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 and shifted the center of the art world from Paris to New York. Signaled 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 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 statements by the most significant artists, 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 color insert, this is a book that every art lover will treasure.
About the Author
JED PERL is the art critic for The New Republic. A former contributing editor at Vogue, he has written on contemporary art for a variety of publications, including The New York Times Book Review and Elle, and is the author of New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century (2005), Eyewitness: Reports from an Art World in Crisis (2000), Gallery Going: Four Seasons in the Art World (1991), and Paris Without End: On French Art Since World War I (1988). He teaches art history at the New School.
"It's a plump, unbuttoned and convivial book, streaked like bacon with gossip and cogitation. . . . [Mr. Perl] is interested in the era's tumult, its howls and murmurs, its wolf whistles and rebel yells. He has raided memoirs, magazines and interviews for material; he's also rummaged through forgotten pamphlets and yellowed correspondence. This is a party that spills out onto the lawn." — Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"Every student ought to have a copy in the studio or carrel. . . . For readers generally concerned about art, Art in America is likely to remain essential for quite a while." — Wall Street Journal
"A powerhouse time capsule of a singular era. Jed Perl's masterful compilation of interviews, diaries, and essays from the post-war legends of word (Capote, Sontag, Kerouac) and image (Warhol, Avedon, Frank) reads like the dinner party of a lifetime." — B&N Review
"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 age." — 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 pleasures to be had exploring this collection comes as a salutary shock. An unexpectedly compulsive read." — Elizabeth C. Baker, editor-at-large, Art in America magazine
"Wondrous. . . . A singular book." — Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News
“Perl is a fiercely fluent word-spinner, with a staggering knowledge of American artists and their critics.” — John Updike