Pulp painting collection donated to the New Britain Museum of American Art

Pulp Art: The Robert Lesser Collection” New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT. Through Dec. 30.

{Speaking of pulp art…look for my essay, “Richard Prince and the American Girl,” in the December issue of the Brooklyn Rail.}

Produced by publishing houses such as Popular Publications, Street & Smith, Cond� Nast, and Frank A. Munsey Company, pulp art book and magazine covers depict unsettling images of violence, racism, sex, and crime that were deemed unsuitable for household decoration. Thus, of the tens of thousands of pulp paintings created, only a fraction survive today. The rest were destroyed after printing. This exhibition presents 75 works from Robert Lesser’s extensive pulp collection, which was shown at the Brooklyn Museum in 2003. Lesser has donated the collection to the New Britain Museum along with a million dollars to take care of it.

In the Hartford Courant, Matt Eagan reports. “There is a temptation to look at these posters as artifacts, glimpses into the buried soul of the 1930s, but that would be inaccurate. Consider the pulp character ‘Doc Savage.’ He is a lean, muscular and learned man whose DNA can be found all over Indiana Jones. And once economic catastrophe gave way to World War II, Hollywood decided to stop singing and started making something called film noir, whose heroes stepped off these pulp works of art and into immortality. Noir has remained a vital force in American popular culture, with its fingerprints in everything from ‘Blade Runner’ to ‘Veronica Mars.’ There is another reason to examine these paintings. The pulp art may have been painted for profit, but the artists who painted it knew their stuff.”

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