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AMERICAN CULTURE Visual and performing arts 3. Arts and letters The arts, more than other features of culture, provide avenues for the expression of imagination and personal vision. They offer a range of emotional and intellectual pleasures to consumers of art and are an important way in which a culture represents itself.

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There has long been a Western tradition distinguishing those arts that appeal to the multitude, such as popular music, from those—such as classical orchestral music—normally available to the elite of learning and taste.

Popular art forms are usually seen as more representative American products. In the United States in the recent past, there has been a blending of popular and elite art forms, as all the arts experienced a period of remarkable cross-fertilization. Because popular art forms are so widely distributed, arts of all kinds have prospered. The arts in the United States express the many faces and the enormous creative range of the American people. Especially since World War II, American innovations and the immense energy displayed in literature, dance, and music have made American cultural works world famous.

Arts in the United States have become internationally prominent in ways that are unparalleled in history. American art forms during the second half of the 20th century often defined the styles and qualities that the rest of the world emulated. At the end of the 20th century, American art was considered equal in quality and vitality to art produced in the rest of the world. Throughout the 20th century, American arts have grown to incorporate new visions and voices. Much of this new artistic energy came in the wake of America’s emergence as a superpower after World War II.

But it was also due to the growth of New York City as an important center for publishing and the arts, and the immigration of artists and intellectuals fleeing fascism in Europe before and during the war. An outpouring of talent also followed the civil rights and protest movements of the 1960s, as cultural discrimination against blacks, women, and other groups diminished. American arts flourish in many places and receive support from private foundations, large corporations, local governments, federal agencies, museums, galleries, and individuals.

What is considered worthy of support often depends on definitions of quality and of what constitutes art. This is a tricky subject when the popular arts are increasingly incorporated into the domain of the fine arts and new forms such as performance art and conceptual art appear. As a result, defining what is art affects what students are taught about past traditions (for example, Native American tent paintings, oral traditions, and slave narratives) and what is produced in the future.

While some practitioners, such as studio artists, are more vulnerable to these definitions because they depend on financial support to exercise their talents, others, such as poets and photographers, are less immediately constrained. Artists operate in a world where those who theorize and critique their work have taken on an increasingly important role. Audiences are influenced by a variety of intermediaries—critics, the schools, foundations that offer grants, the National Endowment for the Arts, gallery owners, publishers, and theater producers.

In some areas, such as the performing arts, popular audiences may ultimately define success. In other arts, such as painting and sculpture, success is far more dependent on critics and a few, often wealthy, art collectors. Writers depend on publishers and on the public for their success. Unlike their predecessors, who relied on formal criteria and appealed to aesthetic judgments, critics at the end of the 20th century leaned more toward popular tastes, taking into account groups previously ignored and valuing the merger of popular and elite forms.

These critics often relied less on aesthetic judgments than on social measures and were eager to place artistic productions in the context of the time and social conditions in which they were created. Whereas earlier critics attempted to create an American tradition of high art, later critics used art as a means to give power and approval to nonelite groups who were previously not considered worthy of including in the nation’s artistic heritage. Not so long ago, culture and the arts were assumed to be an unalterable inheritance—the accumulated wisdom and highest forms of achievement that were established in the past.

In the 20th century generally, and certainly since World War II, artists have been boldly destroying older traditions in sculpture, painting, dance, music, and literature. The arts have changed rapidly, with one movement replacing another in quick succession. a) Visual arts. The visual arts have traditionally included forms of expression that appeal to the eyes through painted surfaces, and to the sense of space through carved or molded materials. In the 19th century, photographs were added to the paintings, drawings, and sculpture that make up the visual arts.

The visual arts were further augmented in the 20th century by the addition of other materials, such as found objects. These changes were accompanied by a profound alteration in tastes, as earlier emphasis on realistic representation of people, objects, and landscapes made way for a greater range of imaginative forms. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, American art was considered inferior to European art. Despite noted American painters such as Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, and John Marin, American visual arts barely had an international presence.

