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ARTH208: Modern Art

Unit 5: The Fall of Paris and the Rise of the American Avant-Garde: Abstract Expressionism   In this unit, you will learn about the global shift that took place in modern art, both leading up to and following World War II, in which New York replaced Paris as the cultural capital of the world. This unit will focus on Abstract Expressionism, one of the most celebrated and important American art movements. You will learn about the American artists (native-born and naturalized) who constituted this new American avant-garde, and how they were influenced by key historical events and political philosophies from the World War II era. Finally, you will read examples of art criticism from the mid-20th century and become familiar with the important role criticism and theory played in the continuing development of modern art.

Unit 5 Time Advisory
Time Advisory:  This unit should take you 27.75 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 16 hours ☐    Subunit 5.1.1: 6 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.1.1: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 5.1.1.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.1.3: 1.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 5.1.1.4: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 5.1.1.5: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 5.1.2: 6 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.2.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.2.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.2.3: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.2.4: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.3: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.3.1: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 5.1.3.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.1.3.3: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2: 11.5 hours ☐    Subunit 5.2.1: 5.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.2.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.2.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.2.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 5.2.2.4: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.2: 6 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.3.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.3.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.3.3: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.3.4: 1.5 hours

☐    Assessment: 0.25 hour

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Describe the key events that caused New York City to become the international hub for avant-garde artists. - Define the Abstract Expressionist movement and identify the artists who comprised The New York School. - Identify Abstract Expressionist artists from this time period (1940–59) by their works. - Explain the importance of pure abstraction as an artistic medium, and articulate why abstract art was so important in the post-war world. - Compare and contrast the major ideas promoted by the art critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg.

5.1 Emergence of the New York School   5.1.1 The Fall of Paris   5.1.1.1 The Federal Art Project   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Organizations: “Federal Art Project of The Works Progress Administration (WPA)” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Organizations: “Federal Art Project of The Works Progress Administration (WPA)” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. The Works Progress Administration proved to be a fundamental training ground for a number of artists tied to Early American Modernism and, later on, Abstract Expressionism. While reading this page, pay close attention to the artists associated with the Federal Art Project and other divisions of the WPA. Think about what purpose these artists served during this time period (socially, politically, and culturally), and how their time with the WPA informed their later work.
 
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5.1.1.2 Thomas Hart Benton   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Thomas Hart Benton” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Thomas Hart Benton” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Thomas Hart Benton is well known as one of the pioneers of a style referred to as American Regionalism, or simplyRegionalism.  Read this page carefully and while doing so note any references to this style.  What is the definition of American Regionalism? Furthermore, consider the social and political climate of the time and consider why Regionalism was significant within this context.  Consider how Benton could go on to be the teacher of the Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock.
 
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5.1.1.3 Hans Hofmann   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Hans Hofmann” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Hans Hofmann” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Hofmann was a major twentieth-century artist for various reasons, including his vital role as an educator and his experience training and producing art alongside a number of European modern masters. While reading this page, pay close attention to Hofmann’s “Push and Pull” theory, along with some of his other art theories, and consider the reasons that Hofmann’s influence was felt so widely by the Abstract Expressionists.
 
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5.1.1.4 Piet Mondrian   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Piet Mondrian” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Piet Mondrian” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. In this page, there are multiple references to “abstract” art or “abstraction.” Pay close attention to these references, look carefully at Mondrian’s Major Works, and consider why the artist’s works are a good example of pure abstraction.  Also, there are many paths artists took to arrive at abstraction.  Consider how Mondrian started creating abstract works.
 
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5.1.1.5 The Emergence of New York’s MoMA   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Museums: “The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Museums: “The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Although it is commonplace today, in 1929, when MoMA was founded, the concept of a museum devoted to modern, or new, art was a highly unusual one. Consider why this was such an extraordinary idea. Furthermore, look for references in this page to the museum’s founding principles, the reasons for MoMA’s success, and, finally, cases when the museum failed to respond to key trends in modern art. As an option, you may wish to read The Art Story Foundation’s Art Influencer page on “Alfred H. Barr, Jr.”
 
