Kelpe MuralPaul Kelpe (American, b. Germany, 1902–1985). Untitled (right panel of a pair), From the Williamsburg Housing Project Murals, circa 1938. Oil on canvas, 983⁄4 x 901⁄2 in. (250.8 × 229.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, On loan from the New York City Housing Authority
In 1936, “when the United States was still reeling from the Great Depression, a series of murals was commissioned by the Federal Art Project (FAP), to be painted in the community rooms at the Williamsburg Public Housing development in Brooklyn, NY. This development was built in 1936-37, designed by the chief architect William Lescaze.
The head of the New York Murals of the FAP division in 1937 was Burgoyne Diller. It was a brave move to commission a series of abstract murals from avant-garde, relatively unknown artists. At the time, most murals (perhaps all) were figurative…
The artists whose murals were found in the Williamsburg Housing Development were Paul Kelpe (1902-85), Ilya Bolotowsky (1907-81), Balcomb Greene (1904-90), and Albert Swinden (1901-61). Diller, an abstract artist himself, put his own art on hold in order to promote “abstract art in murals before abstract art was accepted in the United States” (Ilya Bolotowsky, quoted in Arts Magazine, June 1982: Abstractions for Public Spaces, 1935-1943 by Greta Berman); he had to justify every abstract mural he placed.” (historicgreenpoint)
Over the years, the murals were neglected. Some deteriorated and some were lost. In the 1980s, the murals were finally restored and returned to public view at the Brooklyn Museum.
Project originally submitted by Evan Kalish on July 12, 2013.