The Hunter College East Harlem Art Gallery will present Picturing Puerto Rico under the American Flag: The Photographs of Louise Rosskam, 1937-1948 from May 11th – July 21st.
This exhibition features the work of Louise Rosskam (1910-2003), a pioneer of the golden age of 20th century American documentary photography. With little concern for credit, Rosskam always insisted that it was the social purpose of her projects that were paramount, not the promotion of her career. The exhibition highlights her most compelling and compassionate images – the photographs she created on the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico in the New Deal and post-World War II eras. The gallery is located in Hunter College’s Lois V. and Samuel Silberman School of Social Work building at 2180 Third Avenue at 119th Street, Manhattan.
Picturing Puerto Rico is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on Louise Rosskam’s work in Puerto Rico. It has brought together 60 photographs drawn largely from the Library and Archives of Centro, Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, as well from the collection of Ani Rosskam and Susan Marchon, and a private collection in Washington, D.C.
The bulk of the exhibition focuses on Rosskam’s exhaustive postwar documentation commissioned by the Office of Information for Puerto Rico (OIPR), the island’s government agency for which she recorded Puerto Rico’s social conditions and its breathtaking transformation from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Louise and Edwin Rosskam bonded strongly as friends and trusted advisors of Luis Muñoz Marín, the charismatic Senate President, Popular Democratic Party leader, and architect of the 1952 establishment of Puerto Rico’s status as a Commonwealth (Estado Libre Asociado).
Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab said, “We are honored to exhibit Louise Rosskam’s extraordinary photographs at the Hunter College East Harlem Gallery. With so many of her images housed at the Library and Archives of Centro, the gallery is an ideal venue to display her captivating images that recall the economic, social and political challenges that faced Puerto Rico during the late 1930s and 1940s. We invite the Hunter community and our neighbors in East Harlem to visit this powerful exhibition.”
New York City is home to one of the nation’s largest Puerto Rican diaspora communities. East Harlem (El Barrio), a major destination for Puerto Ricans of the postwar Great Migration, remains a place enriched by an increasingly diverse and vibrant Hispanic presence.
Picturing Puerto Rico under the American Flag: The Photographs of Louise Rosskam, 1937-1948 was guest-curated by Laura Katzman, Associate Professor of Art History, James Madison University. This exhibition is made possible by the Hunter College East Harlem Art Gallery and the President’s Office, co-sponsored by Centro, Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, CUNY.
The Hunter College East Harlem Art Gallery opened its doors in September of 2011 at the Silberman School of Social Work Building. The gallery offers a space for partnerships between different departments and academic disciplines within our larger college communities. It presents exhibitions and public events that aim to foster academic collaboration at Hunter College while addressing subjects relevant to the East Harlem community, including those related to Latin America and the Caribbean. For more information, visit http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/eastharlem-artgallery
Pictured: Louise Rosskam, Making dolls in the Manual Industries Division of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company. Near Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, May 1947. Gelatin silver print, 7 ½ x 9 ¾” (19 x 24.8 cm). Centro, Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York.