Alice Neel’s Love of Harlem and the Neighbors She Painted There | NY Times

By JASON FARAGO

UC - Alice Neel - Horace Cayton

Horace Cayton, from 1949. (Estate of Alice Neel, David Zwirner, New York/London)

“I love you Harlem,” the American painter Alice Neel wrote in her diary around the end of World War II, and really, she loved everything in it. Neel celebrated Harlem — specifically its ethnically mixed section known as Spanish Harlem or El Barrio — for “your poverty and your loves.” And what Neel eulogized in her diary, she immortalized in oils: street scenes, interiors and, above all, portraits of the men, women and children in a neighborhood far from the suburban Philadelphia of her youth, which the artist adopted as her own.

Little heralded in her lifetime, Neel (1900-1984) has won posthumous acclaim as one of America’s most inventive and peculiar portraitists. Her later paintings, especially, made her sitters strange through thick outlining and unelaborated backgrounds. But behind Neel’s experiments with form were New York lives — of writers and revolutionaries, lovers and petty criminals.

Two dozen of her portraits are on view in “Alice Neel, Uptown,” an affectionate, rooted, and at times achingly nostalgic exhibition at David Zwirner gallery that concentrates on her relationships with fellow Harlemites, most of them black, Latin American or Asian. The show was organized by the writer Hilton Als, who also has written a series of wistful essays for the catalog.

Read more: Alice Neel’s Love of Harlem and the Neighbors She Painted There | NY Times

UC - Alice Neel - Indian Woman

Alice Neel’s 1966 painting of a South Asian woman, her mauve sari covered with periwinkle diamonds, is among two dozen portraits in the show “Alice Neel: Uptown” at David Zwirner gallery. (Estate of Alice Neel, David Zwirner, New York/London; Private Collection, Miami)

Related:

A Photographer Who Made ‘Ghosts’ Visible | NY Times

The Heartbeat of Our Being, in Black and White | NY Times

On the Streets of Harlem, a Sense of ‘Erase and Replace’ | NY Times

Gordon Parks’s Harlem Argument | NY Times

From Black-and-White Negatives, a Positive View of Harlem | NY Times

Ralph Ellison and Gordon Parks’s Joint Harlem Vision | The New Yorker

Gordon Parks’s Harlem Argument | NY Times

Flashing Lights: Harlem As Seen By Gordon Parks

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