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American Art 1945-1970: An Introduction By Douglas Kellner The American painting presented in Painter's Painting was the one

of the most significant contributions by American artists and movements to the visual arts. During the period from 1940-1970, the center of gravity of modern art shifted from Paris to New York, a major transformation documented in Painter's Painting. In the following text, I would like to situate the story of post-1940s American art as de Antonio presents it within the context of the major art currents produced by the artists in Painter's Painting. These remarks also allow us to contextualize de Antonio's own film about the N.Y. art scene in the context of his understanding of art history, of the significant players, and his own aesthetic tastes and judgement. Modernism and the Moment of Abstract Expressionism Once upon a time the great works of the modernist rebellion in art were all European. Modernism arose as a rebellion in the arts against traditional academic and classical forms of painting, literature, music, and the other arts. In the 1850s, Parisian poet Charles Baudelaire called for a form of modern poetry that would be able to capture the uniqueness of modern experience, especially the shocks of modern urban experience. His successor Arthur Rimbaud demanded that art be "absolutely modern" and poet Ezra Pound required that artists "make it new." European modernism in the nineteenth and twentieth century formed avant-garde Bohemian movements with each new group claiming to be the vanguard of art, the most advanced art of its day (hence the military metaphor of the "avant garde"). In the field of painting, modernist groups promoting French impressionism, German expressionism, Italian futurism, Russian constructivism, and others became international and spawned new movements like surrealism, dada, vorticism, and others that called for a revolution of art and life. Paris was considered the world capital of painting in the twentieth century and most of the great modernist painters moved and painted there, including Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Leger, Modigliani, and countless others. French modernism, especially cubism, was relentlessly moving toward abstraction, toward creating a new world of painting autonomous from everyday reality, art as a realm unto itself. Breaking with the illusionism of Renaissance perspective and classical attempts to create threedimensional surfaces, cubism reduced paintings to abstract lines and planes, flattening the surface of art to a twodimensional field. The cubists also produced abstract forms

of objects, reducing objects to "cubes" or geometrical shapes. Cubists like Picasso or Braque depicted relationships between forms, producing new surfaces that stressed the interrelatedness of objects. The cubist paintings of Picasso and Braque existed in their own space, they created their own world, a field that abstracted from the denseness and heaviness of the real world in order to create a purified realm of forms, of images, of abstract representations of the real. Of course, cubist painting tended to be iconic signs of the everyday world from which they abstracted in order to provide purer, more geometrical, forms, shapes, and lines. Their representations of guitars or apples alluded to real ones, standing as signs of everyday objects. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, avant garde modernism triumphed in painting, literature, music, architecture, and the other arts, creating aesthetic revolutions and a sense that art should be innovative, advanced, modern. Modern art became both a movement and a slogan to attack all traditionalism, all the dominant academic forms. Throughout the 1930s, Paris was universally claimed as the capital of modernist art, as the center from which all the most advanced modernist art would emerge. But during the 1940s, a group of American artists would challenge and go beyond European modernism, creating new forms and practices of art. Abstract Expressionism: The American Revolution in Art With the exception of Mondrian, Kandinsky, Klee, the Russian constructivists, Dadaists, and surrealists, the European movement did not move far beyond cubism in the drive toward abstraction and even most of these painters and movements did not move resolutely and consistently toward non-representational abstract art. This step was left for the American painters of the New York scene of the 1940s and 1950s. Previously, the United States was something of a backwater in international art, with American painters achieving few breakthroughs or international renown. The Abstract Expressionists, however, took up the challenge of European modernism, to continually revolutionize art and to produce new forms and types of art. In successfully meeting this challenge, the mostly New York based abstractionists of the 1940s and 1950s catapulted New York to the center of the world art scene and produced the first internationally significant American artists. The New York artists were familiar with the key works of European modernism which were exhibited in the United States during the early decades of the twentieth century. The mostly New York based artists who would soon revolutionize art --taking modernism to a higher plane -- experienced the key artists and movements of European modernism in New York

