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Mexico and American Modernismby Ellen G Landau
Synopses & Reviews
In the years between the two world wars, the enormous vogue of "things Mexican" reached its peak. Along with the popular appeal of its folkloric and pictorialist traditions, Mexican culture played a significant role in the formation of modernism in the United States. Mexico and American Modernism analyzes the complex social, intellectual, and artistic ramifications of interactions between avant-garde American artists and Mexico during this critical period.
In this insightful book, Ellen G. Landau looks beyond the well-known European influences on modernism. Instead, she probes the lesser-known yet powerful connections to Mexico and Mexican art that can be seen in the work of four acclaimed mid-century American artists: Philip Guston (1913–1980), Robert Motherwell (1915–1991), Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), and Jackson Pollock (1912–1956). Landau details how these artists' relationships with the Mexican muralists, expatriate Surrealists, and leftist political activists of the 1930s and 1940s affected the direction of their art. Her analysis of this aesthetic cross-fertilization provides an important new framework for understanding the emergence of Abstract Expressionism and the New York School as a whole.
"In this captivating account, art historian Landau traces the oft-disregarded influence of Mexican culture and aesthetic sensibilities on American Modernism. She focuses on the catalysts that inform the work of four American artists: Philip Guston, Robert Motherwell, Isamu Noguchi, and Jackson Pollock. This emerges in divergent manners, such as in Motherwell's appropriation of the color palate of Mexico and his depiction of its perceived violence, or Pollock's admiration for the Mexican Muralists, which can be read in his epic works. These artists also participated in the Mexican art scene. Consider the towering Guston/Kadish collaborative mural in Morelia, Mexico, or Noguchi's imposing carved relief in Mexico City. Landau's nuanced approach teases out complex motivations such as love affairs, political sympathies, neuroses, friendships, grant money, and of course travels. What perhaps is most striking in this meticulously interwoven study are the chance meetings and happenstances that play such a profound role on their canvases and in their lives. This resistance to reductive proclamations is regrettably rare in art history. Landau's scholarship reanimates the complex intricacies of influence illuminating lives rather than resumes, to show the geopolitical and enigmatic impact Mexico as a place and culture held in the imagination of these American Modernists. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A revolutionary look at the profound impact of Mexico and its culture on the development of American modernism
This groundbreaking book reveals the impact of Mexico and its culture on the development of American modernism and the art of Philip Guston, Robert Motherwell, Isamu Noguchi, and Jackson Pollock.
About the Author
Ellen G. Landau is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emerita of the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University and a leading expert on Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. She specializes in 20th-century American and European art and theory.
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