Morality and Mass Media: Ben Shahn and the Art of Journalism
“Morality and Mass Media” focuses on preliminary drawings and proofs by the American artist Ben Shahn for illustrations, ads, and magazine covers from the late 1940s and 1950s. In commissions for Harpers’ Weekly, The New Republic, The Nation, and Time, and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and in particular for Edward R. Murrow’s weekly news program, “See It Now,” Shahn produced forceful graphic work. The subject matter—the hazards of nuclear testing, racial and political intolerance, the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee under Joe McCarthy—reflected his continued belief in the social responsibilities of the artist. Shahn’s commercial work for mass media was a vehicle for engaging with a broad audience about the most pressing concerns facing people in the middle of the twentieth century. He enthusiastically illustrated articles for writers whom he respected and produced compelling advertising images for television producers whose programs responsibly educated their viewers. This exhibition traces the trajectory of the artist’s drawings to their ultimate presentation imbedded in the text of a magazine story or as the banner for an advertising brochure for CBS.
The exhibition presents recent gifts to the Permanent Collection and promised gifts from the Shahn Estate. It is organized by Pomona College Senior Gretchen Suding and Professor of Art Frances Pohl.