Terror in Brooklyn
Oil on canvas
Overall: 34 1/8 × 30 3/16in. (86.7 × 76.7 cm)
Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate
Terror in Brooklyn, Louis Guglielmi’s best-known work, is a highly enigmatic and personal response to social conditions. Guglielmi was associated with a group of American artists who used the language of European Surrealism to evoke the social and political climate of the Great Depression and the war years that followed. Here, in a realistic style, he portrays three women in nuns’ habits huddling inside a bell jar; they gaze up at a configuration of pelvic bones suspended on the side of a building on a desolate street. First exhibited in a group show at the Downtown Gallery the year that it was painted, the canvas was then-titled Pelvic Beatitudes, Brooklyn, calling attention to the nuns’ cowering reaction to the pelvis bones, which resemble a crucifix or holy relics. Asked to explain the composition, Guglielmi said that it contained “associative ideas and images determined by mood caused of irrational events in the objective world—murder in the streets, war—subjective reality.” Instead of explicitly depicting the war into which he would soon be conscripted, Guglielmi envisioned a mysterious scene that invoked the period’s anxious, ominous atmosphere.