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. It shifted the centre of the art world from Paris to New York. Signalled 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 the editor, art critic, and historian 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 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.” Here are the most significant artists’ statements 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; and 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 colour insert, this is a book that every art lover will treasure.