In Actuality: Social Realism and Its Legacy from the Robert B. Menschel Collection

Following the advent of photography in the mid-nineteenth century, artists and critics alike struggled to make sense of this new technology and its place in the world of modern art.  Some photographers chose to experiment with chemical processes and lighting techniques in order to achieve more abstract and painterly images, resembling traditional forms of art. Others embraced the camera’s documentary function and championed stark reality as a subject.

This exhibition explores photographic works from the artistic movement known as social realism, popularized in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s, through which artists captured frank and unembellished scenes of working-class life and industrialized spaces.

This exhibition has been organized in honor of Mr. Robert B. Menschel, ’51, H’91 and his philanthropic generosity resulting in the contribution of over 400 works of art since 1978. The images included in this display are drawn from his most recent gift in 2018, a selection of over 180 photographs from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, representing the works of more than 75 artists.

IMPACT! The Photo League and Its Legacy

IMPACT! The Photo League and Its Legacy presents 35 black and white photographs by master photographers associated with league, a cooperative of both amateur and professional photographers founded in 1936.  The intent of the League was twofold: instruction on the art of photography, and a mission to put cameras in the hands of honest photographers with an intention to photograph America. The advisors, teachers, and students shared a commitment to social realism, specifically with the aim to produce visual images of working-class life.  From its beginning to its untimely closure in 1951, the league boasted almost 250 members, including Arthur Rothstein, Aaron Siskind, and Godfrey Frankel, as well as hosted a number of teachers, board of advisors, and special lecturers such as Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, Dorothea Lange, and Lewis Hine.


35 original photographs
Curatorial essay and object labels
Exhibition brochure PDF

Installation Space: 150 linear feet


Kamikaze Curiosity: Louisa Chase Prints

Emcompassing almost 40 years of the artist’s prints, Kamikaze Curiosity  is the first retrospective of Chase’s published works in over 20 years and is the first since the artist’s death in 2016.

The prints of Louisa Chase (Syracuse University ’73) offer an insightful map to an extraordinary career; a satellite view of an enduring artistic expedition. She was one of few female artists to gain notoriety during the resurgence of painting in the 1980s, often associated with New Image painting and Neo Expressionist [NeoX] movements alongside Elisabeth Murray and Susan Rothenberg. Her work in print represents a lifelong exploration of innovation and experimentation, and the selected works illustrate the evolution of Chase’s distinct visual vocabulary, giving insight into this lifelong exploration, as she described, as a ‘kamikaze curiosity.’

This exhibition is evidence of that methodology: a survey encapsulating almost 40 years of creative pursuit, pushing the envelope of aged processes. The sequential progression of her visual vocabulary is summarized, and articulated, within the impressions on view: her figurative NeoX compositions, conveyed a with comic (not to be confused as ‘funny’), simplified style; as in 1983’s Chasm and Thicket, giving way to the aggressive, abstracted gestural sensibility seen in Spook (1986) and the array of the untitled compositions of the late 1980s. And then, as if mining through her landscape of expressive mark-making, excavated compositions the representational imagery emerge once again, as seen in the emblematic Trying to Remember Your Face (1996) and Five Fears  (2000).

Curated by Andrew Saluti, assistant professor, Museum Studies, Syracuse University. This collection of works in this exhibition are thanks to Ben Chase and the Estate of Louisa Chase for the generous donation of Louisa’s  work to the Syracuse University Art Museum in 2019.


25 original prints including etchings, woodcuts, lithographs, and color Solar plate etchings
Text panel and object labels
Illustrated brochure

Installation Space: 150 linear feet