William Gropper

APRIL 22 – JUNE 4 – 2017


William Gropper, Watergate Series, 1973, lithograph, 20” x 23″

In this current period of such great political unrest, it serves the public well to reflect on previous administrations and how our historic playbook seems to be so painfully repetitious.  Fortunately, the lasting imagery of social and political artists address these events with great clarity.

Figureworks is fortunate to showcase a number of works by artist and political satirist William Gropper (1897-1977), whose career spanned over 50 years of fascinating American politics. This exhibition highlights Gropper’s final political series surrounding President Nixon’s Watergate scandal in the 1970’s.

Gropper was born in New York City in 1897. His parents, Jewish immigrants from Romania and Ukraine, were both employed in the garment industry and the family lived in poverty.  His father, though university-educated and fluent in 8 languages, was unable to find suitable employment in America contributing to William Gropper’s lifelong antipathy to capitalism.

In his teenage years, Gropper attended the Ferrer Modern School in New York City, an avant-garde school promoted by anarchist Emma Goldman. Gropper studied under the prominent artists George Bellows and Robert Henri.

 A committed radical, Gropper began his career illustrating for such publications as The Revolutionary Age, The Liberator, The New Masses, The Worker, and The Morning Freiheit.

Due to Gropper’s involvement in subversive politics in the 1920s and 1930s and his 1946 painting entitled “William Gropper’s America: Its Folklore”, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953.  Blacklisted for the next 20 years, the experience fueled an ambitious series of fifty lithographs entitled Caprichos, derived from Goya’s 1790’s work.  Gropper’s Capriccios presented a vivid, specific response to McCarthyism, resonating deeply with the underprivileged public and enraging the corrupt, domineering politicians.

In 1973, late in his career and affronted by Nixon’s Watergate scandal, the artist completed his last political series, leaving viewers with one more satirical mark on a very dark time in America and Gropper’s life long struggle against political corruption.

Also on exhibit are related works by Figureworks contemporary artists, including Arlene MorrisMeridith McNeal and Mary Westring.

Of particular note is a pair of etchings by Mary Westring. The first is her original 1972 etching inspired from the Moscow Summit meeting. Reflecting on current affairs, the second is that same etching reworked to include the tattered American flag.

(top) Mary Westring, Summit, 1972, etching, 17-1/2” x 9-1/2”

(lower) Mary Westring, Fragility #3, 2017, etching, 17-1/2” x 9-1/2″

Figureworks is located at 168 North 6th St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11211, one block from the Bedford Avenue “L” train. The gallery is open to the public Saturday and Sunday from 1-6 PM and is dedicated to exhibiting contemporary and 20th century fine art of the human form.

 For more information please call 718-486-7021 or visit us online at www.figureworks.com