Born to be Free, a glance at American Art

It’s nearly July 4th, Independence Day in the United States, commemorating the Declaration of Independence in 1776 from Great Britain.

As our American cousins get out the flags and fireworks, here’s a sidelong glance at American art (By which we mean US, not including Latin America – a whole other story for another post).

Most people know the big names in US art: Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, Frank Stella, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat—to name but a few.

These resolutely changed the course of art history, making a blow for a new-world order of democratic, urban art that rejected highbrow European traditions.

Their work comes out of a new place, far from the cultivated European styles and models. They show a new way of seeing the world: from the empty suburban spaces of Edward Hopper, to the factory-produced commercial imagery of Warhol.

Perhaps there’s a certain emptiness in this view, one that prefigures the effects of the machine-age and mass media. These things were first glimpsed in the land of Coca-Cola, movie stars (like Liz Taylor) and Death Row (all themes of Warhol’s work).

That’s not to say, there’s no connection between the old and new worlds. A key figure here is Alfred Stieglitz, the pioneering photographer, and husband of the painter Georgia O’Keefe. His hugely influential gallery brought European artists to New York in the early 20th century: Duchamp, Brancusi and Picasso inspiring a generation of artists in the lead up to the Great Depression.

After the prodigious upheaval of the Second World War, Abstract Expressionism came to the fore. It emphasized action, individuality and emotion, attempting to communicate the indefinable, producing the great works by the likes of Pollock and Rothko.

By turn, the Vietnam War brought a new distance and pessimism from the American Dream. A new form of realist Pop Art <check out the Pop Art available through MyArtBroker here> emerged that took familiar, banal objects and viewed them in a dispassionate, static style.

We’ve just scratched the surface of art from across the pond, visit us on Wednesday to read more on noteable American artists throughout history.