The Art and Activism of Hugo Gellert: A Symposium

The Art and Activism of Hugo Gellert, a symposium sponsored by the New York Metro American Studies Association and the New Deal Network (, will take place on Saturday, May 16, 1998 at New York University's Tamiment Library (on the 10th Floor of Bobst Library), 70 Washington Square South, New York City, from 1:00 to 4:00 P.M.

This symposium will explore different aspects of Gellert's importance in the histories of twentieth century American art, culture, labor and politics. Participants include Professor Stanley Aronowitz (PhD. Program in Sociology and Director of the Center for Cultural Studies, City University of New York), Francis V. O'Connor (Ph.D., Independent Historian of Art), Francine Tyler (Ph.D., Instructor at Parsons School of Design), Susan Valdez de Pena (Instructor at Parsons School of Design), and James Wechsler (PhD. Candidate, City University of New York). The Art and Activism Of Hugo Gellert will also feature a panel discussion among artists and art-world figures who were Hugo Gellert's contemporaries.

This symposium is taking place in part to draw attention to Hugo Gellert's Seward Park Housing frescoes on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The mural cycle, which depicts Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Albert Einstein, was commissioned in l959 by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. The murals may be covered as part of a lobby redecoration project of the Seward Park Housing Coop.

Hugo Gellert was born in Hungary in 1892 and emigrated to the United States with his family in 1906. He was a very well-known artist in this country during the 1930s, yet he has essentially been forgotten. Gellert's activities contributed greatly to the social tone of 1930s American. He was a contributing artist to the Masses and was a founding editor of the Liberator and the New Masses. Gellert occupied a seminal position in organizing the John Reed Club and the Artists' Union. He served on the editorial committee of Art Front, the Artists' Union's official publication. Later in the 1930s, Gellert helped organize the American Artists' Congress of February, 1936. He spoke at the second American Artist' Congress in December, 1937 as well. He was an active member of the United Scenic Artist's Union in New York. His work is in numerous museum collections including The British Museum, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC; The Wolfsonian, Miami Beach.

For further information on the Symposium, Hugo Gellert, and the struggle to save the Seward Park murals, visit our Web site at:

Thomas Thurston


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