27 Septiembre 1975
Wolfe painted 27 Septiembre in response to the 1975 execution in Spain of five university students, some of the Basques, by Franco’s regime. The executions of the alleged terrorists were committed despite international outcry and an appeal for clemency from the Pope.
In the painting the dictator, renowned for murderous barbarism since his days as a military commander, presides over the executions, his features porcine and grotesque. The composition of the lower panel recalls Goya’s 3rd of May 1808, a memorial to the Spaniards executed by Napoleon’s troops.
As with all of Wolfe’s political work, 27 Septiembre was directed at an American audience. Wolfe was in opposition to the United States government’s substantial support of Franco’s regime. During the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States Franco received massive U.S. aid in return for the establishment of U.S. military bases in Spain.
Wolfe painted “Roxbury Portrait” in 1967, at the height of the civil rights movement. It portrays a group of neighbors near his studio on Tremont Street in Roxbury, a nearly all-black section of Boston at that time. Malcolm X, although not depicted in the painting, was a neighbor and friend of Wolfe during this period.
A separate panel refers to the Vietnam War, and the practice of giving poor black persons arrested for a crime such as drug possession a choice: Vietnam or jail. Most chose Vietnam and helped swell the ranks of troops there as government demand rose. At the height of United States involvement there were 500,000 American troops involved in the Vietnam conflict.
Another panel reflects the difficulties of growing up in poverty with limited choices available for a better life. Alcoholism or drug use was often the result. A 12-year-old kid lies face down, the victim of street violence of one kind or another.