The Frescoes of Conrad Albrizio: Public Murals in the Midcentury South
The artist Conrad Albrizio (1894–1973), a New York City native who studied internationally, made his home in New Orleans for more than a half century. To the people of Louisiana and Alabama, he bestowed the lasting gift of large-scale public frescoes, a form he championed long after the general popularity of communal art waned. From regional realism in his New Deal–commissioned works of the 1930s to his abstract-influenced, socially conscious interpretations of the 1950s, Albrizio’s creations exemplify the midcentury period while showcasing the ancient technique of fresco. In this lavishly illustrated volume, Carolyn A. Bercier analyzes Albrizio’s frescoes against the backdrop of the artist’s life. In her introduction, Elise Grenier, who has restored several of Albrizio’s murals, acquaints readers with the demands of painting in fresco, a method also employed by Albrizio’s contemporaries the Mexican muralists.
By 1936, Albrizio had completed six fresco panels in the Louisiana State Capitol and his first federally funded mural, in the DeRidder, Louisiana, post office. That same year he joined the faculty of Louisiana State University’s new department of art, where his students depicted him within their murals in Allen Hall. Albrizio continued his fresco commissions for another eighteen years, including scenes in the post office in Russellville, Alabama; the State Fair Exhibits Building in Shreveport, Louisiana; the Capitol Annex Building in Baton Rouge; and the parish courthouse in New Iberia, Louisiana. His culminating accomplishments are an epic cycle portraying shipping, the elements, and the constellations in the lobby of the Waterman Building (now Wachovia Building) in Mobile, and a monumental rendition of Louisiana’s history in the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal.
Both visually lush and richly informative, The Frescoes of Conrad Albrizio pays deserved homage and brings fresh awareness to the under-recognized public murals of a passionate and prolific artist of the twentieth century.
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