LOUIS LOZOWICK (1892–1973)
Carbon pencil and ink on paper, 14 x 10 3/4 in.
Signed (at lower right): Louis Lozowick
EXHIBITED: National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 1975, Louis Lozowick: Drawings and Lithographs, no. 16 // Zabriskie Gallery, New York, 1976, Urban Focus: Industrial Drawings by Louis Lozowick, Photographs by Berenice Abbott, Ralph Steiner, and Ralston Crawford, no. 25
EX COLL: the artist; to his widow, Adele Lozowick, South Orange, New Jersey, by 1975; [Zabriskie Gallery, New York, by 1976]; [Sid Deutsch Gallery, New York]; private collection until 2015
Construction is quintessentially Lozowick in subject and style while it is deeply personal in content. Construction was first exhibited at the National Collection of Fine Arts in 1975, lent by the artist’s widow and identified (presumably by Adele Lozowick) with its title and date. The subject matter of the drawing, industrial workers on the job, was a constant theme in Lozowick’s oeuvre. Indeed, Construction is a generic title for Lozowick, occurring in at least four other instances, among them two lithographs from 1930, respectively Construction and Construction #2, a lithograph of 1931, Subway Construction, and a lithograph of 1943–44. Lozowick had a passion for portraying bridges, railway lines, and industrial buildings, including, beginning in the 1930s, the workers who built and ran these paradigms of progress. In the foreground of the present drawing, two workers on a flat-bed truck maneuver a piece of structural steel that appears destined for the building rising on the background hill. While most of Lozowick’s industrial themes are understandably urban, Construction documents modernization against a backdrop of mountains. Most striking, although relatively small, are two unmistakable insignia—the hammer and sickle on the cab of the flatbed truck and the banner with a star planted on the hilltop. Given the facts of Lozowick’s biography, these are certainly the same figures that appear on the flag of the Soviet Union, international symbols of the Russian Revolution. These symbols combined with the mountainous terrain make it very likely that this drawing is one of a number of images that Lozowick created in the aftermath of a six-month trip to the Soviet Union in 1931.
Nearing the end of its first five-year plan, the revolutionary Soviet government was eager to show off its achievements to an international galaxy of artists, writers and intellectuals, people whose good opinion, it was hoped, might offset the negative official reactions to the fledgling Soviet state. To do that they organized special travel tours. Lozowick, an émigré and Ukraine native, went to Moscow in 1927–28. When he returned to the Soviet Union in 1931, he was part of a group that traveled widely, most notably in Central Asia. Lozowick subsequently produced a series of images documenting his travel in that rugged and primitive part of the Soviet Union. Lozowick was a writer as well as a graphic artist, and his papers at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, include an article in typescript entitled “Soviet Frontiers” where he describes some of his experiences in Central Asia, an area formerly designated as Turkestan, now including the nations of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. While Lozowick was sympathetic to the distinctiveness and generosity of the local culture, the tone of his writing makes plain the optimism he felt about the positive changes that Sovietization was bringing to the area, especially regarding the status of women and the standard of living of the agricultural population. Construction offers a vignette of western “progress” in a part of the world long regarded as immune to European influences, appearing to outsiders through a haze of romance and exoticism.