American Art: After 1900

Focused Studies

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African American art and artists.
Samella Lewis ; foreword by Floyd Coleman ; new introduction by Mary Jane Hewitt.
Berkeley : University of California Press, c2003. Rev. and expanded ed.
xix, 340 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm.
N6538 .N5 L38 2003

African American Art and Artists is the most complete current survey of African American art. Lewis follows a chronological approach for her study of the topic, beginning with the landing of the first African indentured servants in Virginia in 1619 and ending in 2000. The work’s focus is in the twentieth century, as documentary evidence of earlier African American artists is often hard to come by. Her approach relates the artistic expression of African Americans to the wider history of American art and history. More importantly, however, it also explores that artistic expression on its own terms, as a unique feature of Black American cultural life. Within each chapter the artists are generally arranged by medium. For a thematic approach to African American Art that also demonstrates a profound engagement with discourses of feminism and postmodernism as well as race and ethnicity, see Sharon F. Patton’s African-American Art. For an exploration of African American art in the nineteenth century see Kirsten P. Buick’s essay “A Way Out of No Way” in the catalog The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art.
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American film : a history.
Jon Lewis.
New York, W.W. Norton & Co., c2008. 1st ed.
xv, 484 p. : ill. ; 26 cm.
PN1993 .5 .U6 L46 2008

This work presents a chronological history of American film, beginning with the end of the nineteenth century and ending with the beginning of the twentieth. Lewis focuses on Hollywood cinema throughout its major periods, but he also examines independent filmmakers. Each chapter contains key contextual material about American society that supports a history not only of directors and actors, but also of the various behind-the-scenes actors who make movies possible. The volume also contains an ample bibliography for further reading on each of Hollywood’s major eras. Lewis’s book mostly, however, examines canonical films while downplaying issues of gender, race, and class. For a survey of these issues, once again mostly in the context of Hollywood, see Harry Benshoff and Sean Griffin’s America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies. Lewis’s book also omits the important and interesting work of American avant-garde filmmakers. For an excellent overview of their work, see P. Adams Stitney’s Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde. Please note that all of the books named in this section can be found in Green Library.
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Asian American art : a history, 1850-1970.
Gordon H. Chang, senior editor; Mark Dean Johnson, principal editor ; Paul J. Karlstrom, consulting editor ; Sharon Spain, managing editor.
Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, c2008.
xxiii, 547 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm.
N6538 .A83 A835 2008

This book represents the first serious survey of art produced by Asian Americans. Like most histories of the art of minorities in the United States, the bulk of its information is on the twentieth century, for which there are more documentary sources and more remembered artists. Nevertheless, the volume offers an able synthesis of recent scholarship on Asian American art, and the endnotes following each chapter provide ample opportunity for further exploration. The chapters, which are arranged via a mixture of theme, medium, and geography, were each written by a different author, exposing the reader not only to a diversity of artistic production, but also to different scholarly methods. The book also provides helpful biographies of individual artists, as well as a chronology of Asian American art and history. One of the book’s weaknesses is that it does not cover the relatively small number of Asian immigrants who arrived in the United States before 1850, but this is a mostly minor omission. For information on Asian American artists since 1970, one should consult the exhibition catalogs Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian-American Art and One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now.
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Colored pictures : race and visual representation.
Michael D. Harris ; foreward by Moyo Okediji.
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c2003.
xiv, 281 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 28 cm.
N8232 .H37 2003

Harris, an artist as well as art historian, traces the representation of blackness, one of the most fraught categories of personhood in the United States, throughout American history, from the colonial era to the contemporary. His approach views race as a social construction and seeks to understand how stereotyped representations of blacks in visual culture served to construct and reinforce white identity while also helping to construct negative black self-identity. A central focus of the book is on African American self-representation. The book lacks a separate bibliography, though sources can be found through examination of footnotes. For an earlier work that ably focuses on nineteenth-century white representations of blackness, and that reaches many of the same conclusions and also contains a bibliography, see Albert Boime’s The Art of Exclusion: Representing Blacks in the Nineteenth Century.
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Earthworks and beyond : contemporary art in the landscape.
John Beardsley.
New York : Abbeville Press, c2006. 4th ed.
239 p., ill. (some col.) ; 28 cm.
N6494 E27 B4 2006

