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Realism & Reverie: Alice Neel's New York on Film (15*) + Introduction by Larne Abse Gogarty

A woman is grabbed and cries out

These films explore Alice Neel's leftist bohemianism: from the Communist cultural front of the 1930s to the Beats to queer communities in the 1960s.

Neel's commitment to realism emphasised that glimmers of freedom could appear within struggles against poverty and oppression. Ralph Steiner's Pie in the Sky, produced within the context of the Communist International sponsored Workers Film and Photo League, captured the dynamic between the reality of the Depression, and daily fantasies of success and pleasure.

Steiner, like Neel, bridged the gap between 1930s communist culture and 1950-1960s bohemia. Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures is a classic of American queer experimental cinema. While the Communist culture of the '30s suffered from the impact of McCarthyism, those forms of censorship laid the ground for the obscenity charges taken out against Smith in the '60s. Paired together, these films allow us to consider Neel's movement through various artistic and political scenes in New York. 


Pie in the Sky
US 1934 dir NYKINO 22 mins (SD Digital file)

Flaming Creatures
US 1963 dir Jack Smith 45 mins (16mm)

Larne Abse Gogarty is Lecturer in History and Theory of Art at the Slade School of Fine Art. She is the author of Usable Pasts: Social Practice and State Formation in American Art (Brill, 2022)

This event is part of the public programme of events surrounding the exhibition Alice Neel: Hot Off The Griddle, Thu 16 Feb — Sun 21 May 2023 in the Barbican Gallery.

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