This sculpture is an example of Social Realism, a style of art that emphasized depictions of contemporary life as a means of social or political commentary. The artist, ‘Si’ Gordon, was employed in the sculpture division of the Federal Art Project (1935-43), a Works Project Administration program that employed artists on a monthly stipend. The Federal Art Project established more than 100 community art centers throughout the country, researched and documented American design, commissioned murals and sculptures for public buildings, and sustained some 10,000 artists and craft workers during the Great Depression. There were no restrictions on style or subject matter set by the program. Nevertheless, social realism was the favored style of many artists like Gordon as they sought to capture the enduring strength in the face of difficulties exhibited by many Americans during the Great Depression. Gordon’s Rural Couple with Child gives us a family that stand barefoot, firmly planted on the land, and standing strong together, a bulwark against adversity.
Gordon was a teacher at the South Side Community Arts Center, which was created in 1940 under the auspices of the Federal Art Project as an art and cultural center for Chicago’s African American artists community. The SSCAC allowed artists like Gordon to interact with a community of artists who shared their commitment to working towards racial and economic justice through art.