Art in America 1945-1970: Writings from the Age of Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Minimalism

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"I believe that here in America, some of us, free from the weight of European culture, are finding the answer, by completely denying that art has any concern with the problem of beauty and where to find it. The question that now arises is how, if we are living in a time without a legend or mythos that can be called sublime, if we refuse to admit any exaltation in pure relations, if we refuse to live in the abstract, how can we be creating a sublime art?"
From "The Sublime is Now" by Barnett Newman, chosen by bookseller Muriel

"Surrealism is perhaps the farthest extension of the idea of comedy, running the full range from wit to terror. It is 'comic' rather than 'tragic' because Surrealism stresses the extremes of disrelation--which is preeminently the subject of comedy, as 'relatedness' is the subject and source of tragedy. I, and other people in the audience, often laugh during Happenings. I don't think this is simply because we are embarrassed or made nervous by violent and absurd actions. I think we laugh because what goes on in the Happenings is, in the deepest sense, funny. This does not make it any less terrifying. There is something that moves one to laughter, if only our social pieties and highly conventional sense of the serious would allow it, in the most terrible of modern catastrophes and atrocities. There is something comic in modern experience as such, a demonic, not a divine comedy, precisely to the extent that modern experience is characterized by meaningless mechanized situations of disrelation."

From "Happenings" by Susan Sontag, chosen by bookseller Colin

Experience the creative explosion that transformed American art, in the words of the artists, writers, and critics who were there: In the quarter century after the end of World War II, a new generation of painters, sculptors, and photographers transformed the face of American art and shifted the center of the art world from Paris to New York. Signaled by the triumph of abstraction and the ascendancy of painters such as Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning, and Kline, this revolution generated an exuberant and contentious body of writing without parallel in our cultural history. In the words of editor Jed Perl, "there has never been a period when the visual arts have been written about with more mongrel energy--with more unexpected mixtures of reportage, rhapsody, analysis, advocacy, editorializing, and philosophy." Perl has gathered the best of this writing together for the first time, interwoven with fascinating headnotes that establish the historical background, the outsized personalities of the artists and critics, and the nature of the aesthetic battles that defined the era. Here are statements by the most significant artists, and major critical essays by Clement Greenberg, Susan Sontag, Hilton Kramer, and other influential figures. Here too is an electrifying array of responses by poets and novelists, reflecting the free interplay between different art forms: John Ashbery on Andy Warhol, James Agee on Helen Levitt, James Baldwin on Beauford Delaney, Truman Capote on Richard Avedon, Tennessee Williams on Hans Hofmann, Jack Kerouac on Robert Frank. The atmosphere of the time comes to vivid life in memoirs, diaries, and journalism by Peggy Guggenheim, Dwight Macdonald, Calvin Tomkins, and others. Lavishly illustrated with scores of black-and-white images and a 32-page color insert, this is a book that every art lover will treasure.
Publication Date: 
October 9, 2014