3.1 abex cold war


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3.1 abex cold war

  1. 1. The Critical Reception of Abstract ExpressionismArt  109A:    Contemporary  Art  Westchester  Community  College  Fall  2012  
  2. 2. Critical Reception To most viewers, Abstract Expressionism did not look like “art”“Jackson Pollocks abstractions stumpexperts as well as laymen. Laymenwonder what to look for in thelabyrinths which Pollock achieves bydripping paint onto canvases laid flaton the floor; experts wonder what onearth to say about the artist.”“Art: Chaos, Damn It! Time Magazine, Nov 20 1950 Norman Rockwell, The Connoisseur, The Saturday Evening Post, January 13, 1962
  3. 3. Critical SuccessBut Ab Ex enjoyed support frominfluential critics, collectors, anddealers Peggy Guggenheim and Jackson Pollock in front of Mural, 1946 Eliot Elisofon, Betty Parsons standing in a NYC gallery, 1961 Image source: http://www.matthewlangley.com/blog/?p=71
  4. 4. Critical SuccessAnd backing from influentialinstitutions like the Museum ofModern ArtBruce Maud Designhttp://www.brucemaudesign.com/work_museum_of_modern_art.html Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Philip L. Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone, Architects, 1939. Robert Damora, Photographer, 1939 Image source: http://www.robertdamora.com/
  5. 5. Critical SuccessIn 1949 Life Magazine published anarticle titled “Jackson Pollock: Is hethe greatest living painter in theUnited States”? Life Magazine, “Jackson Pollock: Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?” 1949
  6. 6. Critical SuccessCoverage in art magazinesRobert Goodnough, “Pollock Paints a Picture,” ArtNews, 1951 Hans Namuth, Pollock working, 1951
  7. 7. The New Academy1951 Cecil Beaton photographsfashion models in front of Pollock’spictures at Betty Parsons Cecil Beaton, The Soft Look, photograph of a model posing in front of a Jackson Pollock painting at Betty Parsons Gallery, Vogue March 1, 1951
  8. 8. Critical Success 1958 Time magazine reported a booming market for Abstract Expressionist pictures“While there is a recession in the U.S.economy, one group of Americansmore accustomed to bust than boomis in the midst of a new wave ofprosperity. They are Manhattansabstract expressionist painters, whountil three years ago could rarelyafford to move out of their coldwater,walk-up studios. Now their shows areselling out, and at record high prices.”“Art: Boom on Canvas,” Time Magazine, April 7,1958 Walter Sanders, Metropolitan Museum director James J. Rorimer examining a painting by Jackson Pollock, 1959 LIFE
  9. 9. Cold WarAbstract Expressionism reachedmaturity during a period ofheightened national anxiety Cover to the propaganda comic book "Is This Tomorrow" published in 1947 by the Catechetical Guild Wikipedia
  10. 10. Cold War House Committee on Un-American Activities investigated thousands of ordinary citizens suspected of Communist sympathiesHouse Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)Hearings, 1947 Senator Joseph McCarthy, Time, March 8, 1954
  11. 11. Cold WarWriters and actors were“blacklisted” Red Channels, a pamphlet-style book issued by the journal Counterattack in 1950 Wikipedia
  12. 12. Cold WarFBI files were kept on artists suchas Picasso and Ben Shan FBI File on Pablo Picasso
  13. 13. Cold War In 1949 Congressman George A. Dondero delivered a speech to congress denouncing modern art as a “weapon of communism”“As I have previously stated, art isconsidered a weapon of communism,and the Communist doctrinaire namesthe artist as a soldier of therevolution.”Congressman George A. Dondero, “Modern ArtSchackled to Communism,” speech delivered to theUnited States House of Representatives, 1947 Al Fenn, Congressman George A. Dondero, 1947 LIFE
  14. 14. Critical SuccessBut such strident views dissipatedby the mid 1950s: SenatorMcCarthy was censured in 1954,and attitudes toward modern artbecame more tolerant, as the avantgarde stance of defiant“individuality” became linkeddirectly to American values ofpersonal freedom Life Magazine, “Jackson Pollock: Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?” 1949