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  • Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Art Influencer: “Alfred H. Barr, Jr.” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Art Influencer: “Alfred H. Barr, Jr.” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please read the linked page in full.
     
    NOTE: This is an OPTIONAL READING, and is not factored into the time advisory for this subunit.

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5.1.2 Abstraction Expressionism: The American Avant-Garde   5.1.2.1 Abstract Expressionism   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Movements: “Abstract Expressionism” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Movements: “Abstract Expressionism” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Up until the emergence of Abstract Expressionism, the principal modern art movements had all been based in Europe. While reading this page, note any references to the other movements, artists, and philosophies that directly influenced Abstract Expressionist artists, and point to specific examples.
 
Additionally, consider the reasons for why Abstract Expressionism was a uniquely American movement, and the ways in which it transformed the landscape of modern art. As an option, you may wish to visit and review events from The Art Story Foundation’s Timelines: “Abstract Expressionism Movement Timeline”.  Finally, what links together all these different artists and personalities into this movement.
 
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  • Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Timelines: “Abstract Expressionism Movement Timeline” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Timelines: “Abstract Expressionism Movement Timeline”
     
    Instructions: Please read the linked page in full.
     
    NOTE: This is an OPTIONAL READING, and is not factored into the time advisory for this subunit.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.1.2.2 Jackson Pollock   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Jackson Pollock” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Jackson Pollock” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Jackson Pollock is best known for his drip, or spatter, paintings - an unusual technique that redefined the modern conception of abstraction. While reading this page, look closely for references to Pollock’s drip technique. Consider why it garnered so much critical attention during this time. Additionally, look closely for references to Pollock’s ties to the critic Clement Greenberg, one of the most important artist-critic relationships in all of art history. Take notes on Greenberg’s critical opinion of Pollock’s work.
 
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5.1.2.3 Mark Rothko   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Mark Rothko” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Mark Rothko” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Rothko’s work is among the most recognizable in all of modern art, and certainly amongst the Abstract Expressionists. Read carefully and take notes on Rothko’s painting style, his “multi-forms,” and, in particular, his personal philosophy and beliefs. Ask yourself what Rothko was trying to achieve through his art. For additional clarity on his philosophy, look to the Writings and Ideas section of this page. Additionally, consider that in life Rothko disliked being called an “abstractionist.” What can you infer from your reading of this page that would help explain why this would be so?
 
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5.1.2.4 Barnett Newman   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Barnett Newman” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Barnett Newman” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. In this page, look closely for references to Newman’s signature “zip” paintings, as well as specific passages devoted to Newman’s thoughts and theories concerning “the first man,” specifically his essay titled, “The First Man Was an Artist.” What was Newman attempting to communicate with the “zip” painting?
 
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5.1.3 Existentialism and “Action” Painting   5.1.3.1 Existentialism   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Modern Art Terms: “Existentialism” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Modern Art Terms: “Existentialism” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Take note of the individuals associated with Existentialism, and in particular the artists who were inspired by this school of thought. Review the Major Works, considering how each work may be seen as an example of Existentialism in art. As an option, you may consider reading the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s essay “Cézanne’s Doubt” in order to obtain a deeper understanding of the Existentialist philosophy and its relationship to modern art.
 
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  • Reading: University of Massachusetts Lowell: Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s “Cézanne’s Doubt” Link: University of Massachusetts Lowell: Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s “Cézanne’s Doubt”
     
    Instructions: Please read the linked page in full.
     
    NOTE: This is an OPTIONAL READING, and is not factored into the time advisory for this subunit.
     
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5.1.3.2 Willem de Kooning   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Willem de Kooning” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Willem de Kooning” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Among the Abstract Expressionist artists, de Kooning was perhaps the most controversial, particularly when it came to his Womenpaintings. While reading this page, take notes on any references made to these paintings and cite reasons why they were judged so harshly.
                       
