New Prints in Modernist Strategies: Highlights of the WPA


A giant hand emerges from the center of a crowded cityscape, palm upturned. A train on elevated tracks runs along the palm where life lines and love lines would be, disappearing into a tunnel on the other side.
Claire Mahl Moore, Transportation, 1935–1943. Lithograph. Allocated by the U.S. Government, Commissioned through the New Deal art projects 1943-4-278


The artist creates a collage of images that speak to the history of African Americans in the US, from tropical scenes to enslavement to riverboats, cities, and a raucous stage where Jazz musicians play. A tower broadcasts to all via bolts of lighning
Raymond Steth, The Evolution of Swing, 1939. Lithograph. Allocated by the U.S. Government, Commissioned through the New Deal art projects 1943-4-426


geometric shapes and shading reference the textures and sounds of city life. A music note, a bare tree, a dripping pipe, a fur stole, are layered in angled brick walls, windows, and doorways, hinting at a modern city
Ida Abelman, Tenement Interior, 1938. Lithograph. Allocated by the U.S. Government, Commissioned through the New Deal art projects 1943-4-10


On view
Feb 1, 2022
Main Level, Kinkead Gallery

Three new prints have been rotated into Modernist Strategies: Highlights of the WPA by Assistant Curator Katie Koca Polite. Get to know these works and visit them in the Kinkead Gallery.

Claire Mahl Moore

United States, 1917–1988     

Transportation, 1935–1943   

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.


Raymond Steth

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.


Ida Abelman

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.

Curated by Katie Koca Polite, Assistant Curator

Portfolio: Modernist Strategies: Hightlights from the WPA [Exhibition]

This installation is featured as a newly installed exhibition space in Summer-Fall 2021, then will transition a Collection Gallery where works from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) will be exhibited with periodic rotations.

Records 1 to 16 of 16

spiral bound page that has a grid of red markings with two circular fields, one gold and the other red and white. On each field is a rectangle.
  1. Feb 2, 2023 to Dec 22, 2023
A graceful plum tree in full flower sits under a full moon. The sky is inky black but the moonlight makes each blossom seem to glow with inner light.
  1. Mar 2, 2023 to Dec 22, 2023
Three students sit at desks in a middle school classroom. They are making art through a program that celebrates Latina culture.
  1. Mar 25, 2023 to May 24, 2023