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Contemporary Art What and when is “contemporary”? An Introduction. Cosmopolitan world culture shifted away from the “Modern” paradigm in the decades following World War II: c.1945-1968. Contemporary art is: Post-Europe Post-Modern Post-Colonial.

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contemporary art what and when is contemporary an introduction

Contemporary ArtWhat and when is “contemporary”? An Introduction

Cosmopolitan world culture shifted away from the “Modern” paradigm in the decades following World War II: c.1945-1968. Contemporary art is:




For the quiz on Tuesday, you will write a concise (15-minute) essay about the so-called “end” of modern art: the transition from Paris to New York as the culture capital of the world. What were the major political and social causes of the move? Identify one work of art (name and nationality of artist, title of artwork, date, medium, and movement) that is exemplary of this era. Explain why.

Paris World Fair 1937German Pavilion (left) by Albert Speer with Comrades, by Joseph Thorak(right) USSR Pavilion with Vera Mukhina,The Worker and The Collective Farm Woman,


Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937, 11 x 23 ft, oil on canvas, Paris Worlds Fair, Spanish Pavilion. This painting stayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1939-1981 (death of Franco) and influenced the New York School


ANXIOUS VISIONS mark the end of the Age of Europesocial context of Surrealist imagerySalvadorDali, Soft Construction with Boiled Beans: Premonitions of Civil War1936, oil on canvas, 39 x 39”


Hitler and Goebbels visit the Degenerate Art Exhibition, Munich, 1937(insert below) Max Beckmann, German Expressionist in exile, at MoMA NYC in 1947 with 1933 “degenerate” painting, Departure


(left) Nazi 1937 degenerate music poster – Jazz was despised as Jewish (Star of David) and Black(right) Degenerate art show installation – Dada with artworks by Kurt Schwitters and Paul Klee visible.

Man Ray photo portraits of Marcel Duchamp (French 1887-1966) (right) Duchamp as Rrose Sélavy c. 1920New York Dada

Father of conceptual art, which has characterized major art

(in one way or another), worldwide, since the 1960s


Marcel Duchamp. Bottle Rack, 1914/64, bottle rack made of galvanized ironBicycle Wheel, 1913, “Readymade”: bicycle wheel, mounted on a stool, originals lost


Duchamp, Fountain 1917 (photographed in 1917 by Alfred Stieglitz), New York DADADuchamp said he chose his objects on "visual indifference…as well as a total absence of taste, good or bad."

duchamp l h o o q 1919 reproduction with hand drawn mustache and goatee readymade assisted
Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q, 1919, reproduction with hand drawn mustache and goatee “Readymade Assisted”
national socialist nazi realism arno breker left comradeship 1940 right the party 1938
National Socialist (Nazi) Realism Arno Breker, (left) Comradeship, 1940; (right) The Party, 1938

(Top left) Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister for People's Enlightenment and Propaganda: (Below left) 1938 Nazi propaganda rally in Graz. "We came from the people, we remain part of the people, and see ourselves as the executor of the people's will.“(right) Hans Haacke, And You Were Victorious After All, Graz, Germany, 1988 (Conceptualist appropriation of Nazi propaganda (1938): a public art work attacked and destroyed)


German Fuhrer Adolph Hitler (Austrian,1889-1945) Photograph sent to Eva Braun after occupation of Paris,1940The Fall of Paris is a marker for the end of Modernism


Nazi (Axis) Blitzkrieg of London, beginning in 1941, inaugurating the ceaseless bombing of civilian populations throughout the war by both sides

soviet bombing of berlin august 11 1941
Soviet bombing of Berlin, August 11, 1941

Dresden, September 1945

after fire bombings by British &

American air forces – 30,000 deaths


(left) Francis Bacon (British), panel from Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1947(right) Alberto Giacometti (Swiss), Pointing Man, 1947 Europe after the War: Existentialist Expressionism


American hydrogen bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, August 6, 1945

The total estimated human loss of life caused by World War II was roughly 72 million people. The civilian toll was around 47 million. The Allies lost about 61 million people, and the Axis lost 11 million.