museums and galleries, absorbing influences from such modern masters as Klee, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Matisse, Picasso, Miro, and Lger, and movements like cubism, Dada, and surrealism. These European modernists, who carried through a series of breakthroughs and radical innovations within art, inspired the New York painters to themselves produce genuinely new works, to take art into new spaces and terrains. In Painter's Painting, New York Painter Philip Pavia tells of the discussions held in the art hangout of "The Club" during the 1940s and the debates over the future direction of art. "We had a lot to say," Pavia insisted, "and we did pick up the cudgel of abstract art, which was left behind by the Europeans. They dropped it, and we picked it up and carried it on." Barnett Newman in turn tells how painting was dead for him and his colleagues in the 1940s and how they sought a new art. In the depressing experience of the 1930s and the carnage of World War II, Newman and his colleagues could not think of beautifying the world, of producing a beautiful art, and Newman himself did not want to create a world of pure forms either, in the idealized style of cubism or the perfect geometrical forms of Mondrian. Thus, the painter had to start from scratch, Newman insisted, which for him meant abstracting from the world completely, totally negating both the everyday world of objects and an ideal world of purified forms, in order to explore a new subject matter of color, shapes, lines, and forms. De Antonio brings out the politics of this move toward a more abstract and non-representational art in his interviews and film. The "ugliness" (as it initially appeared) of a Pollock, a Hofmann, a Kline, a de Kooning, or a Newman, is registered from this perspective as a rejection of the existing world, as a refusal to beautify it or idealize it, as an attempt to produce another mode of art articulating an alternative vision. The painters thus opposed the official world of art and the society it beautified even if they did not make explicitly political statements themselves in their work. This move toward a new type of abstract art is often associated with the name of Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) who is frequently presented as the initiator of the dramatic breakthrough in post-World War II American art. Moving from the easel painting to larger forms, Pollock conceived of a more expansive form of painting, somewhere between the mural paintings of the great Mexican muralists and the large-scale productions of Works Projects Administration artists of the depression, who were paid by the U.S. government to decorate banks, airports, and federal buildings. Such large-scale art would be an art of the future, emblematic of the dynamic energies of a new American art, eager to explore new artistic worlds and to create new forms.

Pollock also initiated a new form of action painting, using a gestural mode of painting, bringing into play his entire arm, his whole body, rather than the delicate wrist motion associated with some forms of fine art. Pollock painted on the floor from four sides, using a technique he had observed in the West in Navajo Indian painting. The result was swirling shapes, overlapping forms, thick brushstrokes, dripping paint effects, and an entirely new form of non-representational painting created in a "continuous, gestural, balletic design, like choreography perhaps" (Henry Geldzahler). Pollock attacked his canvas, spontaneously pouring on and brushing the paint into novel abstract patterns, articulating his aesthetic rebellion and creating new forms and a new type of painting. Helen Frankenthaler recollects: The first time I met Pollock I was very young and very shy. I knew his name and I esteemed him and I knew he was an important painter.... What I did learn from him, or --well, yes -- take from him, was the idea of working directly on the floor. At the time I didn't intellectualize it, but it almost physically appealed to me. I did not want a small gesture, standing at the easel with a sable brush, and Cubism, which can be very detailed, minute, and fine, has that essence at times of the easel and the sable brush. I literally wanted to break free, put it on the floor, and throw paint around; and this was very appealing to me. Pollock's work was initially described as "action painting," though the label "Abstract Expressionism" was eventually applied to it and the movement in American painting that Pollock helped spawn. It was more abstract, more non-representational, than any previous form of American art, but it was also expressive and highly subjective in the tradition of German expressionism. As with the German expressionists, the Abstract Expressionists were angry artists who rejected the existing bourgeois world and who created alternative worlds and visions with their distorted images, violent colors, and sometimes bizarre shapes and forms. But Pollock and the Abstract Expressionists went much further toward abstraction and a non-representational art than their German predecessors. The group of painters who revolutionized art and would sometimes be referred to as "The New York School," or "The American School," moved toward the development of increasingly abstract, non-representational art. They formed various groups and coteries, deeply influenced each other, and undertook --along with other formalist, modernist painters -- a combined research program into the

