New York Figurative Expressionism


New York Figurative Expressionism

New York Figurative Expressionism of the 1950s represented a trend where "diverse New York artists countered the prevailing abstract mode to work with the figure."[1]

Contents

Categories of figurative expressionist modes

  • The figure can refer to an armature or framework on which expressionist canvases are built:

Willem de Kooning, (1904 - 1997); Jackson Pollock, (1912 - 1956); Conrad Marca-Relli, (1913 - 2000)

Larry Rivers, (1923 - 2002); Grace Hartigan (1922 - )

  • Representational portraiture:

Elaine de Kooning, (1918 - 1989); Balcomb Greene, (1904 - 1990); Robert de Niro, Sr., (1920 - 1993); Fairfield Porter, (1907 - 1975); Gregorio Prestopino, (1907-1984); Lester Johnson, (1919 - 2010); George McNeil, (1909 - 1995); and Robert Goodnough, (1917 - ); Irving Kriesberg (1919-2009)

  • ”Allegorical Mythical painting that brought stylistic elements of the German expressionists to the heroic scale of the Abstract expressionists: "[2]

Jan Müller, (1922 - 1958); Robert Beauchamp, (1923 - 1995); Nicholas Marsicano, (1914 – 1991) and Bob Thompson, (1937 - 1966)

According to Klaus Kertess,[3] during the 1950s the figure in its role as harbinger of conservatism became an obvious target for abstractionist defensiveness—a defensiveness prone to blur the vast distinctions between figurative painters and to exaggerate the difference between the figurative and the nonfigurative. It was not until the late sixties and early seventies that the figure was permitted to return from exile and even to make claims to centrality.

Aspects of Figuration in New York, 1950-1964

According to Judith E. Stein,[4] During the war years and into the fifties, the general public was to remain highly suspicious of abstraction, considered by many as un-American. While the art critic Clement Greenberg successfully fought the public’s negative response to abstraction his attempt to intimidate the New York figurative painters of the fifties was less successful. A conversation recollected by Thomas B. Hess emphasized the perceived power of the critic: [5] “It is impossible today to paint a face, pontificated the critic Clement Greenberg around 1950. “That’s right,” said de Kooning, “and it‘s impossible not to.” In the winter of 1953 a new journal was founded, Reality.[6] The editorial committee included:

The Journal’s intention was “to rise to the defense of any painter’s right to paint any ways he wants.”

In the Autumn of 1959 Philip Pavia, the “partisan publisher” of It is, a magazine of abstract art wrote in an open letter to Leslie Katz, the new publisher of Arts Magazine:[7] “I am begging you to give the representational artist a better deal. The neglected representational and near-abstract artists, not the abstractionists, need a champion these days.”

Although the New York Figurative Expressionists lacked advocates of the stature of Clement Greenberg or Harold Rosenberg, they were recognized by critics who perceived them as the new radicals.[8] “representatives of a new generation to whom figurative art was in a sense more revolutionary than abstraction.”

The literary historian, Marjorie Perloff has made a convincing argument that Frank O'Hara’s poems on the works of Garace Hartigan and Larry Rivers proved “that he was really more at home with painting that retains at least some figuration than with pure abstraction.”[9] Frank O’Hara wrote an elegant defense in ”Nature and New Painting," 1954.[10] He listed the following artists:

who responded to “the siren-like call of nature.” O’Hara aligned the New York Figurative Expressionists within abstract expressionism, which had always taken a strong position against an implied protocol, “whether at the Metropolitan Museum or the Artists Club.” Thomas B. Hess, [11] wrote that “the ‘New figurative painting’ which some have been expecting as a reaction against Abstract Expressionism was implicit in it at the start, and is one of its most lineal continuities.”

Books

References

  1. ^ Paul Schimmel and Judith E Stein, The Figurative fifties : New York figurative expressionism, Introduction (Newport Beach, Calif. : Newport Harbor Art Museum : New York : Rizzoli, 1988.)ISBN 0847809420 9780847809424 0917493125 9780917493126
  2. ^ Paul Schimmel and Judith E Stein, The Figurative fifties : New York figurative expressionism (Newport Beach, Calif. : Newport Harbor Art Museum : New York : Rizzoli, 1988.)ISBN 0847809420 9780847809424 0917493125 9780917493126 p.15
  3. ^ Paul Schimmel and Judith E Stein, The Figurative fifties : New York figurative expressionism, The Other Tradition (Newport Beach, Calif. : Newport Harbor Art Museum : New York : Rizzoli, 1988.)ISBN 0847809420 9780847809424 0917493125 9780917493126 p.17
  4. ^ Paul Schimmel and Judith E Stein, The Figurative fifties : New York figurative expressionism, Figuring Out the Fifties, (Newport Beach, Calif. : Newport Harbor Art Museum : New York : Rizzoli, 1988.)ISBN 0847809420 9780847809424 0917493125 9780917493126 pp. 37-51
  5. ^ Willem De Kooning; Thomas B. Hess; M. Knoedler & Co., De Kooning; recent paintings, (New York, Walker and Company, 1967.) OCLC: 320929 p.40
  6. ^ ”Editorial,” Reality, A Journal of Artists’ Opinions (Spring 1954), p.2 and p.8
  7. ^ Philip Pavia, “An Open Letter to Leslie Katz, Publisher of Arts Magazine, New York City,” It is (Autumn 1959), p.79
  8. ^ Martica Sawin, “Jan Müller: 1922-1958,” Arts Magazine 33 (February 1959), p.39
  9. ^ Mrjorie Perloff, Frank O’Hara, poet among painters, (New York: G. Braziller, 1977.) ISBN 0807608351:9780807608357 p.85
  10. ^ Frank O’Hara, Nature and new painting, (New York: Tiber Press, 1954.) OCLC 6890031
  11. ^ Thomas B. Hess, “The Many Death of American Art,” Art News 59 (October 1960), p.25

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