VISION AND IMAGE by James Johnson Sweeney


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Adult education, Class of 1950: although the assembled essays were evidently written over a period of years and under various circumstances, the prevailing tone is adjuratory, the persistent adjuration an attempt to reconcile the man in the street to non-representational art. The following, from the title (and theme) essay, is clearly in the context of 1948-50 ct seq: ""Today in American painting among the explorers of the younger generation--men such as Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko, Kline, Bazioles -- the preponderant interest seems to be in what has been described as 'abstract expressionism.'"" Forget the tentative seems in reference to a certainly, forget the sense of disinterring old disputes (as well as the fact of disinterring dead bodies), this is no help in understanding the Op/Pop/Constructivist present; neither is the accompanying exposition of contemporary art as inner directed in contrast to Renaissance-to-Impressionist outer-directedness. Some of Mr. Sweeney's remarks on the role of artists, critics and museums are valid, if obvious, but observers of simultaneous styles are no longer insisting upon the ""continuous stream"" analysis with its acclaim for originality: neither, having seen originality explode in the marketplace, are they so willing to forego the assessment of values. On the whole, this is a Rip Van Winkle reprise, more vision than image.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1968
Publisher: Simon & Schuster