American, 20th century.
Born 1914, New York City; died 1997, New York City.
Born and raised in the Bronx until his family moved to an apartment on Sullivan Street near Washington Square Park when he was five years old, Fasanella grew up in an Italian-American working-class family. His parents immigrated to the United States in 1910, his father finding work as a longshoreman and an ice delivery truck driver, his mother raising six children and working as a sewing machine operator in Lower Manhattan's garment industry. Needless to say, the working-class milieu in which Fasanella lived and worked played a significant role in shaping the form and content of his art.
Although he painted for more than fifty years, Ralph Fasanella didn't pick up a brush until the mid-1940s, when he was thirty-one years old. He came to art by way of personal and political convictions, and as postwar American cultural and political preferences swayed from progressive-conservative to conservative-liberal preferences, he sometimes found himself in favor, sometimes out of step. Yet he persevered, leaving an impressive body of several hundred canvases, many sketches, and broad respect and admiration from multiple spheres, including art and labor.
At the beginning of his career and then again toward the end, Fasanella's celebratory images of the American working class, reformist politics, and a more egalitarian and just society were deemed out of sync and even dangerous. Today, as demonstrated by the surge of protest by groups like Occupy, and growing recognition of the abiding facts of American economic disparity, Ralph Fasanella's paintings are more revelatory, and relevant, as ever.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
Ralph Fasanella: Lest We Forget, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY
Ralph Fasanella: The Art of the Social Engagement, AFL-CIO Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Everyday Heroes: Ralph Fasanella's Paintings of American Life, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY
Ralph Fasanella: A More Perfect Union, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
Fasanella's Lawrence, Lawrence Heritage State Park Gallery, Lawrence, MA
Ralph Fasanella: Passionate Visionary of New York, Art League of Long Island, Dix Hills, NY
Ralph Fasanella (1914-1997): Artist of the People, ACA Galleries, New York, NY
Ralph Fasanella’s America, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY; The New York Historical Society, New York, NY; The Mennello Museum of American Folk Art, Orlando, FL
Ralph Fasanella’s America, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY
Ralph Fasanella’s American Panorama: A Memorial Exhibition, ACA Galleries, New York, NY
Fun City: Celebrating the Life of Ralph Fasanella, The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY
Working People: The Art of Ralph Fasanella, Bread and Roses Cultural Project, New York, NY
Ralph Fasanella, The Main Street Gallery, Dobbs Ferry, NY
Urban Utopia: The Folk Art of Ralph Fasanella, Avram Gallery, Southampton College, Long Island University, South Hampton, NY
Double Play: Baseball Paintings by Ralph Fasanella and John Dobbs, ACA Galleries, New York, NY
"This Guy's Painting Our Lives": Ralph Fasanella Worker Activist/Worker Artist, Natural History Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Russell Rotunda, Russell Building, Washington, D.C.
Jewett Hall Gallery, University of Maine, Augusta, ME
Paintings and Drawings from the Mill Series, Middlesex Community College, Lowell, MA; O'Leary Library Gallery, University of Lowell, Lowell, MA; Governor's State Room, Rhode Island State House, Providence, RI
Paintings and Drawings from the Mill Series, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA; Lawrence Visitor Center, Lawrence Heritage State Park, Lawrence, MA
Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA
Blue Hill Cultural Center, Pearl River, NY
Urban Visions: The Paintings of Ralph Fasanella,Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, FL
Hostos Art Gallery, Hostos Community College, Bronx, NY
Urban Visions: The Paintings of Ralph Fasanella, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; New York State Museum, Albany, NY; New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, MA; Museum of Art, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Galerie Felicie, New York, NY
Fenimore House Museum, Cooperstown, NY
Fenimore House Museum, Cooperstown, NY
Jay Johnson's America's Folk Heritage Gallery, New York, NY
Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York, NY
Gallery 1199, New York, NY
Nardin Gallery, New York, NY
Posner Gallery, Milwaukee, WI
Columbia Gallery, Chicago, IL
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA
Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY
Coe Kerr Gallery, New York, NY
Ralph Fasanella -Primitive Painter, Shaw-Rimmington Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Xerox Gallery, Rochester, NY
Automation House, New York, NY
Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY
Ralph Fasanella Paintings, James Gallery, New York, NY
Ralph Fasanella, The Teachers Center, New York, NY
ACA Galleries, New York, NY
Painting by Ralph Fasanella, ACA Gallery, New York, NY
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
World Made By Hand, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
Grandma Moses and the ‘Primitive’ Tradition, Bennington Museum, Bennington, VT
Special Selections, Hill Gallery, Birmingham, MI
City Folk – Ethnic Traditions in the Metropolitan Area, Paine Webber Art Gallery, New York, NY (presented by the Museum of American Folk Art)
Diamonds Are Forever - Artists and Writers on Baseball, New York State Museum, Albany, NY/ Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, Washington, D.C.; followed by a national tour through
The Grand Game of Baseball, Museum of the Borough of Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NY
Play Ball: The Art of Baseball, The Castle Gallery, College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, NY
Tides of Immigration, Museum of the Borough of Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NY
Beyond Tradition: Contemporary American Folk Art, The Katonah Gallery, Katonah, NY;
followed by a national tour through 1988
American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, NY
Rizolli Gallery, New York, NY
Staatliche Kunsthalle, West Berlin, Germany
American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, NY (also exhibited 1983)
Champions of American Sport, The National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; followed by a national tour through 1984
Images of Labor, Gallery 1199, New York, NY
Acquisitions: 1974–1977, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
National Academy of Design, New York, NY
Social Art Today, ACA Galleries, New York, NY
Ralph Fasanella: A More Perfect Union. New York: Andrew Edlin Gallery.
D’Ambrosio, Paul S. Ralph Fasanella’s America. Cooperstown: Fenimore Art Museum.
Elias, Robert, ed. Baseball and the American Dream: Race, Class, Gender and the National Passtime. Armonk: M. E. Sharpe.
Fleming, Maria, ed. A Place at the Table: Struggles for Equality in America. New York: Oxford University Press.
Zandy, Janet, ed. What We Hold in Common: An Introduction to Working-Class Studies. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York.
Green, James R. Taking History to Heart: The Power of the Past in Building Social Movements. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
Images: Pictorial History of Italian-Americans. New York: Center for Migration Studies of New York.
Okun, Rob A., ed. The Rosenbergs - Collected Visions of Artists and Writers. New York: Universe Books.
Wallock, Leonard. New York: Culture Capital of the World. New York: Rizzoli International Publishers.
Gordon, Peter. Diamonds are Forever: Artists and Writers on Baseball. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Kurtz, Bruce D. Visual Imagination: Art Introduction to Art. Englewood Cliffs: Pretice-Hall.
Giordano, Joseph, ed. The Italian-American Catalog. New York: Doubleday.
Foner, Philip and Reinhard Schultz. The Other America. Newbury Port: Journeyman Press.
Bihalji-Merin and Nabojsa-Bato Tomasevic. World Encyclopedia of Naive Art. New York: Scala Arts Publishers, Inc.
Chwast, Seymour and Steven Heller. The Art of New York. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Foner, Philip and Reinhard Schultz. Das Andere Amerika. (German) Berlin: Elefanten Press.
Johnson, Jay and William Ketchum, Jr. American Folk Art of the 20th Century. New York: Rizzoli International Publishers.
Rodman, Seldon. Artists in Tune with Their World. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Von Blum, Paul. The Critical Vision. New York: South End Press.
Casewitz, Curtis W. Making a Living in the Fine Arts. New York: Collier Books.
Foner, Moe. Images of Labor. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press.
Pachter, Marc, Amy Henderson, Jeanette Hussey and Margaret Christman. Champions of American Sport. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Rosenak, Chuck and Jan Rosenak. Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of American Folk Art and Artists. New York: Abbeville Press.
Berger, John. About Looking. New York: Pantheon Books.
Bishop, Robert. Folk Painters of America. Boston: E.P. Dutton & Co.
Horwitz, Elinor Lander. Contemporary American Folk Artists. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.
