Louis Lozowick once wrote that he sought to depict “Industry Harnessed by Man for the Benefit of Mankind.” He is known best for his meticulously rendered, black-and-white lithographs of industrial urban environments in the 1920s and ’30s. Through his role as a member of the editorial board of the socialist magazine The Masses, Lozowick also used his artistic skills to address the social issues of his time, especially worker’s rights and racist violence.
Lozowick was born into a Jewish family in Ludvinovka, a town outside of present-day Kyiv, Ukraine, in 1892. He enrolled in Kiev Art School, where his studies were focused on the tradition of Russian Realism. In 1906, at 14, he immigrated to the United States, arriving at Ellis Island and settling in New Jersey, where he worked in a factory and learned English. The industrial power of New York City and the factory made a vivid impression on Lozowick. He continued his studies at the National Academy of Design and then at Ohio State University. After graduating in 1918, he joined the US Army Medical Corps and, upon his discharge the following year, he traveled abroad in Europe, searching out artist communities in Paris and Berlin. His interest in the Russian avant-garde led to friendships with El Lissitsky and other Russian modernists, and he began to exhibit with them near the end of his time in Europe. In 1923, in Berlin, he was introduced to lithography.
Lozowick returned to New York in 1924 and found a city transformed by machinery, which reinvigorated his love for the American cityscape. During this period, his prints, such as Backyards of Broadway (1926), reflect his interest in Cubism, Futurism, and other European modernist movements he encountered during his travels abroad. Despite these influences, he chose distinctly American subject matter, focusing on imagery of cityscapes, trains, and industrial machinery. As a result of the critical acclaim Lozowick garnered for work that appeared in the Machine-Age Exposition of 1927, he received high-profile commissions and more opportunities to exhibit his work.
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Lozowick produced prints of geometrically designed scenes of New York. He produced more prints at this time than any other time in his life, and they reached a wide audience. After the stock market crash of 1929, his body of work—which once primarily presented the promise of industrial machinery—became more attentive to the laborers who maintained and constructed the city. He publicly voiced his support for Socialist Realism during the Great Depression, and in the 1930s worked for public art programs including the New York Graphic Arts Division and the Treasury Relief Art Project. As the threat of fascism in Europe was mirrored by racism in America, Lozowick devoted certain prints, such as Lynching 1936, to addressing these issues.
After the birth of his son in 1943, Lozowick moved to New Jersey. His work broadened considerably during the last three decades of his life—he introduced more color into his prints and began to depict scenes of both domestic life and his travels—but he remained best known for his monochromatic lithographs of the cityscape. Lozowick continued to engage with the social issues of his time, writing extensively about fascism and becoming an advocate for Jewish artists. Despite his experiences with and research into the calamities taking place during his lifetime, he remained hopeful, stating, “Whatever differences divide us we can all rejoice in the utter rout of the Nazi vandals and look forward to a brighter, more creatively rich future for mankind.”
Calvin van Leeuwen, independent scholar, 2023