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March 29, 2004
The 1930s Political Caricatures and Cartoons of Hugo Gellert
To Be Subject of Illustrated Presentation
Swann Foundation Fellow James W. Wechsler will speak at the Library of Congress at noon on Wednesday, April 7, in Dining Room A, on the sixth Floor of the James Madison Building, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., Washington, D.C. Wechsler's illustrated presentation, titled "Black and White and Red All Over: The Caricatures and Cartoons of Hugo Gellert," is based on his research project, which is supported by a fellowship from the Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon and administered by the Library. This event is free and open to the public; no reservations are necessary.
In his lecture, Wechsler will discuss striking graphic art of the 1930s by Hungarian-American artist Hugo Gellert (1892-1985), an extraordinarily influential figure in American art of the early 20th century. During this era, Gellert was extremely prolific artistically and notoriously active politically. His importance did not involve stylistic innovations, or the introduction of a distinctive type of subject matter. Rather, Wechsler maintains that Gellert's most significant contributions to the development of art in America were the concepts that art should not be a rarified commodity available to only a privileged class and that artists should organize and work together, not simply for their ideals, but for their own survival.
According to Wechsler, Gellert, as an unabashed member of the Communist Party of the U.S.A., had an overriding goal to communicate with the working class, not simply to entertain them, but to radicalize them. A special FBI agent assigned to investigate Gellert noted that the artist was "potentially dangerous because of his power of appeal as a cartoonist." Wechsler asks: just how dangerous was Gellert? As an artist of the Communist Party, what were his tactics? How did his approach differ from artists of the liberal left during the 1930s? In his lecture, Wechsler addresses these questions, explores the historical moments in which Gellert participated and locates his art within the social and political dialogues of its time.
James Wechsler received his Ph.D. in art history form the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY) in June 2003. His dissertation, "The Art and Activism of Hugo Gellert: Embracing the Specter of Communism," is the first major study of this long? overlooked American muralist and graphic artist. Wechsler has published numerous articles and essays on muralists and printmakers and received grants and fellowships to pursue research in this area. A versatile scholar and curator, Wechsler was assistant curator for works on paper at the Wolfsonian-Florida International University in Miami Beach from 1999 to 2000. From 1996 through 1999, he served as a consultant to private New York print collectors and conducted research for exhibitions of American and Mexican graphic art.
The Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon and the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress are co-sponsoring this public program on the early history of caricature. The presentation is part of the Swann Foundation's continuing activities to support the study, interpretation, preservation and appreciation of original works of humorous and satiric art by graphic artists from around the world. The Foundation is guided by an advisory board composed of scholars, collectors, cartoonists and Library of Congress staff members. It awards one fellowship annually (with a stipend of $15,000) to assist scholarly research and writing projects in the field of caricature and cartoon. Applications for the 2005-2006 academic year are due on Feb. 15, 2005.
More information about the lecture and fellowship is available through the Swann Foundation Web site: www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/swannhome.html, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling Martha Kennedy in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress at (202) 707-9115.
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