The geopolitical uses of abstraction

What would have been the geopolitical uses of abstraction? The theory, as it was proposed in articles published in Artforum and other journals in the nineteen-seventies, and then elaborated in Serge Guilbaut’s “How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art” (1983) and Frances Stonor Saunders’s “The Cultural Cold War” (1999), is that abstract painting was an ideal propaganda tool. It was avant-garde, the product of an advanced civilization. In contrast to Soviet painting, it was neither representational nor didactic. It could be understood as pure painting—art absorbed by its own possibilities, experiments in color and form. Or it could be understood as pure expression—a “school” in which every artist had a unique signature. A Pollock looked nothing like a Rothko, which looked nothing like a Gorky or a Kline. Either way, Abstract Expressionism stood for autonomy: the autonomy of art, freed from its obligation to represent the world, or the freedom of the individual—just the principles that the United States was defending in the worldwide struggle. Art critics therefore developed apolitical modes of appreciation and evaluation, emphasizing the formal rigor or the existentialist drama of the paintings; and the Museum of Modern Art favored Abstract Expressionists in its purchases and international exhibitions, at the expense of art whose politics might have been problematic—the kind of naturalist art, for example, that was featured in the “Advancing American Art” exhibition.

(source)

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2 responses to “The geopolitical uses of abstraction

  1. Pingback: The geopolitical uses of abstraction | Reaction Times

  2. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/09/20) | The Reactivity Place

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