Europe After the War: The Existential QuestWhat is existentialism?• Christian Existentialism: Kierkegaard, Niebuhr, and Tillich— In the face of countless deaths, pessimism reigned, and ideologicalconflict between the Western po0wers and the Eastern blocexacerbated a growing sense of meaninglessness, alienation, andanxiety. Christianity found itself in crisis as well. Kierkegaard hadargued that Christians must live in a state of anguish caused by theirown freedom of choice. Niebuhr and Tillich further articulated thisposition of Christian existentialism in America.• The Philosophy of Sartre: Atheistic Existentialism — Sartreargued for what is termed atheistic existentialism. Living in a universewithout God, and thus without revealed morality, individuals mustnevertheless choose to act ethically.
• De Beauvoir and Existential Feminism — Simone de Beauvoirargued that women had passively allowed men to define them ratherthan creating themselves.• The Literature of Existentialism — The Stranger by Albert Camusoffers an antihero who refuses to admit to feelings that are absent eventhough it condemns him. The Theater of the Absurd is a theater inwhich the meaninglessness of existence is the central thematic concernas is seen in Sartre’s No Exit. The most popular of the absurdist playsis Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.• The Art of Existentialism — Faced with the lack of life’s meaningthat Sartre’s existentialism proposed, painters and sculptors sought toexplore the truth of this condition in their own terms. Alberto Giacomettiproduced City Square which was admired by Sartre. The French artist,Jean Dubuffet created art brut, “raw art” from those unaffected by oruntrained in cultural convention.• Discussion Question: What are the existentialist themes in the work ofCamus and Beckett?
America After the War: Triumph and DoubtWhat is Abstract Expressionism?• The Triumph of American Art: Abstract Expressionism —The individualistic spirit of Abstract Expressionism was seen as theantithesis of communism, and their work was meant to convey themessage that America had not only triumphed in the war, but in art andculture as well. New York, not Paris, was now the center of the artworld.• Jackson Pollock plumbed the depths of the psyche and de Kooningrepresents the psyche’s encounter with the world. Although excludedfrom the inner (male) circle, a number of the women associated withAbstract Expressionism were painters of exceptional ability. BothElaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner developed their own stylesseparate from their husband’s. Joan Mitchell was obsessed with waterand was influenced by Monet.
• Both Rothko and Frankenthaler offered viewers a more meditative andquiet painting based on large expanses of relatively undifferentiatedcolor. Calder and Smith demonstrated that sculpture could partake ofthe same gestural freedom and psychological abstraction as AbstractExpressionist painting. It could become a field of action.• Discussion Question: What role did women play in AbstractExpressionism?
The Beat GenerationWho are the Beats?• The Beat generation sought a heightened and, they believed, moreauthentic style of life, defined by alienation, nonconformity, sexualliberation, drugs, and alcohol.• Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac — Frank published a book ofphotographs as The Americans in 1958. The photographs capturedeveryday, mundane things that might otherwise go by unseen, with asense of spontaneity and directness. Kerouac’s real-life adventures aredescribed in On the Road.• Ginsberg and “Howl” — The work that best characterizes the Beatgeneration is “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. The publisher, LawrenceFerlinghetti was charged with obscenity; he was eventually acquitted.
• Cage and the Aesthetics of Chance — Ginsberg showed thatanything and everything could be admitted into the domain of art.Composer John Cage “set about discovering means to let sounds bethemselves.” His composition 4’33” admits all manner of ambientsound—whatever sounds happened during its performance were purelya matter of chance. Rauschenberg began to make combine paintings,works in which all manner of materials are combined to create the work.Theater Piece #1 inaugurated a collaboration between Cunningham(dance, Cage (music), and Rauschenberg (décor and costume) thatwould span many years. Jasper Johns focused on the most common,seemingly obvious subject matter. Cage’s aesthetic of diversity andinclusiveness also informs the inventive multimedia pieces of AlanKaprow.• Architecture in the 1950s — The design of Frank Lloyd Wright forthe Guggenheim Museum in New York represents the spirit ifarchitectural innovation that still pervade the practice of architecture tothis day.
Pop ArtWhat is Pop Art?• In the early 1960s, a number of artists created a “realist” art thatrepresented reality in terms of the media—advertising, television, comicstrips—the imagery of mass culture. The term Pop Art quickly becameattached to work such as Warhol’s famous paintings of Campbell’sSoup cans. Roy Lichtenstein enlarged comic strip paintings. ClaesOldenburg opened The Store, filled with life-size and over-life-sizesculptures of everything from pie a la mode, to hamburgers, hats, and7-Up bottles.• Discussion Question: How is pop art a rejection of commercialism?
Minimalism in ArtWhat is Minimalism in art?• Nothing could be further from the onslaught of mass-media images inthe culture of consumption than Minimal Art’s almost pure and classicalgeometries. Minimalist artists were intrigued with utilizing theprocesses of mass production, the use of ready-made materials, theemployment of modular units. Minimalism invites the activeengagement of the viewer in experiencing it. Frank Stella’s PagosaSprings, draws attention to one of the fundamental properties ofpainting—the support. The room installation by Sol LeWitt began as aset of instructions to be followed by workers who execute the workindependently of the artist.