Aftermath of Hiroshima bomb – estimated 170,000 deaths

miyako ishiuchi japanese b 1947 mother s 2000 2005 venice biennale 2005 japanese pavilion
Miyako Ishiuchi (Japanese, b.1947), Mother’s 2000-2005, Venice Biennale 2005 Japanese Pavilion
post colonialism is one of the most important historical contexts for globalism
Post-colonialismis one of the most important historical contexts for globalism

Decolonization of Europe’s world empires

occurred after the two world wars.


The Algerian War of Independence from France (1954 -1962), one of many such ant-colonial wars for national identity. De-colonization characterized the post-modern period.

Bomb blast, Algiers, 1957

Poster for film about the Algerian

War of Independence from France.


Berlin Wall, August 13, 1961, the German Democratic Republlic (Communist East Germany) began under the leadership of Erich Honecker to block off East Berlin and the GDR from West Berlin by means of barbed wire and antitank obstacles. Construction crews replaced the provisional barriers by a solid wall.


USSR under Joseph Stalin, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, de facto dictator from 1928-1953 Karp Trokhimenko (Ukraine,1885-1975), as Organizer of the October Revolution, oil on canvas, 85 x 117 cm, early 1940s. Commissioned by the Stalinist government.

Socialist Realism was mandated by totalitarian dictators, Stalin, Hitler, and

Mao and came to be called “totalitarian art.”


Vitaly Komar (b. Moscow,1943) and Alex Melamid (b. Moscow,1945)(left) Stalin and the Muses, 1981-2, oil on canvas, 6x7ft 7in.(right) Double Self-Portrait as Young Pioneers, 1982-83, oil on canvas, 72 x 50 in. (from Nostalgic Socialist Realism series).

After 1989 and the end of the Cold War, the relationship to Europe’s past implied by “post” (postmodern, postcolonial, etc.) has dropped away. Today the hegemonic (dominant) world cultural paradigm is globalism.
china post wwii
The People's Republic of China was established on October 1, 1949

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, 1966-1976 – Socialist Realism imposed

China Post WWII

Xin Liliang (1912) The Happy Life

Chairman Mao Gives Us,

Government poster, 1954


To carry the Great Revolution of

Proletarian Culture out to the End, 1972

Work Hard for Speeding Up the Modernization

Of Agricultural Machinery, 1972

Socialist Realism during The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, 1966-1976

Work Hard to Realize the Fourth Five

Year Plan of National Economy, 1972

Quotations of Mao,1967

"The People's Liberation Army of China is a grand school of Mao Tse-tung Thought“1970s Socialist Realism during the Cultural Revolution

(left) Hung Liu (China, b. 1948) with her Socialist Realist painting of Mao as student at the Central Academy of Art, Beijing in early 1970s (right) Hung Liu participating in a Happening with Allan Kaprow at UC San Diego in the early 1980s


Fang Lijun (Chinese, b. 1963) Series 2 No 2, 1991-1992, oil on canvas, 6 ½ ft square“Cynical Realism” (versus “Socialist Realism” of Mao’s Cultural Revolution)

american abstract expressionism
American Abstract Expressionism

New York becomes the art capital of the world in

the post-war, post-modern decades: c. 1940 -1989

(from the fall of Paris to the fall of the Berlin wall)


FALL OF PARIS AND RISE OF THE NEW YORK SCHOOL(left) Hitler occupies Paris, 1940Photograph of the artists exhibiting in the Artists in Exile show at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, March, 1942. Left to right, first row: Matta, Ossip Zadkine, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger; second row: André Breton, Piet Mondrian, André Masson, Amédée Ozenfant, Jacques Lipchitz, Pavel Tchelitchew, Kurt Seligmann, Eugene Berman.


Max Ernst (French, born Germany, 1891–1976), exile from Paris to NYC in 1941 Europe After the Rain, 1942-44, oil on canvas, 21x 58”Decalomania, Surrealist “Anxious Visions,” and automatist methods


André Masson (French, 1896-1987), emigrated to US in early 1940s(left) Why dids’t thou bring me forth from the womb?, 1923, pen & ink on paper(right) Battle of Fishes, 1926, sand, gesso, oil, pencil, and charcoal on canvas, 14 x 28”

Surrealist sources influential on New York artists: abstract biomorphism,

automatism, and mythological subjects

Wilfredo Lam, (Cuban French, 1902 -1982)(left) The Jungle, gouache on paper mounted on canvas, 1943; (right) The Warrior, 1947

Between 1942 and 1950, Lam exhibited regularly at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York.

