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  • Published: 22 October 2014
  • ISBN: 9781598533101
  • Imprint: Library of America
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 896
  • RRP: $55.00

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



In this Library of America volume, Perl, an acclaimed art critic and historian, gathers for the first time the most vibrant contemporary accounts of this momentous period – by artists, critics, poets, gallery owners, and other observers – conveying the sweep and energy of a cultural scene dominated (in the poet James Schuyler's words) by 'the floods of paint in whose crashing surf we all scramble.' 

The quarter century after the end of World War 11 was a period of startling transformation in American art, signalled first by the triumph of abstraction and the ascendancy of painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline, and then by the advent of Pop and Minimalism.  The vitality of this creative explosion shifted the center of the art world from Paris to New York and generated a body of writing of singular significance and style.  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.' In this Library of America volume, Perl, an acclaimed art critic and historian, gathers for the first time the most vibrant contemporary accounts of this momentous period – by artists, critics, poets, gallery owners, and other observers – conveying the sweep and energy of a cultural scene dominated (in the poet James Schuyler's words) by 'the floods of paint in whose crashing surf we all scramble.' 
This was a time when art mattered, and there was no lack of passionate, articulate voices to argue why and how.  It was an age of contention and enthusiasm, when questions of style and representation, of commercialism and artistic rigor, were fundamental.  Here are statements by the most significant painters, sculptors, and photographers – the diaries of Joseph Cornell and Charles Burchfield, the meditative essays of Jack Tworkov, the deadpan aphorisms of Andy Warhol, the manifestos of Marcel Duchamp and Ad Reinhardt – and major critical essays by Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, Meyer Schapiro, Hilton Kramer, and other influential figures.  Here too is an electrifying array of responses by poets and novelists, reflecting the interplay between different art forms: Susan Sontag on happenings, John Ashbery on Joan Mitchell, Frank O'Hara on David Smith, James Agee on Helen Levitt, James Baldwin on Beauford Delaney, Truman Capote on Richard Avedon, Tennessee Williams on Hans Hofmann, Ralph Ellison on Romare Bearden, Jack Kerouac on Robert Frank.  The atmosphere of the time – from the Cedar Tavern to the Museum of Modern Art – comes to vivid life in memoirs, diaries, and journalistic reports by Peggy Guggenheim, Edwin Denby, Morton Feldman, Grace Hartigan, Larry Rivers, Dwight Macdonald, Calvin Tomkins, and others. 
Jed Perl weaves all this writing together with engaging headnotes that establish the historical background, sketch the outsized personalities of the artists and critics, and chart the battle lines of the aesthetic contests that defined the era. The result is an unprecedented cultural history told by those who made it, what Perl describes as 'a magnificent, cacophonous sort of oratorio, with soloists and choir members agreeing about little except that the time has come for American art to take its place on the world stage.'  It is a book that every art lover will treasure. 
In this fascinating anthology Jed Perl has given narrative shape and structure to a wide range of voices: poets, artists themselves, and various other articulate observers of the amazing metamorphoses of postwar American art.  What emerges is surely one of the defining records of our artistic era. John Ashbery  
Jed Perl has compiled an invigorating panorama of art writing from a crucial quarter century, adding vital context with his incisive commentaries.  As today's art writers suffer diminishing visibility, the pleasure to be had exploring this collection comes as a salutary shock.  An unexpectedly, compulsive read. Elizabeth C. Baker, editor-at-large, Art in America

  • Published: 22 October 2014
  • ISBN: 9781598533101
  • Imprint: Library of America
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 896
  • RRP: $55.00

About the author

Jed Perl

Jed Perl was born in New York City in 1951. He received a BA from Columbia College and studied painting at the Skowhegan School in Maine.
He was a contributing editor to Vogue in the 1980s and has been the art critic for The New Republic since 1994. Among his books are PARIS WITHOUT AN END: ON FRENCH ART SINCE WORLD WAR I and EYEWITNESS: REPORTS FROM AN ART WORLD IN CRISIS. He lives in New York City with his wife, the painter Deborah Rosenthal.

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