William Gropper's America

Growing up in a working-class Jewish family on the Lower East Side of New York City, American artist William Gropper (1897-1977) spent his career denouncing and satirizing corrupt politicians, bourgeois capitalists, and power-hungry dictators in his artworks and commercial illustrations. The title of this exhibition is borrowed from his painting William Gropper’s America: Its Folklore (1946), a whimsically didactic map of the U.S. that illustrates legendary and historical figures, from Molly Pitcher to Johnny Appleseed. After prints of this painting were distributed widely by the U.S. State Department, Gropper was subpoenaed by Senator Joseph McCarthy, accused of Communist backing, and subsequently blacklisted. While this exhibition includes one mythological man from Gropper’s American Folklore Series Joe Magarac of Pittsburgh, who could bend steel with his bare hands other works on display provide a broader picture of Gropper’s America. Throughout this diverse selection of prints, drawings, and paintings, Gropper reflects on his personal background and political struggles to call out oppression and injustice.