NEW YORK 1913: The Armory Show and the Paterson Strike Pageant by Martin Green

NEW YORK 1913: The Armory Show and the Paterson Strike Pageant

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Just as he did in his 1986 The Triumph of Pierrot, Green once again displays the erudition and clarity that makes his work so stimulating. And, as before, his ability to explicate complex cultural trends and to chart previously unconsidered relationships between them is impressive. The dual fulcra here are the Armory Show of February 1913, which introduced Post-Impressionist painting and sculpture (Matisse, CÉzanne, Duchamp) to the American general public, and the Paterson Strike Pageant, held four months later, which focused attention on the plight of the working man. Green points out convincingly that the same attitudes were responsible for the two events--a combination of optimism and idealism. Ironically, while the art exhibition, despite widespread scoffing and condemnation, successfully launched the modernist movement, the labor demonstration probably spelled the beginning of the end for the Industrial Workers of the World (the ""Wobblies""). Many of the same people, radicals all, were involved in both events: Mabel Dodge, friend and promoter of Gertrude Stein; John Reed, best known for his Ten Days That Shook the World; columnist Walter Lippmann, artist John Sloan. Other players in the drama of 1913 were no less colorful: Bill Haywood, leader of the IWW; Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, labor organizer and Haywood's lover; Marcel Duchamp, whose ""Nude Descending a Staircase"" was dubbed ""Explosion in a Shingle Factory"" by one less-than-sympathetic reviewer. Green captures them all in deft strokes and limns the excitement and frustrations of the period with a sure hand. A thought-provoking and absorbing portrayal of a crucial moment in the social history of the US, and important reading for anyone interested in the origins of the art and labor movements of 20th-century America.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Scribners