Ralph Fasanella: Images of Optimism by Marc Fasanella, with an essay by Leslie Umberger and a Chronology by Paul S. D’Ambrosio
Ralph Fasanella was an activist whose megaphone was his paintbrush. His images, filled with symbolism, chronicle life in early twentieth-century New York, the American labor movement, the complex bonds of family, and the political injustices and social inequities of his time. His paintings teem with both gritty realities and his own hopeful visions for a prosperous working class. Born in 1914 to Italian immigrant parents, Fasanella was intellectual without formality. Though he never attended art school, he enthusiastically studied the greats, was well read, and was confident in his developed knowledge of painting. He also had an easy way with people, and he found inspiration in those who, like him, worked hard and got their fingernails dirty. “His most accomplished works reveal the perversions and promises of the United States: the history of prejudice, oppression, and wage slavery, and the power of opposition, hope, and the struggle for a more egalitarian society,” writes Marc Fasanella, the artist’s son, in Ralph Fasanella: Images of Optimism. “He painted the beauty, poetry, and social cohesion that define a healthy existence. He communicated these concepts by employing the emotional resonance of persuasive visual metaphor. He painted optimism.”
Marc Fasanella has been a professor of art, architecture, and design for thirty years. He has curated exhibitions featuring notable artists George Rickey, Moses Soyer, Robert Gwathmey, David Burliuk, James McMullan, Richard Mayhew, and Milton Glaser, as well as his father, about whom he has written and lectured extensively.
In 1991 the Labor Heritage Foundation gave Ralph Fasanella the Joe Hill Award for lifetime achievement in the field of labor culture.