Additionally, you should consider revisiting The Art Story Foundation’s Modern Art Terms page, “Abstract vs. Figurative Art,” to re-familiarize yourself with the definition(s) of abstract art, specifically as it relates to the Abstract Expressionists. After reading about de Kooning and looking at his Major Works, consider how much of Willem de Kooning’s art fits into both categories, citing specific examples where possible.
 
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  • Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Modern Art Terms: “Abstract vs. Figurative Art” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Modern Art Terms: “Abstract vs. Figurative Art,” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please read the linked page in full.
     
    NOTE: This is an OPTIONAL READING, and is not factored into the time advisory for this subunit.
     
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5.1.3.3 Franz Kline   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Franz Kline” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Franz Kline” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. The work of Franz Kline represents a leading example of the style known as “action painting.” While reading this page, identify passages that reference Kline’s own feelings about the meaning behind his art—or the lack thereof. As an option, you may wish to read the Wikipedia page on “Action Painting”to familiarize yourself with the term and what it entails.
 
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  • Reading: Wikipedia’s “Action Painting” Link: Wikipedia’s “Action Painting” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please read the linked page in full.
     
    NOTE: This is an OPTIONAL READING, and is not factored into the time advisory for this subunit.
     
    Terms of Use: The article above is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0 (HTML).  It is attributed to Wikipedia and the original version can be found here (HTML).

5.2 Teachers, Writers, and the New Abstractionists of Mid-Century   5.2.1.1 Clement Greenberg   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Art Theory and Art Critics: “Clement Greenberg” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Art Theory and Art Critics: "Clement Greenberg"   (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Clement Greenberg was one of the two most important mid-century art critics and theorists, and instrumental in promoting the work of key abstract artists. While reading, take note of the specific artists Greenberg celebrated. Also, take notes on some of Greenberg’s ideas, particularly concerning abstract art and its significance in the avant-garde. As an option, you may wish to read Greenberg’s essay “ ‘American-Type’ Painting” and/or “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” to obtain greater knowledge on Greenberg from a primary source.
 
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  • Reading: Google Books: Clement Greenberg’s “‘American-Type’ Painting” Link: Google Books: Clement Greenberg’s “‘American-Type’ Painting”
     
    Instructions: Please read the linked page in full.
     
    NOTE: This is an OPTIONAL READING, and is not factored into the time advisory for this subunit.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: sharecom.ca: Clement Greenberg’s “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” Link: sharecom.ca: Clement Greenberg’s “Avant-Garde and Kitsch”
     
    Instructions: Please read the linked page in full.
     
    NOTE: This is an OPTIONAL READING, and is not factored into the time advisory for this subunit.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.2.1.2 Harold Rosenberg   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Art Theory and Art Critics: “Harold Rosenberg” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Art Theory and Art Critics: “Harold Rosenberg” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Rosenberg is well known as the critic who coined the term “action painting,” and who, along with Clement Greenberg, was the major art critic of his generation. While reading this page, take note of Rosenberg’s development as an art critic and essayist, beginning with “The Fall of Paris” and ending with “Revolution and the Concept of Beauty.” Cite examples that establish Rosenberg’s writing as significant to art of this era and how his writing changed people’s understanding of modern art. As an option, you may wish to read excerpts from Rosenberg’s essay “The American Action Painters”for additional context.
 
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  • Reading: pooter.net: Harold Rosenberg’s “The American Action Painters" Link: pooter.net: Harold Rosenberg’s “The American Action Painters”
     
    Instructions: Please read the linked page in full.
     
    NOTE: This is an OPTIONAL READING, and is not factored into the time advisory for this subunit.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.2.1.3 Greenberg vs. Rosenberg (“American-Type” vs. “Action” Painting)   - Reading: Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Art Critics Comparison: “Clement Greenberg vs. Harold Rosenberg” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Art Critics Comparison: “Clement Greenberg vs. Harold Rosenberg” (PDF)

 Instructions: Read the linked page in full. This comparison chart
is crucial to understanding how Greenberg and Rosenberg respectively
approached a number of topics, artists, and theories. Read this page
carefully and identify specific examples that discuss key
differences and similarities between them. What was is at the heart
of the debate between these two theoreticians?  
    
