Outsider Art Fair
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Ralph Fasanella

American, 20th century.
Born 1914, New York, New York; died 1997, New York, New York.


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.

- Phillip March Jones

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2014, Lest We Forget, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.; American Folk Art Museum, New York

2013, Ralph Fasanella: A More Perfect Union, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York

2013, Fasanella's Lawrence, Lawrence Heritage State Park Gallery, Lawrence

2008, Ralph Fasanella: Passionate Visionary of New York, Art League of Long Island, Dix Hills, New York

2006, Ralph Fasanella (1914-1997), ACA Galleries, New York

2002, Ralph Fasanella's America, New York Historical Society, New York

2001, Ralph Fasanella's America, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York

Selected Group Exhibitions

2011, Grandma Moses and the 'Primitive' Tradition, Bennington Museum, Vermont

1994, Special Selections, Hill Gallery, Birmingham, Missouri

1988, City Folk - Ethnic Traditions in the Metropolitan Area, PaineWebber Art Gallery, New York

1987, Diamonds Are Forever: Artists and Writers on Baseball, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Selected Collections

Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY
Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY
Ellis Island Immigration Museum, New York, NY
Fenimore House Museum, Cooperstown, NY
Harold Washington Public Library, Chicago, IL
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Milwaukee Museum of Art, Milwaukee, WI
United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
United States State Department Building, Washington, D.C.

Selected Bibliography

D'Ambrosio, Paul S., Ralph Fasanella's America, exhibition catalogue, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, 2001.

Carroll, Peter, "Ralph Fasanella limns the story of the workingman," Smithsonian, August 1993.

Wallock, Leonard, New York: Culture Capital of the World, Rizzoli, New York, 1988.

Okun, Rob A., The Rosenbergs: Collected Visions of Artists and Writers, Universe Books, New York, 1988.

Gordon, Peter, Diamonds Are Forever: Artists and Writers on Baseball, Smithsonian Institution & Chronicle Books, 1987.

Watson, Patrick and Ralph Fasanella, Fasanella's City, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1973.

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