possibilities of abstract painting and the project of creating a new type of art free from traditional forms, conventions, and style. The result was the first significant set of American contributions to world art and the shift of the center of modernism from Europe to the United States, from Paris to New York. Yet many of the painters who contributed to this revolution were European emigres. De Antonio presents, along with Pollock, the German emigre Hans Hofmann, the Dutch emigre Willem de Kooning, and native-born Americans Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell, and Barnett Newman as key figures in the move toward growing abstraction in American art. His choice of the most significant Abstract Expressionists for his film, as I note below, was highly selective and reflected his own tastes and friendships. Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) experienced the rise of Cubism in Paris and knew Picasso, Braque, Matisse, and others in the Paris School. He had also lived in Munich where he knew Kandinsky, Klee, and other major expressionists. A refugee from Nazi Germany who fled to New York, Hofmann became an influential teacher at his now legendary art school on 8th Street in New York. Pollock's wife Lee Krasner studied with him and they lived next door to Hofmann as well. Hofmann took part in many discussions with the New York painters of the day and was an important force in teaching the lessons of European modernism. For Hofmann, artistic representation carried out a metamorphosis of external physical objects into "a selfsustaining spiritual reality." It is the relationship between elements which gives meaning to them and formulates the artist's vision. As sculptor Phillip Pavia notes, Hofmann stressed that a painting was a two-dimensional plane and emphasized the "push and pull" of elements within the painting, within the field of the canvas. Hofmann himself moved toward non-representational painting with abstract forms and shapes positioned eccentrically within flat surfaces. Hofmann also stressed the importance of the role of the artist in society. In a sense, the Abstract Expressionists embodied perfectly the modernist ethos of the artist as hero. The New York artists rebelled against aesthetic and societal conventions, created new and innovative art, and took art deadly seriously, dedicating their lives to the creation of monumental art works. They thus shared the modernist religion of art, the concept of the artist as genius and hero, and undertook the quest to develop lasting and monumental works that had societal and spiritual importance and universal meaning.

A Dutch emigre to the U.S., Willem de Kooning, perfectly embodied this ethos of the modernist art-hero. Taking up the abstract cause in the 1940s, de Kooning merged abstraction with vibrant expressionism. In a series of black and white abstract paintings in the mid-1940s, de Kooning abandoned the clean and closed structures of cubism and produced a powerful set of black and white paintings which had a spontaneous and uncomposed look, and which utilized the canvas as a site of action. De Kooning also painted series of women in the 1940s which became increasingly abstract and non-representational -- a series he continued in later decades. Although he did not have his first solo show until 1948 at the age of 44, he was well-known in N.Y. art circles and emerged as a modern master and one of the most influential contemporary artists by the 1950s. Barnett Newman (1905-1970) produced an extremely abstract type of non-representational art. His breakthrough paintings emerged in 1948 in works that utilized a vertical stripe of a contrasting color or tone to divide his vibrant monochromes into contrasting fields of color. Newman's 1950 and 1952 shows were reviled, not only by bourgeois critics, but by his painter friends who did not appreciate what they saw as his turn away from Abstract Expressionism. These paintings were so abstract that they renounced the expressionist element of the previous generation of painters which were concerned to express strong emotions and distort forms and objects, as in Pollock's action paintings or de Kooning's pictures of women. Newman's work, however, appeared to be about nothing except painting itself, producing pure forms, colors, and shapes devoid of representational content. After Newman once again resumed painting following a few years in the mid-1950s when he gave it up, he again hit his stride and by the late 1950s he was eventually acclaimed by his friends and major critics as one of the great painters of his time. Newman's vertical stripes, or what he called "zips," divided his canvases into competing fields, emanating a certain visual tension, but unifying his painting into a single perceptual field. Highly formalist, Newman consistently pursued his aesthetic vision, producing a monumental legacy of works. Painter's Painting contains a charming interview with Newman just before his death in 1970 and breath-taking shots of his studio after his death which exhibit a wealth of stunning paintings. Another significant figure in the New York art scene, Helen Frankenthaler speaks in the interviews for Painter's Painting of moving from cubism through the action painting of Pollock to creating her own style of non-representational art. Associated with stained color-field painting, Frankenthaler stained her canvases with saturated paint and then proceeded to produce abstract forms and designs. For

