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Textile, Pagan Magic, 1952

This is a Textile. It was designed by Aaron Bohrod and manufactured by Riverdale Fabrics and produced by Associated American Artists. It is dated 1952 and we acquired it in 2016. Its medium is cotton and its technique is printed. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Aaron Bohrod was a social realist and regional painter and printmaker whose varied career included stints with the Works Progress Administration, the U.S. Army War Art Unit, and Life magazine. He was an early member of Associated American Artists whose affiliation with the group began in 1939.

One of his designs, Pagan Magic, bears signs of his printmaking experience. In the February 27, 1953 edition of The New York Times, Betty Pepis wrote, “Equally unusual is ‘Pagan Magic,’ a primitive batik of Polynesian signs, symbols and handcrafts that is the work of Aaron Bohrod. Executed in black on white with subtle shadings of gray it gives the impression of duplicating the technique of an Oriental stone rubbing. It is also available in bright red, olive green or sepia brown on white, or in brilliant multi-color combinations that seem both less successful and less usable.”

The original design was apparently considered problematic. According to Karen J. Herbaugh, “AAA director Reeves Lewenthal told the artist that Riverdale would approve his design if a hula dancer motif were replaced with a palm or other plant and the bulging eyes of an idol toned down.” (1)

The black, white, and gray colorway, which was featured extensively in the fall/winter 1955 Spiegel Home Shopping Book (2), is presented here. A pair of curtains in a multicolored version of Pagan Magic is also presented for consideration (5826.62.2016).

The multicolored version of Pagan Magic (1995-48-2) is currently represented in the form of yardage in the museum’s collection. Bohrod’s work is also included within a sample book from the Galleries of Associated American Artists, “Masterpiece Interiors” (1954-22-1-1/116).

(1) Gail Windisch, Sylvan Cole Jr., and Karen J. Herbaugh, Art for Every Home: Associated American Artists, 1934-2000 (Manhattan: Marianna Kistler Beach Museum, Kansas State University, 2016): 178-179.
(2) Ibid., 202.

This object was donated by American Textile History Museum. It is credited American Textile History Museum Collection, museum purchase through gift of anonymous donor.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 279.4 × 114.3 cm (9 ft. 2 in. × 45 in.)

Cite this object as

Textile, Pagan Magic, 1952; Designed by Aaron Bohrod (American, 1907–1992); cotton; H x W: 279.4 × 114.3 cm (9 ft. 2 in. × 45 in.); American Textile History Museum Collection, museum purchase through gift of anonymous donor; 2016-35-27

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Duro Olowu Selects.

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