His subjects were not glamorous or affluent New Yorkers, but those in the middle and lower class—Bowery bums, burlesque queens, Coney Island musclemen, park denizens, subway riders and post-flapper era sirens. Marsh was fascinated by the crass glamour, gaudiness and sexuality these city inhabitants exhibited in public, as well as by the humanity expressed by those living under severe economic and social duress. His technical combination of choppy brushwork and thinly applied tempera created the effect of a continual surface flickering, which causes the eye to move without rest from place to place across the painting. Marsh heightened this sense of agitated and accelerated movement by means of asymmetrically framed scenes and avoidance of an obvious focal point. The result was a sequential unfolding of episodes across his canvas surfaces, which evoked the transience, motion and vitality of New York City in the 1930s.
This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts