Andrew Edlin Gallery is pleased to present Ralph Fasanella: A More Perfect Union, its first solo exhibition
for the legendary self-taught New York painter. A 64 page catalog published for the exhibition features
an essay by Erika Doss, an art historian and professor of American Studies at the University of Notre
In March 2008, Senator Barack Obama delivered an empathetic and energizing speech that, as the New
Yorker later declared, indisputably convinced Americans “of all colors” to vote him into the White
House that November as the nation’s first African American president. Named after a phrase in the
Preamble of the U.S. Constitution, Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech called on Americans to
move past their “profoundly distorted” and “divisive” views, especially those pertaining to race, and reengage
in a collective “march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous
Ralph Fasanella (1914-1997) would have loved that speech. Many of the boldly colored and intricately
detailed paintings that this working class New Yorker produced for over fifty years resonate with the
same yearnings, the same expectations, for a more perfect America. Like Obama, Fasanella believed
that a nation founded on aspirations of liberty, freedom, and collective social progress should, in fact,
live up to those ambitions; similarly, he didn’t sugarcoat how the nation had failed, or fallen behind.
Frequently combining scenes of what was with what could be, often referencing the reformist initiatives
of twentieth-century labor unions and other progressive political movements, Fasanella pictured an
imagined America, a more perfect union.
Spanning his entire career, the works collected in this exhibition reveal many of the subjects and scenes
that most captivated Fasanella: urban neighborhoods, labor activism (the Great Strike of 1912,
Lawrence, MA), and national tragedies (the assassination of JFK), and traumas (the execution of Julius
and Ethel Rosenberg). 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, than ever.