Frankenthaler, pure two-dimensional fields of color were at the center of her work and she produced beautiful abstract paintings that balanced color and design. Frankenthaler married Robert Motherwell in 1958 and for the next seven years they influenced each other and her amorphous stained abstractions became tighter in form and structure. Motherwell himself was one of the foremost members of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists. Combining the influences of surrealism, cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Mondrian, and Matisse, Motherwell developed a distinctive style. A series of "Elegies to the Spanish Republic" massed abstract black images against other colors to mourn the defeat of the Republic by fascism. His "Open" series of collage drawings divided his field into abstract structures, with doors or windows to open up the spectator's vision. Motherwell explored different scales and structures with this series which were exhibited throughout the world. In his interview with de Antonio, Motherwell tells of important exhibits in the 1940s in Peggy Guggenheim's gallery of Pollock's work, his own painting, and abstractionists Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko. Guggenheim exhibited the new American painters in the same space with European modernists, stressing the continuities between the new American artists and their European predecessors. Guggenheim made it clear, however, that she was returning to Europe at the end of the war, which she did, creating a need for galleries that would promote the new American modernists -- a project that devolved on Leo Castelli, who became one of the most influential art dealers of all time. De Antonio's History of Contemporary Painting Documentary filmmaker Emile de Antonio was himself an integral part of the New York art scene, promoting and befriending several of the major artists who continued to be close friends. He helped Andy Warhol get started in painting, was an early promoter of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, was very close to Frank Stella, and knew personally many of the painters involved in Geldzahler's New York Metropolitan musuem retrospective of "American Painting and Sculpture -- 1940-1970," upon which Painter's Painting is based. Inevitably, de Antonio therefore had his own take on the N.Y. art scene and it may be useful to recount some of his focuses, biases, and omissions in this section before continuing our narrative. De Antonio stresses in Painter's Painting the important role of museums, galleries, collectors, and critics in promoting the new American art. His friend Leo Castelli -whose gallery emerged as the most important for the new American art -- tells how by the 1950s there were no

galleries which were showing the American abstract artists with their European predecessors and how the American modernists were having trouble selling their paintings at any price. The new abstract art did not initially appeal to the general public or collectors, and corporations had not yet begun to buy large numbers of abstract paintings to adorn their office spaces and corporate headquarters. Only a few critics, such as Thomas Hess and Clement Greenberg, who de Antonio features in interviews, were promoting the new art. This would change by the late 1950s when various forms of abstract painting would come into prominence and would be celebrated throughout the world. Yet Painter's Painting suggests that the anti-bohemian and anti-establishment posture of the first generation of New York artists featured in his film made it difficult to sell their works. Robert Motherwell stresses the heroic impulse to create paintings larger than those accommodated in the usual home or gallery space. Art critic Thomas Hess tells the story of how Adolph Gottlieb went to the Marlborough Gallery one day where he was to have a show and the owner proudly displayed the large space with eleven foot high ceilings. Gottlieb accordingly went home and painted fourteen-feet high paintings which were too large for the gallery and could not be exhibited! Indeed, Newman goes so far to say that: There's no question that my work and the work of the men I respect took a revolutionary position, you might say, against the bourgeois notion of what a painting is as an object, aside from what it is as a statement, because in the end you couldn't even contain it in an ordinary bourgeois home. De Antonio thus presses his interviewees to bring out their oppositional political positions, the ways that their art opposed the dominant art establishment and established society as a whole. Painter's Painting thus strongly focuses on the politics and economics of art. De Antonio is also concerned to bring out the American aspect of the New York art scene, the fact that it constituted a specifically American art and represented a moment in history when the United States became a world power in culture and politics. Regarding his narrative of the beginnings of the postwar New York art scene, de Antonio would be the first to admit that his version of art history is subjective and that his choice of key figures is somewhat arbitrary. By the same token, one can see that the choice of painters by Henry Geldzahler for his retrospective of American painting, which de Antonio filmed was also arbitrary, reflecting his own views and tastes (and perhaps, as with de Antonio, personal friendships). Geldzahler himself claimed that he chief criterion were those painters and works which "deflected" the

