Private Law and Order Leagues (study for medallion, Medals for Dishonor series)

  • David Smith, Private Law and Order Leagues (study for medallion, Medals for Dishonor series), ca. 1938-1939, felt-tipped pen and ink (from verso) and pen and ink on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by Olin Dows, 1988.60

Exhibition Label
In the mid-1930s, Smith began drawings for a series of fifteen relief sculptures he called “Medals for Dishonor,” an ironic reference to the nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. Smith believed that groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the German-American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization, represented fascism in America. In the background of this study, KKK hats mimicking mountains surround a lynching tree, while a cross transforms into a swastika. Although a central theme of this series is women as victims of physical aggression, they do not escape indictment. With her hatchet, Carrie Nation represents the self-righteous zealotry of bigots. Strewn with references to the “wild West,” this vision portrays the horrors of vigilante justice in the guise of law and order.

Graphic Masters II: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2009

Title
Private Law and Order Leagues (study for medallion, Medals for Dishonor series)
Artist
Date
ca. 1938-1939
On View
Not on view.
Dimensions
sight 10 3/4 x 13 3/4 in. (27.3 x 35.0 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Museum purchase made possible by Olin Dows

Mediums
Mediums Description
felt-tipped pen and ink (from verso) and pen and ink on paper
Classifications
Keywords
  • Object – other – flag
  • Study
  • Allegory – civic – injustice
  • State of being – death – execution
  • History – United States – Black History
  • Figure group
Object Number
1988.60
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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