Things That I Love About America: American Art of the 1920s and 1930s

During the Fourth of July I try to recount some of the things that I love about this country. One of the things that I love about this country is the American art scene in the 1920s through the early 1940s.

This is my favorite time period for American art: the experimentation of abstract artists like Stuart Davis and John Marin, the social justice poetry of Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg and Carlos Bulosan; the music of George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Aaron Copland; the Hollywood of the silent film comedians, the screwball comedies and the populist films of Frank Capra; the social justice art of Ben Shahn, Jacob Lawrence and Thomas Hart Benton: the comic strips of George Herriman, Milton Caniff, Harold Gray, and Cliff Sterrett.

As the country transitioned from the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression of the 1930s, American artists began asking what American values were important in an age of economic insecurity, a growing threat of authoritarianism in Germany and Italy and Japan, and demagogues like Father Coughlin and Huey Long. These artists explored American folk tales and legends to forge an American artwork for the people in the same way that Mexican artists like Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and Alfred Siqueiros were exploring Mexican folk tales and folk art to create a Mexican art for Mexican people.

One of my favorite artists of the time is Thomas Hart Benton. Benton was a great muralist who painted office workers, farmers, sharecroppers, construction workers, jazz and bluegrass musicians, boxers and common Americans. Benton was a Midwestern progressive: in the 1920s Benton was a Marxist until he grew disillusioned with its inflexible dogmatism; in the 1930s he was a New Deal liberal Democrat. Benton’s art was attacked by both leftists and conservatives because Benton’s historical murals tried to show both the best of America and America’s dark side, depicting abolitionists and the Ku Klux Klan, colonists and the exploitation of Native Americans, white and black construction crews working together to build a skyscraper and coal miners suffering black lung disease as they work the mines. Benton juxtaposed the marvels of the latest technology with exploited workers going on strike.

About angelolopez

I’ve wanted to be an artist all my life. Since I was a child I’ve drawn on any scrap of paper I could get a hold of. When I went to San Jose State University, I became more exposed to the works of the great fine artists and illustrators. My college paintings were heavily influenced by the humorous illustrations of Peter De Seve, an illustrator for the New Yorker magazine. I also fell under the spell of the great muralists of the 1930s, especially Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera. I graduated with a degree in Illustration. Angelo Lopez has had illustrations published in Tikkun Magazine, the Palo Alto Daily News and Z Magazine. From April 2008 to May 2011, Angelo's cartoons were regularly published in the Tri-City Voice, a weekly newspaper that covers the Fremont, Hayward, Milpitas, Neward, Sunol and Union City areas in California. He did a political webcomic starring his cartoon character Jasper for the progressive blogsite Everyday Citizen. Since December 2011, Angelo does a regular weekly political cartoon for the Philippine News Today, a Filipino American newspaper based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Angelo is a member of the Sunnyvale Art Club, and the Northern California chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. During the 1990s, he was a member of the part-timer workers SEIU unit in the city of Sunnyvale. Angelo won the 2013, 2015 and 2016 and 2018 Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial cartooning for newspapers with a circulation under 100,000. He has also won the 2016 RFK Book and Journalism Award for Editorial Cartoons. Angelo won first prize for the Best of the West contest in 2016 and third prize in 2017. Angelo is married to Lisa Reeber. They enjoy taking walks, watching movies and hanging out with their nieces.
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