The Painter Who Depicted the 'Other' America. By Alexandra Alexa
“If you don’t have humanity, you don’t have anything,” said the late painter Alice Neel. As a new exhibition opening at Victoria Miro gallery demonstrates, her portraits have never been more relevant
In 1938, American painter Alice Neel decided to leave the bohemian cradle of Greenwich Village, an epicentre of the New York art world at the time, and move to the poor and unsung neighbourhood of Spanish Harlem. It was here that she found an important part of her artistic soul. For the next 50 years, until her death in 1984, she painted uptown, documenting the varied New York personalities she encountered there. Neel was aware of and active in the political shifts that marked the period and advocated for diversity. She knew that art could be a means of capturing social and cultural changes and she became focused on depicting what Michael Harrington referred to in his eponymous 1962 book as “the other America”: Latinos, African Americans, and Asians who were her friends and neighbours.
Image: Alice Neel, Julie and the Doll, 1943