American art began to flourish during the Great Depression of the 1930s as New Deal government programs provided support to artists along with other sectors of the population. Artists connected with each other and developed a sense of common purpose through programs of the Public Works Administration, such as the Federal Art Project, as well as programs sponsored by the Treasury Department. Most of the art of the period, including painting, photography, and mural work, focused on the plight of the American people during the depression, and most artists painted real people in difficult circumstances.

Artists such as Thomas Hart Benton and Ben Shahn expressed the suffering of ordinary people through their representations of struggling farmers and workers. While artists such as Benton and Grant Wood focused on rural life, many painters of the 1930s and 1940s depicted the multicultural life of the American city. Jacob Lawrence, for example, re-created the history and lives of African Americans. Other artists, such as Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper, tried to use human figures to describe emotional states such as loneliness and despair. Abstract Expressionism.

Shortly after World War II, American art began to garner worldwide attention and admiration. This change was due to the innovative fervor of abstract expressionism in the 1950s and to subsequent modern art movements and artists. The abstract expressionists of the mid-20th century broke from the realist and figurative tradition set in the 1930s. They emphasized their connection to international artistic visions rather than the particularities of people and place, and most abstract expressionists did not paint human figures (although artist Willem de Kooning did portrayals of women).

Color, shape, and movement dominated the canvases of abstract expressionists. Some artists broke with the Western art tradition by adopting innovative painting styles—during the 1950s Jackson Pollock “painted” by dripping paint on canvases without the use of brushes, while the paintings of Mark Rothko often consisted of large patches of color that seem to vibrate. Abstract expressionists felt alienated from their surrounding culture and used art to challenge society’s conventions. The work of each artist was quite individual and distinctive, but all the artists identified with the radicalism of artistic creativity.

The artists were eager to challenge conventions and limits on expression in order to redefine the nature of art. Their radicalism came from liberating themselves from the confining artistic traditions of the past. The most notable activity took place in New York City, which became one of the world’s most important art centers during the second half of the 20th century. The radical fervor and inventiveness of the abstract expressionists, their frequent association with each other in New York City’s Greenwich Village, and the support of a group of gallery owners and dealers turned them into an artistic movement.

Also known as the New York School, the participants included Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline, and Arshile Gorky, in addition to Rothko and Pollock. The members of the New York School came from diverse backgrounds such as the American Midwest and Northwest, Armenia, and Russia, bringing an international flavor to the group and its artistic visions. They hoped to appeal to art audiences everywhere, regardless of culture, and they felt connected to the radical innovations introduced earlier in the 20th century by European artists such as Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp.

Some of the artists—Hans Hofmann, Gorky, Rothko, and de Kooning—were not born in the United States, but all the artists saw themselves as part of an international creative movement and an aesthetic rebellion. As artists felt released from the boundaries and conventions of the past and free to emphasize expressiveness and innovation, the abstract expressionists gave way to other innovative styles in American art. Beginning in the 1930s Joseph Cornell created hundreds of boxed assemblages, usually from found objects, with each based on a single theme to create a mood of contemplation and sometimes of reverence.

Cornell’s boxes exemplify the modern fascination with individual vision, art that breaks down boundaries between forms such as painting and sculpture, and the use of everyday objects toward a new end. Other artists, such as Robert Rauschenberg, combined disparate objects to create large, collage-like sculptures known as combines in the 1950s. Jasper Johns, a painter, sculptor, and printmaker, recreated countless familiar objects, most memorably the American flag. The most prominent American artistic style to follow abstract expressionism was the pop art movement that began in the 1950s.

Pop art attempted to connect traditional art and popular culture by using images from mass culture. To shake viewers out of their preconceived notions about art, sculptor Claes Oldenburg used everyday objects such as pillows and beds to create witty, soft sculptures. Roy Lichtenstein took this a step further by elevating the techniques of commercial art, notably cartooning, into fine art worthy of galleries and museums. Lichtenstein’s large, blown-up cartoons fill the surface of his canvases with grainy black dots and question the existence of a distinct realm of high art.

