is drawn on by the merited response argument, since the question of value rests on the issue, not of whether certain responses were caused to occur in us, but whether the responses prescribed are merited. And this notion of merit…is sensitive to moral considerations. Thus, if one examines some of the central grounds on which art is valued—its beauty, its cognitive role, its affective dimension—each of them involves an ethical aspect. It is in this sense that the ethical evaluation of art is inescapable, since it is inextricably intertwined with some of the central grounds on which we value art.”—Berys Gaut, Art, Emotion and Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2007).

  • Bansky. Wall and Piece. London: Century (Random House), 2005. 
  • Beall, Karen F., et al., eds. Graphic Excursions—American Prints in Black and White, 1900-1950: Selections from the Collection of Reba and Dave Williams. Boston, MA: D.R. Godine in association with the American Federation of Arts, 1991. 
  • Becker, Heather. Art for The People: The Rediscovery and Preservation of Progressive- and WPA-Era Murals in the Chicago Public Schools, 1904-1943. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books LLC, 2002. 
  • Braun-Reinitz, Janet and Jane Weissman. On the Wall: Four Decades of Community Murals in New York City. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.
  • Carter, Ennis. Posters for the People: Art of the WPA. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2008. 
  • Cockcroft, Eva, John Pitman Weber, and James Cockcroft. Toward a People’s Art: The Contemporary Mural Movement. Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1998 (1977). 
  • Contreras, Belisario R. Tradition and Innovation in New Deal Art. London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1983.
  • Cushing, Lincoln and Timothy W. Drescher. Agitate! Educate! Organize!: American Labor Posters. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009.
  • Dennis, James M. The Strike: The Improbable Story of an Iconic 1886 Painting of Labor Protest. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011.
  • DeNoon, Christopher. Posters of the WPA. Los Angeles, CA: The Wheatley Press, 1987. 
  • Drescher, Timothy W. San Francisco Bay Area Murals: Communities Create Their Muses. St. Paul, MN: Pogo Press, 3rd ed., 1998. 
  • Foner, Philip S. (with Reinhard Schultz, et al.). The Other America: Art and the Labour Movement in the United States. West Nyack, NY: Journeyman Press, 1985. 
  • Golden, Jane, Robin Rice, and Monica Yant Kinney. Philadelphia Murals and the stories they tell.  Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2002.
  • Golden, Jane, Robin Rice, and Natalie Pompilio. More Philadelphia Murals and the stories they tell. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2006. 

  • Hapke, Laura. Labor’s Canvas: American Working-Class History and the WPA Art of the 1930s. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008.
  • Johnson, Mark Dean, ed. At Work: The Art of California Labor. San Francisco, CA: California Historical Society Press with Heyday Books, San Francisco State University, and the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, 2003.
  • Kennedy, Roger. When Art Worked: The New Deal, Art, and Democracy. New York: Rizzoli, 2009.
  • Kennedy, Roger and Ann Prentice Wagner. 1934: A New Deal for Artists. Washington, DC: GILES, in association with Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2009. 
  • Lee, Anthony W. Painting on the Left: Diego Rivera, Radical Politics, and San Francisco’s Public Murals. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999. 
  • Masteller, Richard Nevin. We, the People? Satiric Prints of the 1930s. Walla Walla, WA: Donald H. Sheehan Gallery, Whitman College, 1989. 
  • Monroe, Gary. The Highwaymen Murals: Al Black’s Concrete Dreams. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2009. 
  • Nesbett, Peter T. and Michelle Dubois, eds. The Complete Jacob Lawrence, 2 Vols.: “Over the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence,” and “Jacob Lawrence: Paintings, Drawings, and Murals (1935-1999), A Catalogue Raisonne.” Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2000.
  • O’Connor, Francis V., ed. Art for the Millions: Essays from the 1930s by Artists and Administrators of the WPA Federal Art Project. Greenwich, CT.: New York Graphic Society, 1973.
  • Pohl, Frances K. In the Eye of the Storm: An Art of Conscience, 1930-1970—Selections from the Collection of Philip J. and Suzanne Schiller. San Francisco, CA: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1995.
  • Pohl, Frances K. Framing America: A Social History of American Art. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2008.
  • Williams, Lynne Barstis. American Printmakers, 1880-1945: An Index to Reproductions and Biocritical Information. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1993.
  • Zurier, Rebecca. Art for the Masses: A Radical Magazine and Its Graphics, 1911-1917. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1988. 
Images: (1) Diego Rivera, The Uprising (1931); (2) Jacob Lawrence, Carpenters, silkscreen, (1977); (3) Meyer Wolfe (1897-1985) created his first series of lithographs, called American Negro Life, while employed by the Public Works of Art Project. This is TuesdayOthelia (1934); (4) The Maestra Peace Mural, Women’s Building / Casa de las mujeres (1994) Lapidge & 18th Streets (between Valencia & Mission Streets), Mission District, San Francisco, California: “Designed and painted by Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton and Irene Perez. A multicultural homage to iconic women and women’s history…. [….] A few of the famous women included are Audre Lorde, Georgia O’Keefe, and Rigoberta Menchu. In addition, female icons such as Quan Yin, Yemeyah, and Coyoxauqui lend a timeless and spiritual element to the design;” and (5) Robert Koehler, The Strike (1885-1886), “a large-scale narrative painting of unruly industrial workers walking off their jobs and confronting an elderly factory owner.” This work “acquir[ed] considerable fame—and notoriety—after its exhibition in New York City just before May Day 1886. Created by an obscure German American artist as a diploma painting at Munich’s Royal Academy, The Strike’s unprecedented conception and sudden emergence to public view coincided with the final preparations of America’s struggling labor movement to launch a nationwide agitation for the eight-hour workday.” [For a larger picture of any of the above, click on your pointing device over the image.]


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