By Serge Guilbaut
"A provocative interpretation of the political and cultural heritage of the early chilly warfare years. . . . by way of insisting that artwork, even artwork of the avant-garde, is a part of the final tradition, now not self sufficient or above it, he forces us to imagine another way not just approximately paintings and paintings historical past yet approximately society itself."â€”New York occasions publication Review
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Additional info for How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom and the Cold War
This contained an attack on corruption and inequality and urged that these evils be eliminated in order to save capitalism, according to MacLeish the only system that allowed the artist sufficient freedom to develop his talents to the full. Clearly, then, the poet's position was an ambiguous one; his attacks on fascism were welcomed with respect on the left and used by both Communists and apolitical artists. MacLeish's virulent attack on the silence of American intellectuals in the face of war in Europe triggered a long series of polemics in which the Nation, the New Republic, and Partisan Review attempted to define the role of the artist and intellectual in wartime.
These men know if the world is not lost, its borders must narrow, its lines of communication quicken and extend, until ideas achieve an almost immediate parlance around the earth. They want American art to have equal voice with that of Europe in the new world, but they check their ambition at this point, knowing that beyond lies the dread bait of imperialism which all men of heart must suspect. Meanwhile, the arts are the only currency left which cannot be counterfeited and which may be passed from nation to nation and from people to people.
We have them hermetically sealed by war against Parisian sponsorship-that leadership we have followed so readily in the past-we are on our own. . ve haunted the galleries during the last decade as much as have the cntics, becau~e of my anxiety to see new talent, intelligent inventions. My report IS sad. I have not discovered one bright white hope. I have not seen one painter veer from his established course. t seen ~ne attempt to experiment, to realize a new method of pamting. SubJect matter, that's the only thing the galleries are showing.