The New American Painting: As Shown in Eight European Countries, 1958-1959

By Museum of Modern Art | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

'We are now committed to an unqualified act, not illustrating outworn myths or contemporary alibis. One must accept total responsibility for what he executes.'

CLYFFORD STILL 1952

'Voyaging into the night, one knows not where, on an unknown vessel, an absolute struggle with the elements of the real.' ROBERT MOTHERWELL

'There is no more forthright a declaration, and no shorter a path to man's richness, nakedness and poverty than the painting he does. Nothing can be hidden on its surface - the least private as well as the most personal of worlds.' JAMES BROOKS 1956

'Art never seems to make me peaceful or pure . . . I do not think . . . of art as a situation of comfort.' WILLEM DE KOONING 1951

'The need is for felt experience - intense, immoderate, direct, subtle, unified, warm, vivid, rhythmic.' ROBERT MOTHERWELL 1951

'Subject is crucial and only that subject matter is crucial which is tragic and timeless.'

MARK ROTHKO

'What happens on the canvas is unpredictable and surprising to me . . . As I work, or when the painting is finished, the subject reveals itself.' WILLIAM BAZIOTES 1952

'Usually I am on a work for a long stretch, until a moment arrives when the air of the arbitrary vanishes and the paint falls into positions that feel destined . . . To paint is a possessing rather than a picturing.' PHILIP GUSTON 1956

'The function of the artist is to make actual the spiritual so that it is there to be possessed.'

ROBERT MOTHERWELL

Of the seventeen painters in this exhibition, none speaks for the others any more than he paints for the others. In principle their individualism is as uncompromising as that of the religion of Kierkegaard whom they honour. For them, John Donne to the contrary, each man is an island.

Though a painter's words about his art are not always to be taken at face value, the quotations preceding this preface - like the statements printed further on - suggest that these artists share certain strong convictions. Many feel that their painting is a stubborn, difficult, even desperate effort to discover the 'self' or 'reality', an effort to which the whole personality should be recklessly committed: I paint, therefore I am. Confronting

-15-

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The New American Painting: As Shown in Eight European Countries, 1958-1959
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • The International Council at the Museum of Modern Art 3
  • Foreword 5
  • Acknowledgment 6
  • As the Critics Saw It 7
  • Introduction 15
  • Catalogue 88
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