Möllerström, Sten, ed. Glad Konst! Malmö. Sweden: Bra Böcker
Hemphill Jr. Herbert W. and Julia Weissman. Twentieth Century American Folk Art and Artists. Boston: E.P. Dutton & Co.
Fasanella, Ralph and Patrick Watson. Fasanella's City. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Rosenberg, Karen. "The Working Class Made Colorful: 'Ralph Fasanella: Lest We Forget' at the American Folk Art Museum," New York Times, August 30.
O'Sullivan, Michael, "Art Review: 'Ralph Fasanella: Lest We Forget'," Washington Post, June 5.
Grimes, William, "Commute for Subway Art is Three Years, Door to Door," New York Times, May 6.
Cotter, Holland. “American History, Sliced to Order,” New York Times, July 31.
Fasanella, Marc. “The Utopian Vision of an Immigrant’s Son: the oil on Canvas Legacy of Ralph Fasanella, Italian Americana Art, Summer.
Genocchio, Benjamin. “Bold, Colorful and Detailed,” New York Times, May 18.
Saltz, Jerry. “Working Class Hero,” artnet, June 12.
Glueck, Grace. “Where Nitty Met Gritty On Jampacked Canvases,” New York Times, May 31.
Leduff, Charlie. “Neighborhood Report: City Lore; A Self-Taught Artist’s Blue-Collar City and What’s Left of It,” New York Times, March 24.
Lombardi, D. Dominick. “Recalling the Life of Ralph Fasanella,” New York Times, August 13.
Braff, Phyllis. “Works on Paper, With a Difference,” New York Times, February 20.
Smith, Roberta. “Ralph Fasanella, 83, Primitive Painter, Dies,” New York Times, December 18.
Gonzalez, David. “Making Art That Imitates One Man’s Life,” New York Times, May 14.
D’Ambrosio, Paul D. “Ralph Fasanella: The Making of a Worling-Class Artist.” Folk Art 20, no.2, Summer.
Carroll, Peter. "Ralph Fasanella limns the story of the workingman," in Smithsonian, August, pp. 58-59.
"The Street of Dreams," The New Yorker, Cover, May 31.
Howe, Marvin. "Son of Immigrants, a Self-Made Artist May Arrive, Symbolically, on Ellis I.," New York Times, May 27.
Nacelewicz, Tess. "Mill scenes strike a chord," The Lewiston Daily Sun, Lewiston-Auburn, ME, May 25.
Rothenberg, Alex. "Work pays off as Lawrence acquires strike art," The Boston Globe, May 2.
Unknown Secrets - Art in the Rosenberg Era, Green Mountain Post
Films, includes interview with Ralph Fasanella
Forever Baseball - The American Experience Series, PBS, includes
interview with Ralph Fasanella
Ralph Fasanella - Italics Episode 4, Italian-American News Institute,
The City University of New York, Graduate Center
CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt, November Diamonds are Forever Exhibit, including two paintings by Fasanella - "Night Game – Yankee Stadium" and "Sandlot Game"
CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt, October 5, Ralph Fasanella in New Bedford, during exhibit at the Whaling Museum
Urban Visions - Ralph Fasanella, Herbert F. Johnson, Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, June
"Ralph Fasanella: Song of the City," Jack Ofield, Director, 25 min., color, 16mm
The Dick Cavett Show, WNET/THIRTEEN, January 2
Mike MacIntyre, BBC/TV
Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
Administration Building, State of Rhode Island, Providence, RI
American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY
Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY
City Hall, Bedford, MA
Ellis Island Immigration Museum, New York, NY
Harold Washington Public Library, Chicago, IL
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Labor Museum and Learning Center, Flint, MI
Lawrence Heritage State Park Visitors Center, Lawrence, MA
Lewiston/Auburn College, Lewiston, ME
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Milwaukee Museum of Art, Milwaukee, WI
Museum of American Folk Art, New York, NY
New Bedford City Hall, New Bedford, MA
New York State Historical Association –Fenimore House Museum, Cooperstown, NY
Oakland International Airport, Oakland, CA
Oakland Public Library, Oakland, CA
O'Leary Library, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
State Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
U.S. State Department, Washington, D.C.