May 28, 2004



I left the house yesterday without a book. This was not OK. "Damn," I thought, "It's a long way to BAM." (There followed a failed attempt at versification involving Prince's "Glam Slam" and soccer player Mia Hamm.) The sidewalk saved me, as it so often does. My LA-bound neighbors had left three boxes of books for the taking on the curb. I grabbed Dore Ashton's The New York School and got on the Q. I know nothing about Ashton and only the bare minimum about the NY school of painters. (Jackson Pollock was bald and yelled at people, if I remember correctly.) The train was a-jumbling over the bridge when this passage popped out:

"War prosperity encouraged a consumer mentality, and entrepreneurs in the arts and business became legion. Some chroniclers have pointed out that certain consumer goods and services were in short ration during the war, forcing a great deal of energy in the direction of the arts. Certainly many business organizations, such as the Container Corporation of America, augmented their activities as sponsors and patrons. Even the great department store, Macy's, found space for a large exhibition of what they called 'living' American art, which was selected by Sam Kootz, who had recently published his Modern American Painters. In Macy's press release, dated December 31. 1941, the exhibition was said to reflect a number of pronounced trends in American painting, among them abstraction, expressionism, surrealism, primtivism, realism, and something called texturism. This was all posed with the end in view of contributing to a 'better understanding of our native work.' And significantly, 'in line with Macy's established policy,' the prices were as 'rock-bottom as possible.' This claim was justified, for the prices of the paintings ranged from $24.97 to $249.00. The show included among its 179 works two paintings by Rothko, entitled Oedipus and Antigone, for less than $200 each, several works by Avery ranging from $49.75 to $124, and equally moderately priced works by Bolotowsky, Holty, George L. K. Morris, and Jean Xceron."

Ashton, Dore. 1972. The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning. New York: Penguin.

(Notice that the author of the press release was working on December 31st.)

Posted by Sasha at May 28, 2004 03:26 PM | TrackBack