Artworks: A Commentary on Lynching, 1935
In the mid-1930s, many left-leaning artists and cultural figures joined the fight to raise awareness of racial violence and campaigned to persuade Congress to pass anti-lynching legislation. In 1935, the NAACP, in collaboration with the College Art Association, organized an anti-lynching art exhibition, An Art Commentary on Lynching, at New York’s Arthur U. Newton Galleries. The exhibition featured works by several of Lawrence’s most famous contemporaries, including Isamu Noguchi, Thomas Hart Benton, and José Clemente Orozco (see panel 13). Hale Woodruff contributed two prints, one of which is titled By Parties Unknown, a reference to the phrase often used to avoid identifying lynchers, however well known they might be. The print depicts a victim of a lynching victim laid at the steps of a church, highlighting the hypocrisy of the mob. “This is not an exhibition for softies. It may upset your stomach,” warned the New York World-Telegram. “If it upsets your complacency on the subject it will have been successful.”
“Culture.” Lee Bontecou. Untitled. 1959 | MoMA, www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2015/onewayticket/panel/16.