Art of the Postmodern Era: From the Late 1960s to the Early 1990s

Art of the Postmodern Era: From the Late 1960s to the Early 1990s

Art of the Postmodern Era: From the Late 1960s to the Early 1990s

Art of the Postmodern Era: From the Late 1960s to the Early 1990s


In this finely illustrated, major history of American and European art of the past quarter century, Irving Sandler shows how new directions in art emerged in the 1960s -- Post Minimal styles, Pattern and Decoration Painting, and New Image Painting -- through the 1980s -- Neo-Expressionism, Media Deconstruction, and Commodity Art. Sandler discusses the major and minor artists and their works, movements, ideas, attitudes, and styles, and places them in the social and cultural context of the period. He also covers Postmodernist art theory, the art market, and consumer society.

Fully documented and clearly written, Sandler's book is essential for understanding the art of this period.


Art history is not transparent. It is written by individuals, who bring to it their own personal baggage of appetites, psychological makeups, ethnic identities, social positions, political and religious persuasions, and so on. Claims to objectivity notwithstanding, the historian's idiosyncrasies shape art history. Consequently, it would be useful for the historian to present his or her sociopsychoethnic autobiography in the preface to a work. However, given the limitations of space and the reader's patience, it would not be feasible -- and, given the workings of the unconscious, not even possible. Still, the question of motivations ought to be dealt with, if only cursorily. Specifically: Why has the historian selected a particular topic and, even more significant, a particular approach?

In my own case I encountered abstract expressionist painting while I was a graduate student in the early 1950s, and it moved me as little else in my life had, certainly infinitely more than the academic American history I was studying at the time. I simply had to know more about it. I found out where the artists met -- the Cedar Street Tavern, the Club, the artists' cooperative galleries on Tenth Street -- and began to socialize with them. I also painted for a year, and although I was told by artists I respected, Philip Guston, for example, that I had "talent," the intensity for me was not in art making. In the mid-fifties I found that intensity in writing art criticism. But, since I had been trained as a historian, it seemed natural to me to chronicle the art I had come to love and believed to be the most vital, original, and masterly in the world. I started to work on The Triumph of American Painting: A History of Abstract Expressionism. At the time the American art-conscious public was still hostile to abstract expressionism. In response I wrote as an embattled partisan, from within the movement, as it were.

I did not rely entirely on my own taste but also paid close attention to the opinions of respected artists, art editors and critics, museum curators and directors, and dealers and collectors. Not surprisingly their views generally paralleled my own. More than that, I sought to formulate a consensus of what these artists and art professionals deemed of great-

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