Beardsley’s book takes as its starting point the Land Art movement in the late 1960s. Artists such as Robert Smithson and Robert Morris, as part of a more general contemporary re-engagement with the landscape, began to take action to directly influence the land, to build their works out of it. Monumentality and a resistance to commodification drove these artists to create massive works in often far-away and remote locales. After the middle of the 1970s, when enthusiasm for this sort of work had begun to wane, many artists remained engaged with the physical landscape, but on a smaller, gentler, and perhaps more ethical scale. This book traces these developments through the end of the twentieth century. It is amply illustrated and provides a very useful bibliography on individual artists as well as larger trends and movements not only in the United States but in Europe as well. For an examination of Land Art in the context of the 1960s, especially dealing with the concept of time, see Stanford Professor Pamela Lee’s Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960's.
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Harlem Renaissance : art of black America.
introduction by Mary Schmidt Campbell ; essays by David C. Driskell, David Levering Lewis, and Deborah Willis Ryan.
New York, N.Y. : The Studio Museum in the Harlem : Harry N. Abrams, 1987.
200 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 30 cm.
N6538 .N5 H286 1987 F

This catalog to a landmark exhibition represents a key step in re-inserting the art of the Harlem Renaissance into narratives of both that cultural period and of American Art. From 1919-1929, the Black culture that had originated in the rural South consolidated itself in the Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem. This catalogue considers artists of the period, including Aaron Douglas, Meta Warrick Fuller, Palmer Hayden, and William H. Johnson as important to the larger movement as such literary figures as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. The essays also seek to integrate the work of these artists with that of later Black artists, and thus to see them as part of a longer cultural tradition and not just isolated phenomena. For an exhaustive study of Romare Bearden, one of the key figures of Black art from the 1930s to the 1980s, see Myron Schwartzman’s Romare Bearden: His Life and Art.
Hispanic art in the United States : thirty contemporary painters and sculptors.
John Beardsley, Jane Livingston ; with an essay by Octavio Paz.
Houston : Museum of Fine Arts ; New York : Abbeville Press, c1987.
260 p. : col. Ill. ; 31 cm.
N6538 .H58 B43 1987 F

This exhibition catalog focuses on well-known artists of the 1970s and 1980s, a period when the art of Hispanic Americans was increasingly accepted as part of the American art scene. The text situates these artists in the context of contemporary art and culture, while also exploring what makes them unique. The brief bibliography at the end of the book provides other avenues for exploring contemporary Latino art, though unfortunately only hints at avenues of exploration for earlier art by Hispanic Americans. For information on earlier artists one should consult American Encounters, a survey textbook found in the Introductory Texts section of this guide.
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Minimalism : art and polemics in the sixties.
James Meyer.
New Haven : Yale University Press, c.2001.
viii, 340 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 27 cm.
N6512 .5 .M5 M49 2001

Like many art movements that were named by critics rather than practitioners, Minimalism was never really a coherent group so much as a shifting array of artists who shared a similar set of concerns. Meyer’s approach to Minimalism, then, is to examine each of the major practitioners as his own discrete movement, but also to realize that artists like Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Carl Andre could only be fully defined in relation to one another (NB: For an introduction to the critical literature surrounding Minimalism's almost solely male membership, see Anna C. Chave's influential essay "Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power," in Power: Its Myths and Mores in American Art, 1961-1991.). Meyer’s book covers the movement in a generally chronological fashion, beginning in the late 1950s and ending in 1968. Since Minimal artists were some of the most active writers and theoreticians in the 1960s, the book pays particular importance to their writings as well as those of critics, providing a rich view of the documentary history of the movement. The book’s extensive bibliography provides an ample introduction to further sources.
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North American Indian art.
David W. Penney.
London : Thames and Hudson, 2004.
232 p. : ill. (some col.) maps ; 21 cm.
E98 .A7 P36 2004

Penney, a leading scholar of Native American Art, presents in this book a brief but thorough survey of the art of indigenous Americans from prehistory to the present, with a focus on artistic production prior to the twentieth century. The book is arranged geographically and thematically, due to the difficulty of pinpointing the individual artists, and sometimes even cultures that may have produced works of art. Penney follows recent thinking in art history and anthropology in stressing how American Indians had very different conceptions of art than their European counterparts. This leads him to take a material culture approach that borrows much from anthropology and archaeology. In addition to the text itself the book contains a brief bibliography, arranged by chapter, which can provide additional sources on individual subjects. For a lavishly-illustrated volume that provides more examples of Native art but has less text and no bibliography, see Penney’s Native American Art. For more in-depth explorations of twentieth century Native art, see Native American Art in the Twentieth Century: Makers, Meanings, Histories, edited by W. Jackson Rushing III.
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Picturing the city : urban vision and the Ashcan School.
Rebecca Zurier.
Berkeley : University of California Press, c2006.
x, 407 p., 12 p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 27 cm.
N6512 .5 .E4 Z875 2006

Zurier’s book examines the major art movement in New York during the American Progressive Era. Painters such as William Glackens, George Bellows, Robert Henri, and John Sloan, now known as the Ashcan School, emerged from the worlds of commercial and journalistic illustration to become painters representing urban life and vision. The book examines these painters in the wider context of popular culture, including comics, newspapers, and movies, since it is from those modern worlds which they drew much of their influences. One of Zurier’s key points is that these painters, with their light, realist style that seemed to glory in the bustle of city streets, helped transform cities in the American mind. While in the nineteenth century cities were places of dread and vice, by the beginning of World War I they were increasingly heralded as the saviors and shapers of mankind. Another realist painter of the same generation who achieved fame later in his life, Edward Hopper, is ably explored in the 2007 exhibition catalog Edward Hopper.
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Pop art : a continuing history.
Marco Livingstone.
New York : H. N. Abrams, 1990.
271 p. : ill. (chifly col.) ; 29 cm.
N6494 .P6 L58 1990

Livingstone presents a survey of the history of Pop Art in America, Britain, and Western Europe, primarily in the 1960s. This well-illustrated volume covers all of the major artists who have come to be associated with the term “Pop.” Importantly, he also spends his first chapter looking at Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and other artists of the 1950s who are often considered to be precursors to the Pop Art of the 1960s. He also examines the so-called Neo-Pop movement of the 1980s. The book’s bibliography presents a good jumping-off point for further research, as it includes not only books, but also articles and exhibition catalogs. For a compelling scholarly account of Pop Art that focuses more particularly on the United States and that also examines that art’s relationship to feminized consumer culture, see Cécile Whiting’s A Taste for Pop: Pop Art, Gender, and Consumer Culture.
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Reframing abstract expressionism : subjectivity and painting in the 1940s.
Michael Leja.
New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, 1993.
392 p.
ND212 .5 .A25 L45 1993

Leja’s book examines what he, following other art historians, terms the New York School. The work comprises an impressive synthesis of previous scholarly perspectives that leads to a view that more closely integrates Abstract Expressionist painting with wider currents in American society during the 1940s. Rather than seeing artists such as Willem De Kooning and Jackson Pollock as in dialogue with only a small core of intellectuals and fellow artists, Leja examines their works in relation to film noir, popular philosophy, and other more mainstream discourses. Through these means, he brings these singular personalities into a dialogue with the entirety of American culture. For an earlier, hugely influential account of the history of Abstract Expressionism that both informs and provides a foil for Leja’s work, see Serge Guilbaut’s How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art.
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The American century : art & culture, 1900-1950.
Barbara Haskell.
New York : Whitney Museum of American Art in association with W.W. Norton, 1999.
408 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm.
N6512 .H355 1999

