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The Murals

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Magic in Medicine

Modern Medicine

Modern Surgery and Anesthesia

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The WPA in Harlem

The Murals | Magic in Medicine

WPA Magic in Medicine

Charles Alston's Magic in Medicine is situated opposite his Modern Medicine, offering contrast and dialogue between traditional and modern healing practices. The diptych imagines the history of healing and medicine in Africa and the United States. The sepia-toned Magic in Medicine incorporates a Fang reliquary sculpture, a type of ritual art piece from Gabon that was widely collected by Alston's contemporaries. The Fang sculpture, perhaps representing Africa, is juxtaposed in Modern Medicine to symbols of the West, such as the microscope, fathers of ancient Western medicine, and modern medical practitioners, nurses, and doctors.

Magic in Medicine also references the healing traditions of the South. It depicts a large female subject, almost as large as the reliquary statue, who appears to be a spiritualist or healer who dispenses herbal medicines and conducts traditional practices. Again, this offers a contrast to the depiction in Modern Medicine of surgeons and nurses, among them African Americans, working in a modern hospital.

The lobby of Harlem Hospital's New Patient Pavilion will commemorate the hospital's long history in the neighborhood and will feature five of the WPA murals.

 

Detail, Charles Alston, Magic in Medicine, oil on canvas, 1940.

 

Detail, Charles Alston, Magic in Medicine, oil on canvas, 1940.

 

Detail, Charles Alston, Magic in Medicine, oil on canvas, 1940.

 

Detail, Charles Alston, Magic in Medicine, oil on canvas, 1940.

 

Detail, Charles Alston, Magic in Medicine, oil on canvas, 1940.

 

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