Abe Ajay

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Abraham (Abe) Ajay (1919–1998) was an artist who was best known for his artistic contributions for The New Masses magazine during the late 1930s and early 1940s.[1] and also for his creative use of reliefs made of found objects during the 1960s and beyond.[2]Abraham Ajay was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania in 1919[2] to Syrian immigrant parents.[2] Ajay grew up working at his father’s candy store and bar in Altoona until he graduated from high school.[2] From an early age, Ajay had a passion for art and sought to harness his artistic abilities when he made the decision to move to New York City[2] to study at the Art Students League of New York,[3] and the American Artists School in Manhattan.[3]

While studying in New York, Ajay became close friends with Ad Reinhardt,[3] the art director for the left-wing culture magazine The New Masses,[3] who inspired him to begin working for the magazine.[3] Ajay’s contributions during the late 1930s and early 1940s to New Masses were significant. Along with Reinhardt, Ajay helped to shape the artistic direction of New Masses during a period where the magazine incurred financial hardships.[1] Ajay’s contributions of covers and cartoons helped to give New Masses a strong artistic presence despite the overall decline of the magazine during the period.[1] A lack of funding helped precipitate Ajay’s departure from New Masses and as the years went on, his support for Communism waned.[1]

In the 1960s Ajay began to produce reliefs made of found objects.[4] Later his often intricate constructions, created from tooled wood, gypsum and cast plastics, reminded may art historians of the sculptures of Louise Nevelson.[4] In addition, many critics believe that Ajay’s work illustrates religious architecture. It was during this time period where Ajay achieved considerable acclaim within the art community.[2]

Ajay was a professor of visual arts at State University of New York at Purchase, N.Y from 1978 until his health began deteriorating towards the mid to late 1990s.[2] Following a move back to Bethel, Pennsylvania,[2] Ajay died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1998 at the age of 78.[2] He was survived by his wife, Betty Raymond.[2] Ajay’s work is contained in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington.[2] In addition, Ajay’s work with New Masses is available in existing copies of the magazine found throughout the country.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Langa, Helen. "'At Least Half the Pages Will Consist of Pictures': New Masses and Politicized Visual Art." American Periodicals: A Journal of History, Criticism, and Bibliography 21.1 (2011): 24-49
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Cotter, Holland. "Abe Ajay, 78, Artist of Relief; Known for Boxlike Constructions." The New York Times. 14 Mar. 1998
  3. ^ a b c d e Corris Michael. Ad Reinhardt. London: Reaktion, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Tweed Museum of Art: 50 Years/50 Art Works." University of Minnesota Duluth 21 Mar. 2012