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Social Realism Photographs Featured in Palitz Gallery Exhibition
The Louise and Bernard Palitz Gallery at Lubin House presents “In Actuality: Social Realism and Its Legacy from the Robert B. Menschel Collection,” on display through Oct. 17.
Curated by Natalie McGrath G’19, this display celebrates the philanthropy and dedication to the arts of Syracuse University Life Trustee Robert B. Menschel ’51, H’91, who has contributed over 400 works of art to the permanent art collection at Syracuse University since 1978.
Organized in honor of his most recent gift of over 180 photographs in 2018, this exhibition presents images by such master photographers as Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Doris Ulmann, Helen Levitt and W. Eugene Smith and highlights their contribution to the Social Realism artist movement.
The Palitz Gallery is located in Syracuse University’s Lubin House at 11 E. 61st St., New York City. Exhibition hours are Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibition is closed University holidays and Labor Day weekend. A gallery reception will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 24, from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibition and related programs are free and open to the public. Contact 212.826.0320 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Following the advent of photography in the mid-nineteenth century, artists and critics alike struggled to make sense of this new technology and its place in the world of modern art. Some photographers chose to experiment with chemical processes and lighting techniques in order to achieve more abstract and painterly images, resembling traditional forms of art. Others embraced the camera’s documentary function and championed stark reality as a subject.
This exhibition explores photographic works from the artistic movement known as social realism, popularized in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s, through which artists captured frank and unembellished scenes of working-class life and industrialized spaces. Before its relationship to photography in the 20th-century, realism developed in Europe as a means for painters to explore subject matter that was considered base by the academies and their wealthy patrons, through such artists as Gustave Courbet and Honoré Daumier. The act of representing average laborers in compositions and scales traditionally reserved for grand portraiture and history painting rocked the art world through its biting political commentary and avant-garde credibility.
The pathos of realism resonated in the United States for years to come, as social realists worked to capture moments from one of the most desperate eras of American history, The Great Depression. Such artists as Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein and Ralph Steiner among others used the dynamic medium of photography to document and convey the extreme poverty and suffering endured by working-class Americans during this time. To this day, social realism has left a lasting mark on photography, as artists continue to capture scenes of daily life and the inner complexities of the masses.