May 1973

By Liese, Jennifer | Artforum International, May 2003 | Go to article overview

May 1973


Liese, Jennifer, Artforum International


Three decades ago in Art forum, Max Kozloff asked just what, beyond formal achievement, made Abstract Expressionism (and Pop art and Color Field painting on its heels) so triumphant after all. Managing editor looks back on the essay that opened the floodgates on political readings of postwar art.

"THE MOST CONCERTED ACCOMPLISHMENTS of American art occurred during precisely the same period as the burgeoning claims of American world hegemony." Coincidence? Max Kozloff thought not. And with "American Painting During the Cold War," he set out to prove it--placing the era's dominant strains of political and material culture alongside its art and discovering in their juxtaposition a Rind of symbiosis wherein the paintings professed, however unconsciously, a "profound glorifying of American civilization" and in turn reaped certain advantages.

Kozloff's tract, published in these pages thirty years ago this month, appeared first as the catalogue introduction for the 1973 Des Moines Art Center exhibition "Twenty-Five Years of American Painting, 1948-1973." Loath to reprise the tired but persistent chauvinistic endorsements exemplified by Irving Sandler's Triumph of American Painting (1970) and spurred by his own Vietnam War activism, Kozloff, then an Art forum associate editor, decided to try something new. "My writing for The Nation in the '60s had given me a platform to explore political resonances and repercussions in art," Kozloff recalls today. "But I had never attempted anything so panoramic, so this was a thrill." The author found his panorama scenic enough to offer it to Artforum editor John Coplans for reprinting.

Kozloff launched into his argument with a summation of Truman's cold-war philosophy, which presumed that "all the world's peoples wanted to be, indeed had a right to be, like Americans." (Sound familiar?) Likewise, he posited, Abstract Expressionism, while imagining itself an apolitical pursuit of the sublime, and despite the generally leftist leanings of its practitioners, in fact precisely mimicked the period rhetoric of American superiority in its "naked, prepossessing self-confidence." Painterly freedom--genius expressed in unfettered gesture--produced consummate symbols of personal freedom, as the United States Information Agency was quick to note. Beginning in the late '40s, the agency, "abetted and amplified by the International Council of The Museum of Modern Art," began exporting exhibitions of AbEx painting worldwide; the work, Kozloff wrote, was used as a "commodity in the struggle for American dominance," a "form of benevolent propaganda" against the Communist threat.

As times changed, so did the art. The sensibility of the Pop and Color Field artists emerged from the "indigestible stew of sinister, campy, solid-state effluvia" of '60s America. Rather than reject the onslaught of commercial media and technology, Pop artists discovered in them "source(s] of iconic energy"-and so their work was "instantly acculturated and coopted by the mass media upon which it preyed. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

May 1973
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.