Struggle over the Modern: Purity and Experience in American Art Criticism, 1900-1960

Struggle over the Modern: Purity and Experience in American Art Criticism, 1900-1960

Struggle over the Modern: Purity and Experience in American Art Criticism, 1900-1960

Struggle over the Modern: Purity and Experience in American Art Criticism, 1900-1960

Synopsis

In 'Struggle Over the Modern', Dennis Raverty argues that there was not one, but two competing modernisms, vying for dominance of this critical field in American art during the first half of the 20th century.

Excerpt

The various tendencies that were dominant in American art in the decade preceding World War II and the Abstract Expressionism that rose to international status in the years following the war represent a particularly puzzling and momentous shift in critical consensus within the art world in the United States. the sheer magnitude of this shift from politically engaged realism to apolitical abstraction calls for a thoroughgoing exploration. So far we have had, at best, only partial descriptions of this shift from various vantage points. Long attributed, simplistically, to the exposure of American artists to European Modernists arriving in New York City during the war, such a radical shift in the art world now seems the result of circumstances much more complex than stylistic explanations alone can elucidate.

What is in question here is not so much the change in the artwork itself as the changes in the institutions, patronage, and the entire critical discourse that surrounded the emergence of postwar art that would make this paradigm shift possible. Even a cursory examination of the context of this shift indicates the causes are complicated and multidimensional. the change is probably best understood as a complex, overdetermined shift that will inevitably be explained not by any single study, but rather by unraveling a number of different narrative threads: political, economic, and broader “cultural” treatments that, when woven together, will provide fuller descriptions and explanations of this radical paradigm shift.

Interesting investigations of the political context and the institutional framework surrounding this shift have yielded important information and interpretations in recent scholarship. in Frances Stoner Saunders’s intriguing book, Who Paid the Piper: the Cultural Cold War and the World of Arts and Letters, the author helps explain the ascendance of Abstract Expressionism in terms of the hidden political and economic agendas of those individuals and institutions promoting and funding modern art. On another front, Stephen Polcari’s Abstract Expressionism and the Modern Experience uncovers previously unexplored correspondences amid contemporaneous thought from a number of different fields as wide-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.