American Abstract Artists


American Abstract Artists

American Abstract Artists (AAA) was formed in 1936 in New York City, to promote and foster public understanding of abstract art. American Abstract Artists exhibitions, publications, and lectures helped to establish the organization as a major forum for the exchange and discussion of ideas, and for presenting abstract art to a broader public. The American Abstract Artists group contributed to the development and acceptance of abstract art in the United States and has a historic role in its avant-garde. ["Pioneers of Abstract Art: American Abstract Artists, 1936-1996", exhibition catalog. Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Baruch College, 1996. Text by Sandra Kraskin. p 5.] It is one of the few artists’ organizations to survive from the Great Depression and continue into the 21st century.

History

During the 1930s abstract art was viewed with critical opposition and there was little support from art galleries and museums. The American Abstract Artists group was established in 1936 as a forum for discussion and debate of abstract art and to provide exhibition opportunities when few other possibilities existed. ["Pioneers of Abstract Art: American Abstract Artists, 1936-1996", Sandra Kraskin. p 5, 9.] In 1937 AAA issued a “General Prospectus.” It outlined the purpose of the organization and the importance of exhibitions in promoting the growth and acceptance of abstract art in the United States. [Larsen, Susan C. “The American Abstract Artists: A Documentary History 1936-1941”, "Archives of American Art Journal", Vol. 14, No. 1 (1974), p 3.]

AAA held its first exhibition in 1937 at the Squibb Gallery in New York City. This was the most extensive and widely attended exhibition of American abstract painting and sculpture outside of a museum during the 1930’s.For the 1937 exhibition AAA produced its first print portfolio of original zinc plate lithographs, instead of documenting the exhibit with a catalog. [Larsen, Susan C. “The American Abstract Artists: A Documentary History 1936-1941”, p 3.] Future exhibitions and publications would establish AAA as a major forum for the discussion and presentation of new abstract and non-objective art. ["American Abstract Artists, The Language of Abstraction", exhibition catalog. Betty Parsons Gallery, Marilyn Pearl Gallery, 1979. Text by Susan Larson. p 2.]

The most influential critics dismissed American abstract art as too European and therefore “un-American”. There was extensive hostile criticism of AAA exhibits in New York City newspapers and art magazines of the time. ["Pioneers of Abstract Art: American Abstract Artists, 1936-1996", Sandra Kraskin. p 5.] American abstract art was struggling to win acceptance and AAA personified this. The 1938 Yearbook addressed criticisms levied against abstract art by the press and public. It also featured essays related to principles behind and the practice of making abstract art. In 1940, AAA printed a broadside titled “How Modern is the Museum of Modern Art?” which was handed out at a protest in front of MOMA. [Larsen, Susan C. “The American Abstract Artists: A Documentary History 1936-1941”, p 4, 6.] At the time the Museum of Modern Art had a policy of featuring European abstraction while endorsing American regionalism and scene painting. This policy helped entrench the notion that abstraction was foreign to the American experience. ["Pioneers of Abstract Art: American Abstract Artists, 1936-1996", Sandra Kraskin. p 11.] Later that year AAA produced a 12 page pamphlet: “The Art Critics - ! How Do They Serve the Public? What Do They Say? How Much Do They Know? Let’s Look at the Record.” The AAA publication quoted critics with a minimum of editorializing, highlighting misstatements and contradictions in the press. The pamphlet showed the lack of knowledge the critics from New York City newspapers and art publications had about developments in 20th century art. [Larsen, Susan C. “The American Abstract Artists: A Documentary History 1936-1941”, p 6, 7.]

AAA combated prevailing hostile attitudes toward abstraction and prepared the way for its acceptance after World War II. ["Pioneers of Abstract Art: American Abstract Artists, 1936-1996", Sandra Kraskin. p 5.] AAA was a precursor to abstract expressionism by helping abstract art discover its identity in the United States. [Larsen, Susan C. “The American Abstract Artists: A Documentary History 1936-1941”, p 7.]

During the early 1940’s the New York School gained momentum and throughout the mid 1940’s and 1950’s Abstract Expressionism dominated the American avant-garde. American Abstract Artists continued its mandate as an advocate for abstract art. ["Pioneers of Abstract Art: American Abstract Artists, 1936-1996", Sandra Kraskin. p 25.]

American Abstract Artists is active today. To date the organization has produced over 75 exhibitions of its membership in museums and galleries across the United States. AAA has published 12 Journals, in addition to brochures, books, catalogs, and has hosted critical panels and symposia. AAA distributes its published materials internationally to cultural organizations. ["Continuum: In Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of AAA", exhibition press release. St. Peter's College Art Gallery, O'Toole Library, Jersey City, NJ (March 21 - April 25, 2007).] American Abstract Artist produces print portfolios by its membership. AAA print portfolios are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, Tate in London, ["Pioneers of Abstract Art: American Abstract Artists, 1936-1996", Sandra Kraskin. p 25.] and the Archives of American Art. [Larsen, Susan C. “The American Abstract Artists: A Documentary History 1936-1941”, p 3.]

Footnotes

References

* "American Abstract Artists, The Language of Abstraction", exhibition catalog. Betty Parsons Gallery, Marilyn Pearl Gallery, 1979. Text by Susan Larson.
* Larsen, Susan C. “The American Abstract Artists: A Documentary History 1936-1941”, "Archives of American Art Journal", Vol. 14, No. 1 (1974), p 2-7.
* "Pioneers of Abstract Art: American Abstract Artists, 1936-1996", exhibition catalog. Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Baruch College, 1996. Text by Sandra Kraskin.
* "Continuum: In Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of AAA", exhibition press release. St. Peter's College Art Gallery, O'Toole Library, Jersey City, NJ (March 21 - April 25, 2007).

External links

* [http://www.americanabstractartists.org/ American Abstract Artists]
* [http://www.aaa.si.edu/ Archives of American Art - Smithsonian Institution]
* [http://www.minusspace.com/chronology1930-1939.htm Chronology of related art fields] 1936 listing discusses the founding of AAA


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