course of contemporary painting, which moved into new directions and influenced the course of contemporary art, but as many of his critics stressed, the concept of "deflection" and who the "deflectors" were was itself somewhat subjective and arbitrary. As a rule of thumb, de Antonio picked for him film Painter's Painting artists whose work he liked as key figures in his narrative. For the contemporary painters interviewed in the film, he tended to choose either his long-time friends whose work he long admired, or at least those figures selected in Geldzahler's show whose work he especially liked. Thus, he left out of his presentation of American painting such important contemporary artists as Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb and Franz Kline because as he once put it in the introduction to a book on Painter's Painting: "I loved their work but loved Pollock, de Kooning, and Newman more." In his Journals, however, de Antonio notes that he didn't really like the work of some of these figures, referring to Rothko's work as "boring"; describing minimalists Donald Judd and Robert Morris as "beasts"; and writing of Cy Twombley that "his work is narrow, it is based on the Palmer Method of penmanship." On the other hand, de Antonio's letters reveal that he was unable to arrange interviews with Adolph Gottlieb and Clyfford Still, both of whom's work he admired. Thus, de Antonio's choice of the artists to be interviewed reflected his own personal tastes and biases, and the availability of the artists for interviews. De Antonio's choice of key figures, and the privileging of Pollock and Hofmann as crucial influences, is thus somewhat arbitrary and represents his own view of the American art scene from the 1940s through the 1960s. Film itself, de Antonio always insisted, is arbitrary in what it chooses to focus on and record, and de Antonio always readily admitted his biases and partialities. Painter's Painting thus contains Emile de Antonio's view of post-World War II art and presents a record of those painters and paintings that he found especially significant. Beyond Abstract Expressionism In de Antonio's narrative, the next stages of development in the N.Y. art scene -- Rauschenberg, Johns, Noland, Stella, Poons, etc -- went a stage further, toward more abstraction, but with less expressionism, on one hand, and toward more concern with depicting the objects of everyday life, on another. As Rauschenberg put it: The Abstract Expressionists and myself, what we had in common was touch. I was never interested in their pessimism or editorializing. You have to have time to feel sorry for yourself if you're going to be a good

Abstract Expressionist, and I think I always considered that a waste. As de Antonio recounts in his journals, Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns were close friends with studios in the same building when both emerged as major artists of the period. Rauschenberg first exhibited at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1951 and paintings such as his white series showed a certain inventiveness and proclivity to shock and break accepted aesthetic norms. Influenced by John Cage and Marcel Duchamp who wished to redefine the art object and to present the objects of everyday life as art objects, Rauschenberg made art out of his bed, newspapers, advertisements, found objects, and the other debris of the consumer and media society. In particular, he utilized the collage form to expand the field of painting to include the abstract images and rebellious use of color and form monumentalized by the earlier generation of abstract painters, combined with quotations of classical paintings and ordinary objects and images, all put into his canvases. During the 1950s Jasper Johns exhibited his paintings of targets and flags, and his sculptures made of beer cans and coffee cans with brushes, becoming one of the major influences on the Pop art that emerged in the 1960s. A oneman show at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1958 was especially successful, and he continued to exhibit with Castelli over the years. Johns was deeply concerned with the formal problems of painting with his works, for instance, abstracting from the concreteness of flags to create a pure, flatter, formal image. The goal was not to paint his impression of flags, or to faithfully mirror and reproduce the flag in ultrarealist fashion. Rather, Johns wished to create the flag as a pure art-object, as a self-enclosed form. The flag, or target, was thus chosen for its formal resonance rather than its symbolic associations -- though as Johns tells de Antonio in Painter's Painting one of his relatives, a school teacher, praised Johns for painting the object through which she was trying to instill reverence for the country in her students; conservative critics at the time, however, thought that Johns was being disrespectful to the flag and was a cultural subversive. In Painter's Painting, art dealer Leo Castelli recounts his excitement at seeing Johns work in a show in 1957 and in visiting Jasper Johns's studio while going to Rauschenberg's to arrange for a coming show. Castelli also recounts the incredible leap in prices for Johns' work every two years, thus calling attention to the economic dimensions of the painting scene --indeed, in 1980 the Whitney Museum paid $1 million for Johns "Three Flags," at the time the highest price ever for the work of a living artist. Although not as prolific as Rauschenberg, Johns was highly respected and


influenced both the more abstract hard-edged painters like Frank Stella as well as Pop artists like Andy Warhol. The new American artists who followed the Abstract Expressionists were thus producing genuinely new and exciting art. Whereas the first generation of Abstract Expressionists themselves revolutionized art, by the late 1950s they had produced a new model and form of painting, and their work was endlessly imitated in derivative, mannered, and highly repetitive forms. It was time for another revolt by younger artists and Johns, Rauschenberg, Stella, Warhol, and others were creating new forms of modern art, brilliantly illustrated in Painter's Painting. De Antonio's good friend Frank Stella was one of the breakthrough abstract painters of the era and Painter's Painting reveals Stella to be a highly articulate defender of his version of non-representational art. Stella went beyond Newman in producing a flat, non-representational surface without subject-matter, content, or deeper significance. Whereas Jasper Johns's painting of flags and targets produced representations of real objects, and thus did not totally break with representational art, Stella produced pure shapes, colors, and radically non-representational works. He returned to the geometrical forms of Mondrian and Russian constructivism and produced hard-edged abstract paintings of abstract shapes, colors, and lines. Stella's highly schematic, symmetrical, rational, and repetitive non-representational forms constituted a radical departure from the sort of gesture painting typical of Abstract Expressionism. His work thus carried through a rejection of spontaneous, intuitive vision in favor of a more calculated and planned construction of forms. Stella explored different logical possibilities of color and line in various series of paintings, producing abstract images without associations or cultural resonances. Other abstractionists of the 1950s and 1960s who followed the tracks of Abstract Expressionism include Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and Larry Poons. Noland met Morris Louis in Washington around 1952 and together they worked within the mode of color-field abstraction initiated by Newman, Rothko, Still, and Frankenthaler. This technique involved pouring and staining the paint directly onto the canvas to suppress tactility and to create a flatter, purer surface that is more generated by color than line or form. More interested in the abstract aspect of Abstract Expressionism than the expressionistic aspect, Noland constructed abstract geometric shapes on his canvases. Moving from a target made of concentric circles in 1959, Noland's work was increasingly geometric and hard-edged, developing fields out of colored stripes la Stella. Deeply influenced


