The University of Arizona Museum of Art and Archive of Visual Arts

Twentieth Century Works from the Permanent Collection

Ben Shahn  Paterson, 1953

August 31, 2010 – February 10, 2011

Currently on view, works by Richard Diebenkorn, Jacob Lawrence, Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, George Segal, Frank Stella, Andrew Wyeth, and others.

About the artwork shown above

Ben Shahn became noted as a social realist during the Depression, painting the realities of poverty, labor strikes and urban decay. Around 1948 he was inspired by a passage from a poem titled Paterson, written by William Carlos Williams, who practiced medicine in Rutherford, NJ. Paterson, NJ, was nicknamed “Silk City, USA” for its dominant industry of dye-making. Shahn became fascinated with the dye patterns in the windows of the factories, which he presents here as colored blocks of silk. In this serigraph version, he adds ironwork at the top of the building with a Grecian-style façade, referring to the ancient lineage of the art of silk-making, and also to the lines in Williams’ poem:

Without invention nothing is well spaced

…the old will go on repeating itself with recurring deadliness… 

The railroad tracks on the left of the building have been modified with elaborate lines that are spiderweb-like — another reference to silk.

Lauren Rabb, Curator