Modern Art USA: Men, Rebellion, Conquest, 1900-1956

By Rudi Blesh | Go to book overview

7. Dada and Despair

By 1920, despite the giant shove of the Armory Show and the nudges of the Forum and the Independent exhibitions, native modernism was dying out. This period, from about 1910 to about 1925, has been called "the first wave of abstract art in America,"1 as indeed it was. Some critics have concluded, as one of them puts it, that our modern pioneers of modern art had only a "superficial understanding, no matter how enthusiastic, . . . [of the] abstract art in Paris," and that therefore, "as soon as the surprise faded most of them abandoned it."2 The early work of these pioneers stands as the most effective of all rebuttals of such an opinion, which shows little general understanding of that period in American art history.

Neglected by dealers, ignored by museums, passed over by collectors, unknown by the public, ridiculed and pressured by more conventional, more successful, fellow painters, the advanced artists in America lived in a cold and hostile climate. Even worse, they lived apart even from one another. Here the easy café life of Paris--the stimulating argument, the fruitful discussion--seemingly could not exist. Our sidewalks are reserved for walking. And let artists, ragged-poor anyway, try sitting overtime at a table with a waiter waving the check and newer corners staring holes in their backs! Not "surprise" fades in such a climate--bit by bit will fades, and enthusiasm, and vision.

So, by the early 1920's, the brightest of our native talents were in a near-fatal position. Max Weber and Alfred Maurer

____________________
1
Andrew Carnduff Ritchie: Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America ( New York, 1951). Published in connection with the exhibition of the same name at the Museum of Modern Art.
2
Thomas B. Hess: Abstract Painting, Background and American phase ( New York, 1951).

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Modern Art USA: Men, Rebellion, Conquest, 1900-1956
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • 1. the World Stirs in Its Sleep 3
  • 2. Home Life on the Other Side of the Moon 9
  • 3. Plot in an Attic 23
  • 4. Rebellion in an Amory 41
  • 5. Aftermath 57
  • 6. Independents' Day 68
  • 7. Dada and Despair 85
  • 8. Modern Art's First Museum 103
  • 9. Art in a Skyscraper 114
  • 10. the Artist is the Man Next Door 131
  • Ii. Passage to Permanence 145
  • 12. Termite, Time Capsule, and Pedestal 162
  • 13. Isms and Wasms 185
  • 15. Go West, Young Art, Go West 222
  • 16. Arriving 241
  • 17. Presences 262
  • 18. the Present 282
  • Index i
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