by art critic Clement Greenberg, Noland exemplified the purist aesthetic of producing paintings that were just paintings, without any representational elements. Sometimes referred to as "post-painterly abstraction," Noland attempted to suppress painterly elements in favor of purely formal concern such as pure lines and color. Associated with the color-field painters, Jules Olitski began staining his canvas around 1960 and producing abstract color-fields. In 1965, he began spray painting his fields, working with abstract relations between different areas of color. He worked toward an ideal of formlessness in order to draw out the primacy of color in his work. Part of the abstract formalist school, Larry Poons peppered his paintings with small dots and began working in the 1960s toward more geometrical forms, moving toward Op Art, with which he became associated. Anti-Abstract Expressionist, Poons attempted to erase both objective objects and his subjective perceptions and experiences from his work. Stella, Newman, Noland, Olitski, Poons, and others seemed to take abstract painting as far as it could go. This mode of painting was defended by critic Clement Greenberg and formalist critics as authentically pure modernist painting which aims at art for art's sake, at producing autonomous worlds of pure shapes and forms. Advanced painting for Greenberg thus primarily involved itself with the materials of painting and with its primary elements of line, color, shape, and texture. He disliked the impure ready-mades of Jasper Johns and Rauschenberg, and the Pop art that was to follow, championing instead an art of pure form which abstracted itself from everyday life. Reacting against purism and formalism in painting, Rauschenberg and Johns had been painting recognizable figures of mass culture and even putting images of consumer and media culture in their collage paintings (Rauschenberg), or making bronze sculptures of everyday objects like beer cans (Johns). This move constituted a rebellion against the tendencies of high modernism to abstract itself altogether from mass culture and its commercial flora and fauna. But it was the Pop art of Andy Warhol and others which went furthest toward breaking with non-representational art and returning to the materials of everyday life as the substance and form and content of art. The Moment of Pop Thus, American art passed through the stages of a highly subjective Abstract Expressionist art to more objectivist forms of pure non-representational art to return to the objects of everyday life in one of the most exciting and creative periods of world art in which for the first time


American art stood at the forefront of aesthetic innovation. New York was replacing Paris as the center of the world's most exciting artistic innovations and developments, and American art was thus becoming the showcase of the artistic avant-garde. Painter's Painting captures this process with interviews or documentary footage of the key creators and shining images of the key art works. After portraying the rise and decline of Abstract Expressionism and the emergence of new forms of modern art, which often went beyond Abstract Expressionism, Painter's Painting documents the rise of Pop art as the most discussed art of the day and indicates how it reacted against the difficulty and complexity of Abstract Expressionism. De Antonio's film suggests that with those artists labelled as representatives of Pop art (Rauschenberg, Johns, Warhol, Lichtenstein), there was less rage, less alienation, and a more comfortable attitude toward American society. The interview with de Antonio's longtime friend Andy Warhol is especially revealing concerning the changed concept of the American artist from the earlier days of Abstract Expressionism, which continued the romantic mythology of the artist as hero and outsider, in constant war with his or her society. The filming of Andy Warhol caught the artist in characteristic poses in his downtown studio. Filmed into a mirror sitting beside his assistant Brigid Polk, Warhol begins by disarming de Antonio, claiming that it was he, the filmmaker, who got him into art. Warhol claims that: "You [de Antonio] used to gossip about the art people, and that's how I found out about art. You were making art commercial, and since I was in commercial art, I thought real art should be commercial, because you said so. That's how it all happened." De Antonio's Journals, excerpts of which are included on this CD-ROM, of course give a more complicated account of his relationships with Warhol and the ways that he promoted his career. What is significant about Warhol's selfpresentation in Painter's Painting is the way that he depreciates himself and deflates the usual aura of pretension that surrounds major artists. Warhol claims that he has not done any painting in over three years, leaving it all to his assistant, making light of his role as a creative artist -characteristic self-depreciation which de Antonio believed was highly misleading. Indeed, Warhol makes these and other remarks in the form of put-ons, stressing his commercial aims and downplaying the aesthetic significance of his work, and it is not certain how seriously his interviews should be taken. De Antonio, however, thinks that it is very significant that Warhol was the first to really embrace commercial art


