“I didn’t paint my paintings to hang in some rich guy’s living room,” Ralph Fasanella once said.
There’s an irony to that nose-thumbing dismissal, seeing as it targets the very people whose wealth and generosity (and, it must be said, quirky taste) probably made possible Fasanella’s exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where that quote runs across the top of one wall. Though the self-taught painter (1914-1997) labored in obscurity for 25 years before his 1972 “discovery” by New York magazine, one large Fasanella canvas — and there are several here — not long ago fetched $364,000 at Sotheby’s auction house.
Fasanella, who would have been 100 this September, is being feted with “Lest We Forget,” an exhibition whose title refers to a mantra of this lifelong lefty. That title — more of a rallying cry, really — is meant to honor the common laborers who teem by the hundreds, even thousands, in his dense, panoramic vistas of his native New York and other metropolises. (Several paintings depict a landmark 1912 strike by textile workers in Lawrence, Mass.)
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in The Washington Post, click here.