January 30, 2012

Ralph Fasanella: Defending the 99%


In his review of “Jubilation/Rumination: Life, Real and Imagined,” the new exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum, Ken Johnson neglected to mention that there are two paintings by Ralph Fasanella (American, 1914-1997), a self-taught artist whose large, detailed depictions of the urban working class critiqued post-World-War II America. An Italian immigrant who grew up in Little Italy, Fasanella was a zealous labor activist who worked tirelessly to make a better life for working men and women.

Ralph Fasanella, New York City 1950–1970, oil on canvas, 59 x 96 x 1 1/2 inches. American Folk Art Museum, gift of Maurice and Margo Cohen, Birmingham, Michigan. Fasanella's other large painting in the show depicts the plight of  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

In this video, produced by the Machinists' News Network, Fasanella's daughter tells how he would come home from the factory, head down to the basement, and, fueled by way too much coffee, paint all night.

In the 1997 NY Times obituary of Fasanella, Robert Smith reported that
from 1940 to 1945, Mr. Fasanella worked as a union organizer for the United Electrical Workers of the C.I.O., organizing the Western Electric plant in Manhattan. In 1944, a friend suggested that he take up drawing to relieve the arthritis in his hands. It worked, and he was hooked. He learned to paint after persuading the union to organize painting classes for its members and signing up. His first solo show was at the ACA Galleries on East 57th Street in 1948. One of his first sales was to the choreographer Jerome Robbins. During the McCarthy years, Mr. Fasanella was blacklisted and found it virtually impossible to find work. His wife, Eva Lazorek, whom he married in 1950, was able to support him by teaching school....
Jubilation/Rumination: Life, Real and Imagined,” organized by Stacy C. Hollander. american Folk Art Museum, New York, NY. Through September 2, 2012.
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