and the artifacts of media culture in order to produce Pop art. Whereas Jasper Johns painted representations of real objects, turning them into art objects, Warhol tended to work with images of images, drawing on photography, advertising and commercial images, and various reproductions of "real" objects. Warhol's Pop art thus produced images of images of commercial objects, as well as images of images of stars like Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley, political figures like Mao, or objects like electric chairs. Warhol's Pop art was thus an art of simulacra, second-order images, of representations of representations, and was in this sense more abstract than his predecessors like Jasper Johns, even though his objects looked more "real." But Warhol's real was a hyperreal, a realer than real, producing purified images from previous images. Warhol's use of silkscreens, which literally reproduced in a series of images "original" images from photography or other sources, thus proliferated his art of simulacra and second-order representations. Moreover, Warhol's producing totally flat, one-dimensional art that renounces deeper meanings beyond the images themselves, and his making himself into a flat one-dimensional character ("I want to be a machine") anticipates postmodernism, which itself renounces the real in favor of producing depthless collages of images and words, though with Warhol there is still a residue of tongue in cheek modernist irony and aesthetic subversion. Pop art thus not only depicted the objects of the consumer and media society as the subject-matter of art, but utilized commercial methods and techniques to produce art. And whereas Johns and Rauschenberg continued to make painterly pictures, with signs and traces of their work as artist, Warhol and other Pop artists attempted to be as impersonal and objective as possible, attempting to erase all personal and stylistic elements from their work. The Pop artists returned to representation of images and objects of everyday life and eschewed the non-representational elements still evident in Johns and Rauschenberg. Thus, the Pop artists spurned both the abstraction and expressionism of Abstract Expressionism. Moreover, Warhol represents a totally different figure of the artist from the modernist concept, played out to the hilt by the Abstract Expressionists, of the artist as hero. Instead, for Warhol and Pop, the artist is merely a chronicler of the images of the day, a participant in the media and consumer society. The successful artist, on Warhol's example, is the artist who effectively promotes his or her work and Warhol once said that "publicity" is the greatest art of the 20th century. Indeed, Andy Warhol himself was a master of publicity and became a superstar celebrity as well as internationally renown artist.


The Pop artist also renounces the spiritualist and universalist concerns of high modernism, found at the core of Abstract Expressionism, and renounces transcendence for total immersion in immanence, in the existing society. The artist is thus no longer outsider, no longer the representative of alienation and non-conformity, no longer the warrior against the crass bourgeois society. Instead for Warhol and Pop the artist is merely a player in the game of contemporary commerce and publicity. Warhol's brilliance was that he understood that the new media culture was a culture of images and their technological reproduction and dissemination, and he produced and reproduced images of the newly dominant media culture in his work. His sculptures of Brillo boxes, pictures of Campbell's Soup cans, and silk-screens of famous celebrities such as Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe thus itself illustrates the defining images of media culture. Warhol's work is thus of essential diagnostic value in dissecting the nature and values of contemporary culture and his work puts on display the icons, celebrities, and forms of a culture that was becoming increasing a media culture, based on images, commercialism, and spectacle. Warhol saw that images permeated and constituted every realm of society from economics to politics to culture and everyday life. He faithfully reproduced the images of the economy, of commercial advertising, of politics, of politicians as celebrities, as images, reproducing as well as images of images of the celebrities of media culture. Warhol thus perceived the move toward image politics, toward a politics of the image in American life, in which politics was mediated through the media, and became a battle of images. Warhol also saw that the media culture was becoming a culture of celebrity, a culture that celebrated celebrity, that idolized celebrities and that anyone could become a celebrity -- at least for fifteen minutes. And finally Warhol grasped that art itself was a question of images, of producing pleasing images, resonant images, images that were attractive and appealing. Warhol's own work -- especially his painting - did indeed produce compelling images that stayed in the mind, that resonated to cultural experience. And Warhol himself became an image, a trademark, a celebrity, an icon of the pop culture that he chronicled, tracked, immersed himself in. The art world as well entered into the world of celebrity and affluence in the 1960s and de Antonio catches the infrastructure of museums, galleries, and collectors which helped create the ambience of the New York art world and which produced a situation in which the most successful artists became millionaires and celebrities. His interviews with Leo Castelli ironically note the incredible