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5.2.1.4 Leo Steinberg and His Other Criteria   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Art Theory and Art Critics: “Leo Steinberg” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Art Theory and Art Critics: “Leo Steinberg” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. When examining the important art critics of the 20th century, it is perhaps easy to overlook anyone who wasn’t Greenberg or Rosenberg. However, the critical writing of Leo Steinberg had a lasting impact on people’s understanding and appreciation of modern art forms. While reading this page, look for references to Steinberg’s “Other Criteria.” What does Steinberg mean by “Other Criteria,” and how did he apply this idea to artists like Picasso, de Kooning, and Jasper Johns?
 
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5.2.2 A New Art Criticism   5.2.2.1 Helen Frankenthaler   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Helen Frankenthaler” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Helen Frankenthaler” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Helen Frankenthaler was a pioneer of Color Field painting. Identify the definition of Color Field painting, consider how Frankenthaler’s work is a key exemplar of this style, and, finally, think about how Frankenthaler’s art is both similar to and different from the work of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists. As an option, you should consider reading “Color Field Painting”on The Art Story Foundation’s Movements page.
 
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  • Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Movements: “Color Field Painting” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Movements: “Color Field Painting” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please read the linked page in full.

    NOTE: This is an OPTIONAL READING, and is not factored into the time advisory for this subunit.
     
    Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of The Art Story Foundation and can be viewed in its original form here (HTML).  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

5.2.2.2. Kenneth Noland   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Kenneth Noland" Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Kenneth Noland” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Noland’s art represents a key example of the style known as Post-Painterly Abstraction, a term coined by ClementGreenberg. Noland employed a number of motifs in his art, using instantly recognizable forms and shapes that became his signature. Identify these different motifs and consider what Noland was attempting to achieve with such paintings. Would you regard Noland’s art as abstract? Finally, consider which characteristics of Noland’s art make it modern. As an option, you might wish to read The Art Story Foundation’s Movements page, “Post-Painterly Abstraction.”
 
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  • Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Movements: “Post-Painterly Abstraction” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Movements: “Post-Painterly Abstraction” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please read the linked page in full.
     
    NOTE: This is an OPTIONAL READING, and is not factored into the time advisory for this subunit.
     
    Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the kind permission of The Art Story Foundation and can be viewed in its original form here (HTML).  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder. 

5.2.2.3 Ellsworth Kelly   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Ellsworth Kelly” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Ellsworth Kelly” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read the linked page in full. In addition to Color Field painting, Kelly’s art also falls into the category of Hard-Edge painting. Identify the definition of Hard-Edge painting, and consider how Kelly’s work is a key example of this technique. In addition, look for descriptions of Kelly’s use and application of color (“bold,” “solid,” “monochromatic,” etc.), and how these elements apply to both Color Field and Hard-Edge painting. And like the art of his contemporaries (i.e., Frankenthaler and Noland), consider whether Kelly’s art is truly abstract. Finally, consider Kelly’s use of shaped canvases, the sculptural elements of his work, and how his art represented a new phase in the development of abstract modern art.

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5.2.2.4 Richard Diebenkorn   - Reading: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Richard Diebenkorn” Link: The Art Story Foundation’s Artists: “Richard Diebenkorn” (PDF)

 Instructions: Read the linked page in full. Diebenkorn and his art
were directly influenced by his geographical surroundings, more so
than many of his modern art predecessors and certainly more so than
the leading first-generation Abstract Expressionists. While reading
this page, look for references to the various locales Diebenkorn
inhabited throughout his career and cite examples, using his Major
Works as reference material, of how particular artworks were
informed by these changes in geography.  

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  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation's "Unit 5 Short-Answer Questions" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Unit 5 Short-Answer Questions" (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above to download this assessment.  Please complete all of the questions for the Unit 5 Short-Answer Questions, and then check your answers against the Saylor Foundation's "Sample Answers to Unit 5 Short-Answer Questions." (PDF) You should spend approximately 30 minutes completing 3 out of the 5 questions. 

5.3 Post-Painterly Abstraction: Second Generation AbEx