[This week Herriman Saturday has been moved — it will be Herriman Wednesday — and for very good reason that will not be revealed until then. Be sure to check in on Wednesday for an important announcement — Allan]
Alvin Carl Hollingsworth was born in New York, New York, on February 25, 1928. His birthplace is from Who’s Who in American Art 1989–90 (1989), and his birth date is from the Social Security Death Index. (The Social Security Death Index misspelled “Hollingsworth”; it left off the second “H”. Who’s Who said he was born in 1930 but that is incorrect.)
In the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Hollingsworth was the youngest of two sons born to Charles and Cynthia. His brother, Roy, was about four years older. The family lived in Manhattan, New York City at 258 West 153 Street, which was in Harlem. His parents were British West Indies citizens; his father, a shipping clerk at a dress house, emigrated 1917, and his mother, a presser in a dress factory, in 1920. They married around 1923 when she was 19.
…Having grown up poor and black in Harlem, Hollingsworth…likely would have never known Joe Kubert if they hadn’t crossed paths at Holyoke [Publications]. This meeting was pivotal for Hollingsworth. It was Kubert who told the young artist about the High School of Music and Art, and suggested that he apply. Hollingsworth was in eighth grade at the time. Subsequently, Hollingsworth did apply and was accepted at M&A for his freshman year. Hollingsworth was Kubert’s junior by two years…
…Not that Kubert was the only influence on Hollingsworth. The younger boy’s work was also shaped by his West Indian and Caribbean heritage and the world of Harlem in the 1930s, which was a center for African-American culture. Hollingsworth’s biographer Valliere Richard Auzenne, PhD wrote, “Harlem was a thriving community which pulsated with life, a convergence of sight, sound and color, and a pivot for people of color. A community which supported art created within it confines, jazz, poetry, murals, sculpture, and paintings. This was the world Alvin grew up in.”
In an interview conducted [by Valliere Richard Auzenne] in the mid-1980s, Alvin Hollingsworth recalled, “My first cartoons were city scenes picturing the Empire State Building, cartoons where superheroes would be leaping from building to building. I got my first job [in comics] while I was in junior high school. I couldn’t get paid because I didn’t have working papers. My father had to take off from work to go down with me to get working papers so I could get paid.
“I would have to get up early in the morning, around six, take the work down to the building and leave it with the elevator driver and come up to my school to be there by 8:00 or 8:30. It forced me to be very disciplined.”
…On the weekends, Hollingsworth would visit Kubert at the Kubert home in Brooklyn. [According to his father’s, Jacob Kubert, World War II draft card, the home address was 48 East 51st Street.] Kubert said, “We were kids together. We knew each other through high school, I mean, we used to wrestle and stuff like that. Alvin was a good friend.”
…”Joe was very nice,” Hollingsworth recalled. “Every weekend while the other kids were out playing basketball, I was going over to study with Joe. Joe taught me a lot. He taught me how to cut a line [with] a razor blade…so the line was so sharp it looked like it was printed. He taught me a lot about how to give a picture force by having the punch look like it swept through the page.
…Hollingsworth…struggled doing both school assignments and trying to break into the comic-book business. “I remember one term,” Hollingsworth recalled, “[when] by midterm I had failed every course but one because I hadn’t done any work. I was getting as much artwork as I could do and going to Music and Art full time. Music and Art was a pretty rough school. I was too busy doing cartoons. Mr. Patterson, who know I was doing comic books, spoke to the administration on my behalf. They lightened my load back to four classes and I passed everything by next term.
“When I got into the field I began running into prejudice, for now I was competing for jobs,” Hollingsworth remembered. “I was no longer ‘helping people,’ ” At first he worked for Bernard Bailey, who had a shop operation, just because of the difficulty of lining up his own work. Eventually he was able to find assignments on his own. Hollingsworth went on to carve out a substantial career in the comics field, jumping around the genres, but proving most effective on the horror strips that became popular at the decade’s end. Much of his work was for Fiction House, Avon and Lev Gleason.
The Herald Statesman (Yonkers, New York), March 13, 1970, said he graduated in 1946. In the late 1940s, Hollingsworth produced a few stories for Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. At The Jack Kirby Museum website, Harry Mendryk said:
Another artist that shows up working for Simon and Kirby during this period is Alvin Carl Hollingsworth….Previously he worked for Holyoke Publishing Company working on Catman. Hollingsworth was also a talented fine arts painter. Joe Simon remembers Alvin and has a high opinion of him. Joe remarked that he thought he was the only African-American working in comics at that time. This is not truly accurate since there was also Matt Baker who played an important part in the early history of comics. But Matt Baker never worked for Simon and Kirby and so Joe was not aware of him, or at least of his background.
Hollingsworth is another of those artists whose current reputation is much lower then [sic] warranted by his talent. This is largely because he left the comic book field in the late ’50s first for syndications strips and then the fine arts. It is a recurring pattern that I have noticed that comic book artists who did not take part in the superhero revival of the 60′s and later generally do not get much attention today….
According to Who’s Who, Hollingsworth continued his art studies at the Art Students League of New York; his instructors were Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Ralph Fabri and Dr. Bernard Myers, from 1950 to 1952. At City University of New York, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1956, and Masters of Arts in 1959. The Art Students League of New York: Summer Schools in Woodstock and New York City, 1971 catalogue said, “…After graduating from the High School of Music and Art, he went on to City College of New York City and subsequently switched from social studies to a major in art. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate at City where he went on to earn his M.A….”
