This timely exhibit features the works of 30 artists working over the last 75 years to document the tragedy of homelessness and the government’s role in the crisis. Through painting, printmaking, photography, and mixed media, Depression-era and contemporary artists offer glimpses of life on the street and show many similarities between the eras. Featured are works by New Deal era artists such as Dorthea Lange, Rockwell Kent, and Giacomo Patri along with contemporary artists such as Sandow Birk, David Bacon, and Christine Hanlon.
Curator Art Hazelwood says that “some of the artists in this exhibition personally experienced homelessness and poverty, some worked directly with organizations to combat poverty, but all of them felt that art could be used to focus attention on homelessness. The idea that art can have a function in society by engaging in a struggle for a better world, and that everyone should take an interest in the well-being of less fortunate people are the twin beliefs of the artists in this show.”
During the Great Depression artists addressed issues of human rights and because of the large number of poor and displaced people, homelessness was an important focus of their work. New Deal programs such as the Works Progress Administration funded artists to document what was happening in the country. Following World War II artists’ shifted their energies elsewhere, but by the late 1970s with the rise of the modern era of mass homelessness many artists again began to focus on what is happening to poor people in our society. Structural changes in the American economy and a return to fiscally conservative ideology began a period of increased poverty and economic inequality. Once again, artists focused their attention on the issue.
“Hobos to Street People” is an Exhibit Envoy traveling exhibition funded by the James Irvine Foundation, LEF Foundation, and Fleishhacker Foundation. Exhibition catalog by exhibit curator Art Hazelwood available.
Hobos to Street People Panel Discussion: Saturday, October 13, 2-4pm