"What 291 means to me" : spaces of radical artistic expression and immigrant identity



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This study investigates a series of questions regarding the instability of white identity around the turn of the century as record numbers of European migrants flooded into American cities. My research, focusing on "What 291 Means to Me," a collection of essays and poems contributed by the artists and critics of the Stieglitz circle and published in a 1915 issue of Camera Work, suggests that this group of intellectuals subtly obscured questions about their own complex social position as elite, radical artists with immigrant roots. Their gallery, consequently, became a space that reflected a tension between avant-garde ideals and the social and political marginalization of immigrant communities. Tracing their voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, through the unwelcoming New York streets, and up the elevator to the architecturally humble, but metaphorically significant, exhibition space, this project explores their transformation from racialized immigrants into the artistic leaders of a white-supremacist nation.