A fascinating, panoramic exploration of art and culture in mid-twentieth-century New York City from one of our most important and influential art critics. "New Art City "takes us from the solitude of the artist's studio to the uproarious bars where artists gathered, from the ramshackle bohemian neighborhoods of downtown Manhattan to the Midtown streets where steel-and-glass skyscrapers were rising and art galleries were proliferating. We encounter a kaleidoscopic range of artists. There are legendary figures-Jackson Pollock, David Smith, Willem de Kooning, Joseph Cornell, Andy Warhol, and Donald Judd-as well as still undervalued ones, such as the galvanic teacher Hans Hofmann, the lyric expressionist Joan Mitchell, the adventuresome realist Fairfield Porter, and the eccentric thinker John Graham. We encounter, too, the writers, critics, patrons, and hangers-on who rounded out the artists' world. Jed Perl helps us see what the artists were creating and understand how they confronted an exploding art audience.
And he makes clear how the economic boom of the late 1950s and the increasingly enthusiastic response to Abstract Expressionism ushered in the rapacious art world of the 1960s and the theatricality of Pop Art. Artists drew strength from the dizzying onslaught of Manhattan, and produced a tidal wave of new forms. These included Hofmann's brazen flourishes of color; Pollock's quicksilver skeins of paint unfurling panoramic arabesques; and the crushed, jagged, turning-back-on-itself calligraphy of de Kooning's gnomic alphabets. And there was much more: Burgoyne Diller's levitating rectangles; Nell Blaine's explosive renderings of quotidian scenes; Ellsworth Kelly's extraordinary simplifications, suggesting sails or semaphores. A brilliant tapestry of social history, biographical portraiture, and criticism, "New Art City" illuminates a revolutionary, unprecedented time and place in American culture.