Meet the Fellows: Gal Beckerman & Shanti Grumbine




“What kind of art can inspire outrage and change? Could that art also be beautiful or does its aesthetics undermine its political impact?”

galbeckerman13_17_flat_bl-150x150LABA PROJECT: I’m in the beginning stages of working on a book about the New York Photo League. This was a group of young photographers — almost all the children of Jewish immigrants who grew up poor on the Lower East Side — who in the 1930s took up their cameras as a form of social protest. They began photographing the Depression-era America they saw around them, both in their native city and out in the rest of the United States. The book will focus on Sid Grossman, who was the main teacher and guide of the Photo League, a charismatic figure and a politically engaged artist…

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“Beauty has been a bad word in the field of visual arts for quite some time and yet it is still present and it still functions as an aesthetic, if sometimes unspoken, goal.”


Why do you want to study beauty?

In much postmodern theory, to banish beauty in art is to turn away from commodification and create a critique of commercialism, capitalism and corporate culture. It seems that Beauty remains acceptable only in mass media, entertainment and advertising, where it is used as a blatant tool for profit. And yet, I’d like to entertain the idea that for art to be democratic, there ought to be an element of beauty, something that is accessible to everyone regardless of class, gender, education or political standing. I believe that there is something courageous in making work that is generous and accessible to most anyone through aesthetic formal beauty and craft….

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