  15. 15. “[T]he public grew more tolerant of modern art and came to believethat the flourishing of avant-garde art and culture was the mark of aliberal democratic society. Indeed, at decade’s end, the same artonce lambasted by conservative forces as anti-American were beingheld up as a symbol of capitalist liberty, freedom, and the Americanway of life. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, AbstractExpressionism was celebrated as a quintessentially American form,the embodiment of the kind of personal freedom of expression deniedartists behind the Iron curtain. For the first time, modernism andAmerica were linked, the one nurtured by the free society of theother.”Lisa Phillips, The American Century: Art & Culture 1950-2000, p. 37
  16. 16. International SuccessMeanwhile, the Museum of ModernArt – operating on behalf of theUnited States InformationAssociation – was promotingAbstract Expressionism abroad A wall map illustrating the scope of the Museum of Modern Art’s International Program, displayed concurrently with The New American Painting: As Shown in 8 European Countries 1958-1959 at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1959 http://www.moma.org/international/index.html
  17. 17. International Success“Modern American art stormedthrough Paris last week, the advancepatrol of a U.S. culture parade . . . thatU.S. art packed a wallop, no one anylonger disputed.”“Art: Americans in Paris,” Time Magazine, April 181955 Frank Scherchel, People looking at a painting by artist Jackson Pollock at an American art show, France, 1955 LIFE
  18. 18. International SuccessMoMA’s international exhibitionspromoted American AbstractExpressionism as a symbol ofAmerican individualism andfreedom Carl Mydans, American National exhibition in Russia, 1959 LIFE
  19. 19. AbstractExpressionism and theCold WarEva Cockroft, Serge Guilbaut andothers have argued that AbstractExpressionism was used as a“weapon of the Cold War”
  20. 20. Abstract Expressionism and the Cold War“[A]bstract expressionism was for manypeople an expression of freedom: freedomto create controversial works, freedomsymbolized by action and gesture, by theexpression of the artist apparently freedfrom all restraints . . . [and] proof of theinherent liberty of the American system, asopposed to the restrictions imposed onartists in the Soviet system.”Serge Guilbaut, “The New Adventures of the Avant Garde inAmerica,” October 15 (Winter 1980); rpt in Ellen Landau,ed., Reading Abstract Expressionism: Context and Critique,Yale University Press, 2005, p. 383-395
  21. 21. “To its admirers in Both America and Europe, Abstract Expressionism,with its improvisational gestures, epic scale, and intensely subjectiveemotions, symbolized the power of individual liberty in a democraticsociety. The artists themselves, however, were uninterested inpolitics, preferring to embrace private or universal values. ClyffordStill wrote, ‘It has always been my hope to create a freer place orarea of life where an idea can transcend politics, ambition, andcommerce.’ This proved a utopian sentiment. The claim that theywere free from ideology only made their art function more effectivelyas propaganda for various political agendas.”Lisa Phillips, The American Century: Art & Culture 1950-2000, p. 40-41
  22. 22. Tansey’s painting is an ironic commentary on how America’s postwar military and economic supremacy correlated with theMark Tansey, Triumph of the New York School, 1984 Whitney Museum so-called “Triumph of the New York School.”
  23. 23. “Each of the more than a dozen officers on each side is a recognizable portrait of a famous artist, critic, or writer, including on the French side, the Surrealist Andre Breton and Pablo Picasso (dressed in fur), and on the American side such painters as Jackson Pollock and the highly influential New York art critic, Clement Greenberg. In the background is a war-torn landscape dotted by the smouldering fires of recent artistic conflicts over which the New York School has unconditionally triumphed. Two or three French officers are mounted on anachronistic horses while the American "cavalry" is a modern armored half-track.” Jim Lane, Humanitiesweb.org http://www.humanitiesweb.org/spa/gai/ID/1216Mark Tansey, Triumph of the New York School, 1984 Whitney Museum