Art Uncovered - The Left Front

Premiere DateMar 24, 2015
00:00 The Left Front
02:44 The Red Decade
05:56 John Reed Clubs
07:54 Revolutionary Art
11:35 Industrial Frankenstein
14:08 Radical Abstraction
17:26 Danse Macabre
22:23 Social Mysticism
25:31 Lessons
28:09 Optimism
32:15 Finish

Mabel Dwight, “Danse Macabre,” 1934

Jill Bugajski  and John Paul Murphy are the curators of the exhibition The Left Front: Radical Art in the Red Decade 1929 to 1940, on view now at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery. The show looks how American leftist artists responded to the chaotic and uncertain decade between the beginning of the great depression and the start of World War II.

Organized around collectives like the John Reed Club and the American Artist’s Congress, the artists of the “red decade”  believed that art’s role was to help transform society. For these printmakers, painters, and illustrators, art was inseparable from the historic crises of the day, and it was the responsibility of radical artists to fight for the rights of workers and the underclass while resisting the oppressive forces of capitalism and fascism.  Borrowing a page from the Soviet playbook, these artists described themselves as “culture workers” and declared that art was a weapon in the battle for “a new and superior world.”

On this week’s show Jill and John talk about the influence of Soviet communism on American artists, the radical potential of abstract art, and we discuss what the artists of the Great Depression might have to teach the artists of the Great Recession.

Henry Simon, “Industrial Frankenstein I,” 1932

American Artists of the John Reed Club (Amerikanskiye Khudozhniki “Dzhon Rid Klub”), Moscow, 1931

Rockwell Kent, “Solar Flare Up” 1937

Todros Geller Untitled (Factory), c. 1930

Boris Gorelick Industrial Strife, c. 1938

Mitchell Siporin Workers Family, from the portfolio A Gift to Biro-Bidjan, 1937


Music: “Moscow Guitar” – The Jokers

Host Thomas
Thomas grew up in Northern California where he fell in love with music and photography while going to punk shows and shooting skate photos. He photography in college, which may or may not qualify him to host an…