Topics in American Art since 1945

By Lawrence Alloway | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The subject of art criticism is new art or at least recent art. It is usually the first written response. The early readings of works of art by critics may or may not be confirmed in time, but, after all, the intentions of artists are subject to changing interpretations too. Nonetheless, the closeness in time of the critical text and the making of the work of art gives art criticism its special flavor. To a considerable extent the genre remains what it was when Denis Diderot invented it, the record of spontaneous response and fast judgment to the presence of new work. However, there is a difference now, caused by a speed-up in the application of analytical methods to the crowded present.

Art history is the model that has lead critics toward specific topics or more closely defined problems. On the other hand, there is a risk of the influence of art history abridging the freedom of the critic. This happens when a deterministic view of the succession of history is imposed prematurely on the current scene and the recent past. Such historical foreshortening is a way of suppressing the numerical density and stylistic diversity of the present by means of pre-emptive formulas. Appreciative writing, dealing with congenial bits of the general culture, which used to be the art critic's highest aim, is rare now. The article, a piece of prose with a specific target, has replaced the broad consensual themes essential to the essayist. I should add that I am not an art historian, and what I write is art criticism with footnotes.

This book consists of a selection of reviews and articles written in the sixties and early seventies. If a piece seemed reprintable, after the shock of rereading, because it made a point that still seemed interesting, I have let it stand. This is not because I am infatuated with my words once they are in print, but because I want to preserve their historical identity. Art criticism is occasional, written in response to particular events such as exhibitions and anniversaries. Tampering with the words could only reduce what evidential value a text might have, entangling the directness of early response with second thoughts and hindsight. I have reprinted, therefore, but not rewritten, except for small changes for the sake of consistency, often initiated by the copy editor. Footnote density, for example, in what follows fluctuates according to the sources of the different articles.

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Topics in American Art since 1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Topics in American Art Since 1945 *
  • Contents 7
  • List of Illustrations 9
  • Introduction 11
  • Acknowledgments 13
  • Abstract Expressionism 15
  • The Biomorphic '40s 17
  • Melpomene and Graffiti - Adolph Gottlieb's Early Work 25
  • The American Sublime 31
  • Barnett Newman - The Stations of the Cross and the Subjects of the Artist 42
  • Jackson Pollock's Black Paintings 52
  • Jackson Pollock's "Psychoanalytic Drawings" 58
  • Willem De Kooning 62
  • The Sixties, I - Hard Edge and Systems 65
  • Leon Polk Smith 67
  • Systemic Painting 76
  • Serial Forms 92
  • Sol Lewitt 96
  • Agnes Martin - (with an Appendix) 100
  • Gesture into Form - The Later Paintings of Norman Bluhm 111
  • The Sixties, II - Pop Art 117
  • Pop Art - The Words 119
  • Jim Dine 123
  • Rauschenberg's Graphics 125
  • Jasper Johns' Map 136
  • Marilyn as Subject Matter 140
  • Roy Lichtenstein's Period Style 145
  • The Reuben Gallery - A Chronology 151
  • In Place 155
  • The Sixties, III - Problems of Representation 161
  • Hi-Way Culture - (with Notes on Alan D'Arcangelo) 163
  • Art as Likeness - (with a Note on Post-Pop Art) 171
  • George Segal 182
  • Photo-Realism 185
  • Art and Interface 193
  • Allan Kaprow, Two Views 195
  • Artists and Photographs 201
  • The Expanding and Disappearing Work of Art 207
  • Stolen - (with Arakawa: an Interview) 213
  • Radio City Music Hall 218
  • Robert Smithson's Development 221
  • Art Criticism and Society 237
  • Notes on Op Art 239
  • The Public Sculpture Problem 245
  • The Uses and Limits of Art Criticism 251
  • Index 271
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