The above photograph, by American artist Taryn Simon, appears innocuous, even banal, at first. It shows two modern paintings hanging on bare white walls, cordoned off by limp rope barriers, while harsh fluorescent ceiling lights cause their reflection to bounce off the glossy laminate floor. But the photograph instantly appears more enticing and enigmatic when one reads the caption, indicating that it was taken at … Continue reading The Not-so-Secret Art of the CIA
Irregular working hours, frequent trips out of town, a fondness for radical politics… The more unconventional aspects of life as an artist were the reasons why it proved to be such an effective cover for one KGB spy. A British national of Russian descent, Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher (also known as Rudolf Ivanovich Abel) was recruited into the KGB during World War II and sent to … Continue reading The KGB Spy Who Became a New York Artist
On 18 September the US Central Intelligence Agency celebrated its 66th birthday. The CIA’s clandestine support for art during the Cold War is now well-known. Frances Stonor Saunders’ 1995 article in the Independent declaring that Modern Art was CIA ‘Weapon’ remains a popular introduction to Cold War painting and was developed into the best-seller, Who Paid the Piper?: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (Granta, 2000). … Continue reading I’m Glad the CIA is ‘Immoral’
Serge Guilbaut. How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom and the Cold War. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983. In the thirty years since it was first published, Serge Guilbaut’s account of how Cold War ideology shaped the visual arts still stands as the best book in its field. French-born Guilbaut begins his tale in Paris … Continue reading Recommended Read: How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art
Now into its final month, Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966 concludes its critically-acclaimed run at the de Young Museum on 29 September. The exhibition focuses on the transformative years the painter spent in Northern California, when he abandoned Abstract Expressionism in favour of an increasingly representational approach. Whilst heralding what became known as the Bay Area Figurative Movement, Diebenkorn’s experimentation was divisive due to … Continue reading Exhibition of the Month: Richard Diebenkorn
On 8 August 1949, Abstract Expressionism decisively entered the American national psyche when the popular weekly magazine LIFE asked of Jackson Pollock, ‘Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?’ Leaning against one of his enigmatic ‘drip’ canvases, cigarette in mouth and oozing anti-establishment cool in a pose reminiscent of Hollywood heroes of the era such as James Dean, Pollock immediately became the … Continue reading The Greatest Living Painter in the United States?
What: Portrait of V.I. Lenin with Cap, in the Style of Jackson Pollock III by Art & Language Where: Tate Britain, London, UK Uninitiated visitors to Tate Britain have been left scratching their heads while contemplating Portrait of V.I. Lenin with Cap, in the Style of Jackson Pollock III. It is one of a series of paintings by Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden, British artists operating under the … Continue reading What & Where: Lenin goes Abstract