Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: Abstract Expressionism and the American Experience: A Reevaluation by Irving Sandler

Abstract Expressionism and the American Experience: A Reevaluation

What this is and what it is not. What I liked and what I did not like as much.

Well, rather than a defensive or triumphalist work, this time Sandler tries to recover some of the interior considerations and motivations of artists in the period. There's no need to defend the reputation of a Pollock or a de Kooning, there place in art history is secure, whether you like them or not.

So what this book does is to attempt to recover the Zeitgeist of the time, and attempt to answer the question as to why a small group of New York Artists decided to all work in a bold abstract improvisational manner, and eschew finish and prettiness, when there was absolutely no market for such work, and there was no real conviction that America could even be an art center. When he does that, even though other books cover the same facts, he does it really well, taking you inside their minds. Sandler knew many of the artists involved.

What this book will not do is provide large numbers of color illustrations, or full chronologies.

I found the last two or three chapters, which discussed rather idiotic postmodernist revisionist critics and refuted them to be far less interesting. There was little intellectual substance there, not because Sandler is unintelligent, but because the positions that he is attacking are rather silly. They seem to belong in a different book, and if they were replaced by more primary material about the art and Sandler's reflections I might have found the book more complete.

1 comment:

  1. I ran across his earlier book--which I read some time ago--at a bargain store for a buck.


    yep, I am rereading it.

    Will probably review "Triumph of American Painting" too.