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New Art Cityby Jed Perl
Synopses & Reviews
A fascinating, panoramic exploration of art and culture in mid-twentieth-century New York City from one of our most important and influential art critics.
New Art City takes us from the solitude of the artist's studio to the uproarious bars where artists gathered, from the ramshackle bohemian neighborhoods of downtown Manhattan to the Midtown streets where steel-and-glass skyscrapers were rising and art galleries were proliferating. We encounter a kaleidoscopic range of artists. There are legendary figures — Jackson Pollock, David Smith, Willem de Kooning, Joseph Cornell, Andy Warhol, and Donald Judd — as well as still undervalued ones, such as the galvanic teacher Hans Hofmann, the lyric expressionist Joan Mitchell, the adventuresome realist Fairfield Porter, and the eccentric thinker John Graham. We encounter, too, the writers, critics, patrons, and hangers-on who rounded out the artists' world. Jed Perl helps us see what the artists were creating and understand how they confronted an exploding art audience. And he makes clear how the economic boom of the late 1950s and the increasingly enthusiastic response to Abstract Expressionism ushered in the rapacious art world of the 1960s and the theatricality of Pop Art.
Artists drew strength from the dizzying onslaught of Manhattan, and produced a tidal wave of new forms. These included Hofmann's brazen flourishes of color; Pollock's quicksilver skeins of paint unfurling panoramic arabesques; and the crushed, jagged, turning-back-on-itself calligraphy of de Kooning's gnomic alphabets. And there was much more: Burgoyne Diller's levitating rectangles; Nell Blaine's explosive renderings of quotidian scenes; Ellsworth Kelly's extraordinarysimplifications, suggesting sails or semaphores.
A brilliant tapestry of social history, biographical portraiture, and criticism, New Art City illuminates a revolutionary, unprecedented time and place in American culture.
"Perl, the art critic for the New Republic, celebrates the heterogeneous achievements of the New York art world in this elegant, erudite work that sweeps gracefully from the 1940s, when the city was 'the place of dazzling contradictions,' to the 'jangling urgency' of art in the 1970s. Contending that the personal characteristics of an artist's work are shaped by his relationship to the city, especially to its art scene, Perl finds in postwar New York a 'dialectical extravaganza' in which painters and sculptors set about redefining their place in history — aiming not to shatter traditions but to forge new ones. Although giants such as de Kooning and Pollock make significant appearances, this history is equally concerned with 'minor characters' who exerted more subtle influences, such as the painter Earl Kerkam, whose approval Pollock dearly valued. Perl's conversational tone is at times so intimate that the effect is more that of a curator offering a private tour of his exhibition than an art historian's lecture. Or, perhaps, a walking tour that takes readers from downtown studios and artists' taverns to the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art and back again, with a guide whose perceptive eye always steers us toward an unnoticed treasure. 328 illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This panoramic, fascinating book sheds a great deal of new light on the men and women...that met in New York City and forever altered the course of art history....It is a splendid achievement and an exceptionally worthwhile read." Christian Science Monitor
"This may seem like well-mapped terrain...but Perl puts skepticism to rest with the freshness of his vision...and his reclamation of neglected artists." Booklist
"[An] original, expansive, and generously illustrated exploration of the increasingly international art world of mid-20th-century New York City...and [the] cultural factors that resulted in New York's becoming the art capital of the world." Library Journal
"Art history as it should be: neither star-struck nor pretentious, and full of heart." Kirkus Reviews
New York Mid-Century is the story of how the postwar Big Apple emerged as the cultural capital of the world. Annie Cohen-Solal brings alive the influential critics and patrons, the legendary galleries, and the artists themselves. Paul Goldberger presents the modernist architectural masterpieces that created the cityandrsquo;s sleek new profile, highlighting both public and private spaces. Robert Gottlieb invites us to relive the heyday of the musical, explore the great jazz clubs of Harlem, and peek into the inventive studios of the dance world. Richly illustrated with art, photographs, and ephemera, this volumeis a stirring collection of a remarkably fertile period in the cityandrsquo;s history.
An art critic takes a panoramic look at art and culture in mid-20th century New York City, showing readers the solitude of artists' studios to uproarious bars and clubs, from ramshackle bohemian neighborhoods to the Midtown streets.
About the Author
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 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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