escalation of prices of works of artists like Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol and his interview with collector Robert Scull indicates how a new class of upwardly mobile parvenus were themselves participating in the new Pop culture and promoting Pop artists through sales and promotion of their works. What, though, could American artists do after the explosions and breakthroughs of Abstract Expressionism and Pop? Art After Pop After the pop explosion of the early 1960s, aesthetic pluralism seemed to be the dominant tendency of American art. Indeed, the world of American art was marked by dramatic shifts and new trends and breakthroughs appearing quickly. The period from 1945-1970 was thus a very fecund, fertile period, exhibiting the most significant developments in the history of American art, in which American artists became the avant-garde of world art. The movements from Abstract Expressionism to more geometrical and formal paintings to Pop art constituted a rapid and dramatic development in world art. Moreover, during the 1960s new trends of minimalism, op art, perceptual realism, conceptual art, and earth and environmental art appeared, which challenged existing paradigms of art and attempted to develop new forms and spaces for art objects and events. Depicting and mapping the complex terrain of American art from 1970 to the present would require another film of the nature of Painter's Painting and would enter new fields, debates, and projects. De Antonio's Painter's Painting thus emerges as a brilliant, albeit biased, portrait of the N.Y. art scene from 1940-1970, which presents a chronicle and document of the lives and times of some of the most famous painters of the day. Most of the painters portrayed were his friends and de Antonio captures them at work or at ease in their studios. The conversations provide important elements of a history of contemporary art and in this CD-ROM we have transcribed the texts of the major interviews with the most important painters, critics, curators, and dealers whom de Antonio interviewed. Painter's Painting continually stresses the "Americanness" of these painters, of their producing an American art in the United States at a particular point in time. The artists' desire for producing unique works of art, for creating something different in contemporary art, thus derives both from the impulses of American individualism and modernism. American individualism drove the painters to become unique personalities w h o produced highly individualized works which expressed their individual style and vision. The impulses of modernism drove the painters to


constantly innovate and transform the forms of art, to make something new, to constantly revolutionize art itself. These same modernist impulses drove Emile de Antonio as he made his film Painter's Painting. The film and art of the era were thus very American, articulating the energies, dynamism, and ambitions of a culture on the move. Obviously, the financial wealth of an expanding American geo-political global empire made possible both the financing of the art of the period and films like de Antonio's. For a brief moment the U.S. ruled the world of art, producing the world's most significant artists and aesthetic breakthroughs. Since then we now live in a more decentered world, with no artistic center, in which a plurality of styles uneasily co-exist and there is no aesthetic consensus as to what is quality or advanced art, as there was when this film is made. We are now more inclined to look toward women's art, art of people of color, non-Western art, and art from sources previously excluded from the established pantheons for new and exciting developments in art than during the period of Painters Painting when there was still something of an aesthetic consensus and establishment. Now aesthetic values are up from grabs and there is yet another radical redefinition of art and set of new controversies concerning the most appropriated and advanced art of our time. Yet Painters Painting is an important document of a period in art history when New York was the Florence or Paris of world art, the center of the art world, and when the painters whose work is on display in the film were judged the key artists of their time. The film provides entry to this world and captures its ambience and flavor. It is a provocative film of a period of art that continues to provoke interest and controversy. Finally, we want to remind the user of this CD-ROM that we have organized a painter's gallery of the paintings featured in Painters Painting, in addition to the film, and have transcribed and edited the transcripts of the conversations that make up the film. We also have de Antonio's memories of the period of the heyday of New York art, and his and others reflections on the film. So go see or resee the film and plan to visit the other dimensions of this remarkable new technology which allows you to explore the world of art through film, images, and texts. Austin, Texas Jan. 2, 1995