Négritude and Créolité: Modernism in Diaspora

new york interwar modernism
New York Interwar Modernism

Stuart Davis (US, 1892-1964)

Lucky Strike, oil on canvas, 1921

“Colonial Cubism”


Isamu Noguchi (Japanese-American,1904-1988) Kouros, 1945, pink Georgia marble on slate base, 117” H. Compare Kouros, Attic, late 7th c.BC, marble, 76” (both in NYC at the Metropolitan MA(right) Noguchi, Herodiade set for Martha Graham, 1935: Biomorphic Surrealism


(left top) Buson, by Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988). Japan, Kita Kamakura, 1952. Unglazed Karatsu stoneware, 8-1/4 x 6-1/2 x 3-3/8”. (right) Great Rock of Inner Seeking1974, basalt, H:127 7/8” with stone commemorating poet Buson near Osaka Japan; (below left) Noguchi Garden Museum, Long Island City with traditional garden in Japan.

Transcultural art

avant la lettre


Joseph Cornell (US, 1903-1972), (left) Untitled (The Hotel Eden), 1945, assemblage with music box, 15 x 15 x 5” (right) Lilly Tosch, 1935, collage. Surrealism/Dada/Constructivism


Louise Bourgeois (French-American, b.1911), (left) Quarantania, 1947-53, painted wood on wood base, 62” high(right) photoportrait of Bourgeois by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1982


Mexican Modernists active in US in the 1930s(left) David Siqueiros (Mexican, 1896-1974), Echo of a Scream, 1937(right) José Orozco (Mexican 1883-1949), The Epic of American Civilization: Modern Migration of the Spirit, fresco mural: 14th panel, Dartmouth College, 1932-34


Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886-1957) Man, Controller of the Universe, fresco, Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City, 1934; Incomplete Rockefeller Center New York City original was destroyed. Communist Social Realism (rejection of modernist style)


Thomas Hart Benton (US,1889-1975),Steel, from the America Today murals, The New School, New York City, 1930, tempera with oil glaze. Regionalism (Social Realism and rejection of modernist style, which he called “Ellis Island Art”

Self-Portrait for Time, 1934


Dorothea Lange (US, 1895 -1965), (left) Migrant Mother, 1936; (right) White Angel Breadline, San Francisco, 1933, Social RealismThe Great Depression (1929-1940) and the Works Progress Administration and Farm Security Administration (WPA-FSA) employed around 6000 artists, more than half of whom lived in New York


Hans Hofmann (Germany,1880 - NYC,1966), (center) Still Life With Fruit and Compote, 1936, o/c; compare (right) Henri Matisse, Woman with Hat (Madame Matisse), 1905 (Fauvism); and Wassily Kandinsky, Composition IV, 1916 (Blue Rider expressionism)

Bridge figure between Europe and US


Hans Hofmann, (left) Afterglow, c.1940, o/c; (right) The Golden Wall, 1961, 60 x 70”, o/c“Action Painting” and “Push-Pull” color theory

Search for the Real

Hofmann’s pedagogical essays


(left top) Arshile Gorky (Armenian-American,1904-1948), Painting, 1936-7, o/c, 38 x 48”Sources: (top right) Picasso, c. 1932 and (below right) Joan Miro, 1933 Biomorphic Cubist Surrealism // Bridge figure between Europe and US

Gorky & Willem de Kooning in Gorky’s

Studio, Union Square, NYC, 1936


(left) Arshile Gorky, Water of the Flowery Mill, 1944; (left below) Gorky, Virginia Landscape (Untitled, Study for Pastoral Series), graphite, pastel and crayon on paper 1943. Compare: (right) Roberto Matta, Birth of America, 1942

the irascibles abstract expressionists life magazine cover story 1951
“The Irascibles” (Abstract Expressionists), Life Magazine cover story, 1951

Theodoros Stamos, Jimmy Ernst, Barnett Newman, James Brooks, Mark Rothko, Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, Bradley Walker Tomlin, Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, Hedda Sterne


Post WW II: New York becomes the capital of the art world(left) Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) painting, 1950 (right) Willem de Kooning (1904–97) painting Woman I, 1951