This exhibition catalog from the Whitney Museum of American Art presents, along with its sister catalog The American Century: Art and Culture, 1950-2000, an exhaustive review of American art and culture from the twentieth century. Beginning with the remnants of Guilded Age culture and ending with the identity and video art of the end of the century, these two exhibitions covered virtually every aspect of American visual culture in between. This includes not only painting and sculpture, but also cinema, architecture, design, illustration, music, and urban planning. Richly illustrated and well-annotated, these two works represent perhaps the most wide-ranging introduction to twentieth century American art available.
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The great American thing : modern art and national identity, 1915-1925.
Wanda M. Corn.
Berkeley : University of California Press, c1999.
xxiii, 447 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 29 cm.
N6512 .C597 1999

Written by Stanford Professor Emerita Wanda Corn, The Great American Thing traces the parallel, and intertwined, developments of American nationalism and American modern art. Corn demonstrates how American artists and critics, reacting to the disjunction of the First World War, began to seek a stronger identification with their American roots. These artists, many of whom began to eschew travel to traditional European art centers, argued for a more home-grown conception of American art that was shot through with the strong American nationalism that emerged through the interwar period. Through an examination of such figures as Alfred Stieglitz, Marcel Duchamp, Gerald Murphy, Joseph Stella, Charles Demuth, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Charles Sheeler, among others, Corn traces the rise of the first wave of American modernism, as well as continuing debates among American artists about their relationship(s) to Europe. For a more in-depth study of this first American avant-garde that focuses on issues surrounding homosexuality, see Jonathan Weinberg’s Speaking for Vice: Homosexuality in the Art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and the First American Avant-Garde.
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The power of feminist art : the American movement of the 1970s, history and impact.
edited by Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard ; contributors, Judith K. Brodsky … [et al.].
New York : H.N. Abrams, 1994.
318 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 30 cm.
N72 .F45 P68 1994 F

This monumental compilation brings together well-known scholars and artists to look back at the monumental decade of the 1970s and the immense impact the Feminist movement had on the art world. The contributors see Feminist art as part of the challenge not only to the power of white, straight men but also to the very discourses of modernism that began to unravel in the 1970s. In this book, feminism becomes a key means of expressing the burgeoning postmodern sensibilities of the end of the twentieth century. The work also explores the impact of feminism on art in the 1980s, and a bibliography points the way to additional avenues of study.
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The visual culture of American religions.
edited by David Morgan & Sally Promey.
Berkeley : University of California Press, c2001.
xiv, 427 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 27 cm.
N72 .R4 V57 2001

This anthology takes a visual/material culture approach to the study of the intersections of American art and religion. By examining not only fine art but also a diverse array of more vernacular forms, editors Morgan and Promey hope to shed light on a subject that they feel has been under-studied. Contributions cover a diverse array of art forms, including not only painting, sculpture, and architecture, but also illustration, printmaking, postcards, and book illustration. In addition to individual contributions, the volume provides an ample bibliography that can act as a jumping-off-point for further research. A year before the publication of this book, Morgan and Promey co-curated an exhibition, "Exhibiting the Visual Culture of American Religions," that provides a number of high-quality color images as well as brief introductions to individual works and a wealth of bibliographic material.
The West as America : reinterpreting images of the frontier, 1820-1920.
edited by William H. Truettner ; with contributions by Nancy K. Anderson … [et al.].
Washington : Published for the National Museum of American Art by the Smithsonian Institution Press, c1991.
xiv, 389 p. : ill (some col.) ; 26 cm.
FS96.W493 1991

The catalog to a landmark exhibition of the same name, this book deals with one of the most pervasive and popular of American myths: that of the Wild West. With contributions from several important scholars of American art, The West as America traces how various artists and other cultural producers represented the West, not as it really was, but as Eastern Seaboard society wished for and needed it to be. Topics include representations of progress, American Indians, settlement, capitalism, and nostalgia. Though the exhibition itself was hailed by many scholars for its groundbreaking revisionist historical approach, conservative elements of mainstream culture seized on it as a demonstration of the liberal bias of the academy. The catalog thus serves not only as a strong introduction to the American West in art, it also provides an entry into wider cultural discourses about art in the early 1990s. For an in-depth look at Frederic Remington, an important turn-of-the-twentieth-century artist of the West, see Frederic Remington and Turn-of-the-Century America by contributor Alexander Nemerov.

Primary Sources

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