Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Where 'Vandals' Wrecked Paintings: The Suppression of Art in Depression-era Los Angeles

Dr Ellen Landau.

Standard accounts of the artistic trajectory of noted U.S. artist Philip Guston do not analyze the considerable implications for his career of the sadistic and unconstitutional suppression on Feb.12, 1933 of portable murals he and others created to protest the trumped-up arrest and conviction of the Scottsboro Boys. Painted for the Communist-affiliated Hollywood John Reed Club, these murals were destroyed by vigilantes working in concert with the L.A. Police Dept. A fuller analysis of the consequences of this local event prompted by an issue of national prominence expands our understanding of the kinds of responses (dis)allowed visual artists to racial and ethnic problems in America.


Dr Ellen Landau  (United States)
Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities
Department of Art History and Art
Case Western Reserve University

Ellen G. Landau, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University is the author of Jackson Pollock (NY: Abrams, 1989) and Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Raisonne (Abrams, 1995) as well as numerous essays in US and international journals and exhibition catalogues on American Abstract Expressionism and other related topics. Her book Reading Abstract Expressionism: Context and Critique is forthcoming from Yale University Press.

  • Art History
  • Racism
  • Hate-crimes
  • Censorship
  • Ethnicity Politics
  • Scottsboro Boys
Person as Subject
  • Guston, Philip Kadish, Reuben Lehman, Harold Hantman, Murray Arenal, Luis Hynes, William R.

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)