Claire Mahl Moore
United States, 1917–1988
Depictions of muscular workers were common in Depression-era prints, and what resembles a laborer’s thick, calloused hand dominates this scene. Inspired by surrealist imagery, skyscrapers surround the enlarged hand that has a high-speed train slicing through its palm. The train is moving so fast that its mirror image is visible on the left side. Given the artist’s interest in social justice, this print could be commentary on how progress in science and technology is often built on the backs of the working class: a machine is slicing the hand that helped build it, encircled by buildings that housed the wealthy, not the rundown tenements that poor workers could afford.
United States, 1916–1997
The Evolution of Swing, 1939
This print traces the development of swing music in the United States, starting in the lower right with its origins in Africa, to the enslavement of Africans by white Americans in the lower left, to the urban cities in the 1930s where it energized audiences over the radio and in jazz clubs. Raymond Steth celebrates the cultural contributions of African Americans, taking cues from the Mexican muralist movement—lead by José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros—by constructing a legible narrative through an allover composition of pieced-together events. The emotive scene is highly charged and electric, placing equal importance on the past and the present.
United States, 1910–2002
Tenement Interior, 1938
Ida Abelman constructs a montage of urban architectural references—windows, bricks, steel girders, and advertisement signs—within a modernist language inspired by Russian constructivism and German expressionism. Angular geometric shapes are flattened and pieced together to evoke the anxiety of living in an urban tenement. A bare tree stands off-center, symbolizing the dismal resources for the poor and working class. Silhouettes of non-descript humans overlap in a triangular shape in the bottom center, while a pipe is exposed to the left. Abelman questions the quality of life for the working class and critiques the unsafe living conditions of tenements—the only housing situation available for many immigrants and urban poor.