…The illustrators who provided the fabulous covers of soldiers with anacondas wrapped around their necks surrounded by nymphos—now seen as classic period art—were a breed apart. Many were serious bodybuilders, actually resembling the action heroes on their covers. Art director Mel Blum, for one, was a huge, deaf weightlifter, though he remained terrified of publisher Martin Goodman. “Did Guh-man like it? Is it all right with Gun-man?” he would often ask Bruce Jay [Friedman]. Mort Kunstler was another top-dollar freelance artist, who could command about a thousand bucks for a detailed painting of a civil war death camp. He was the only one who could take Blum at arm-wrestling, in which they often engaged.
James Bama, a first-string artist, was yet another weightlifter, Bruce Jay recalls visiting his studio, where he worked upon a dozen canvasses at once—adding brushstrokes to Mag[azine] Management covers, advertisements, other magazines’ covers and back. Finally, there was Al Hollingsworth, possibly the first Black cartoonist in men’s adventure, whom Bruce Jay brought in early on. Hollingsworth was an exceedingly jolly fellow who later became a distinguished painter and—needless to—was also a massive weightlifter.
His interior art work has been identified in Man’s Daring Adventures #1, November 1955 and #3, July 1956.
Who’s Who said Hollingsworth was a graphics instructor at the High School of Art & Design from 1961 to 1971. Jet magazine, May 16, 1963, said, “Harlemite Alvin Hollingsworth, acclaimed by art critics as an ‘internationally significant’ painter, is one of the busiest artists in New York. In addition to his art work for the publication Manhattan East, he teaches at the Pan American Art School and the High School of Art and Design.” Who’s Who said he won the 1963 Emily Lowe Art Competition Award, and the 1964 Whitney Foundation Award. His participation in the Civil Rights movement and the art group Spiral were covered in Artwords: Discourse on the 60s and 70s (1992).
The Art Students League of New York: Summer Schools…1971 catalogue said, “…His show at the Dintenfass Gallery in 1965 featured the use of fluorescent materials which under ultraviolet light, produced astonishing, even eerie, effects….” In Black New York Artists of the 20th Century (1998), Victor N. Smythe wrote, “…Interested in the effects of ultraviolet light on fluorescent material, he [Hollingsworth] collaborated with electronic music pioneer Edgard Varese in the late 1960s to create a large multi-media work that provided sensory experience for the spectators….”
Men of Achievement, Volume 6 (1979) said he married Stephanie Ann Knoepler in 1966; they had four children. At the Harlem Freedom School, Office of Economic Opportunity, he was a consultant on art and the art coordinator, from 1966 to 1967. He was director at the Lincoln Institute of Psycho-Therapy Art Gallery, from 1966 to 1968. That was followed by supervisor of art at Project Turn-On, in New York, from 1968 to 1969. From 1969 to 1975, he was a painting instructor at the Art Students League.
His books include Art of Acrylic Painting (1969, co-author); The Sniper (1969, illustrator); Black Out Loud (1970, illustrator); I’d Like the Goo-gen-heim (1970, author and illustrator); and Journey (1970, illustrator).
The Herald Statesman, March 25, 1970, said he was a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Education of New York University. The ART Gallery Magazine, April 1970, said, “…Hollingsworth teaches full days at New York’s High School of Art and Design, continues to work toward his Ph.D. (fluorescent materials), and steadily adds to a seemingly endless series of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints (some 200 at last count), all of which take the Guggenheim Museum as a sort of leitmotif. ‘I love that building,’ says Hollingsworth, ‘and it’s a real challenge to see how many creative things I can evolve from that one theme.’ ” According to an October 24, 1970 listing in the New York Times, “You’re Part of Art” debuted October 24 on New York City TV station WNBC. The description said, ” ‘City Textures and Art’, produced in cooperation with the Art Students League of New York. First of ten programs, Alvin C. Hollingsworth is host.”
The Art Students League of New York: Summer Schools…1971 catalogue said, “…His mural for the Paul Robeson Lounge at Rutgers University was completed in the spring of 1970.” He received the 1971 Award of Distinction, from the Smith-Mason Gallery. His painting was included in the Ebony magazine, April 1971, feature, “Artists Portray a Black Christ. Who’s Who said he was assistant professor of painting at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College, from 1971 to 1977, then associate professor in 1977, and then professor of visual and performing arts.
Something About the Author (1985) included a note from Hollingsworth on his recent work: “A mural for Hostos Community College entitled, ‘Hostos Odessey’; a commissioned portrait of Rose Morgan presented to her in June, 1981; a commissioned portrait of Lena Horne presented to her in May, 1982 in celebration for fifty years in show business, I am currently a full professor of art at Hostos Community College [New York].”
Hollingsworth passed away July 14, 2000, in Hastings on Hudson, New York. An obituary was published July 17 in the Journal News (Hastings on Hudson, New York).
His art is in the Chase Manhattan Bank, New York; Brooklyn Museum Permanent Collection; IBM Collection, White Plains, New York; Williams College Art Collection; and the Johnson Publishing Permanent Art Collection, Chicago.