These artists tried to make their audiences see ordinary objects in a refreshing new way, thereby breaking down the conventions that formerly defined what was worthy of artistic representation. Probably the best-known pop artist, and a leader in the movement, was Andy Warhol, whose images of a Campbell’s soup can and of the actress Marilyn Monroe explicitly eroded the boundaries between the art world and mass culture. Warhol also cultivated his status as a celebrity. He worked in film as a director and producer to break down the boundaries between traditional and popular art.

Unlike the abstract expressionists, whose conceptual works were often difficult to understand, Andy Warhol’s pictures, and his own face, were instantly recognizable. Conceptual art, as it came to be known in the 1960s, like its predecessors, sought to break free of traditional artistic associations. In conceptual art, as practiced by Sol LeWitt and Joseph Kosuth, concept takes precedent over actual object, by stimulating thought rather than following an art tradition based on conventional standards of beauty and artisanship.

Modern artists changed the meaning of traditional visual arts and brought a new imaginative dimension to ordinary experience. Art was no longer viewed as separate and distinct, housed in museums as part of a historical inheritance, but as a continuous creative process. This emphasis on constant change, as well as on the ordinary and mundane, reflected a distinctly American democratizing perspective. Viewing art in this way removed the emphasis from technique and polished performance, and many modern artworks and experiences became more about expressing ideas than about perfecting finished products. Photography.

Photography is probably the most democratic modern art form because it can be, and is, practiced by most Americans. Since 1888, when George Eastman developed the Kodak camera that allowed anyone to take pictures, photography has struggled to be recognized as a fine art form. In the early part of the 20th century, photographer, editor, and artistic impresario Alfred Stieglitz established 291, a gallery in New York City, with fellow photographer Edward Steichen, to showcase the works of photographers and painters. They also published a magazine called Camera Work to increase awareness about photographic art.

In the United States, photographic art had to compete with the widely available commercial photography in news and fashion magazines. By the 1950s the tradition of photojournalism, which presented news stories primarily with photographs, had produced many outstanding works. In 1955 Steichen, who was director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, called attention to this work in an exhibition called The Family of Man. Throughout the 20th century, most professional photographers earned their living as portraitists or photojournalists, not as artists.

One of the most important exceptions was Ansel Adams, who took majestic photographs of the Western American landscape. Adams used his art to stimulate social awareness and to support the conservation cause of the Sierra Club. He helped found the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in 1940, and six years later helped establish the photography department at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (now the San Francisco Art Institute). He also held annual photography workshops at Yosemite National Park from 1955 to 1981 and wrote a series of influential books on photographic technique.

Adams’s elegant landscape photography was only one small stream in a growing current of interest in photography as an art form. Early in the 20th century, teacher-turned-photographer Lewis Hine established a documentary tradition in photography by capturing actual people, places, and events. Hine photographed urban conditions and workers, including child laborers. Along with their artistic value, the photographs often implicitly called for social reform. In the 1930s and 1940s, photographers joined with other depression-era artists supported by the federal government to create a hotographic record of rural America. Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein, among others, produced memorable and widely reproduced portraits of rural poverty and American distress during the Great Depression and during the dust storms of the period. In 1959, after touring the United States for two years, Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank published The Americans, one of the landmarks of documentary photography. His photographs of everyday life in America introduced viewers to a depressing, and often depressed, America that existed in the midst of prosperity and world power.

Photographers continued to search for new photographic viewpoints. This search was perhaps most disturbingly embodied in the work of Diane Arbus. Her photos of mental patients and her surreal depictions of Americans altered the viewer’s relationship to the photograph. Arbus emphasized artistic alienation and forced viewers to stare at images that often made them uncomfortable, thus changing the meaning of the ordinary reality that photographs are meant to capture. American photography continues to flourish.

The many variants of art photography and socially conscious documentary photography are widely available in galleries, books, and magazines. A host of other visual arts thrive, although they are far less connected to traditional fine arts than photography. Decorative arts include, but are not limited to, art glass, furniture, jewelry, pottery, metalwork, and quilts. Often exhibited in craft galleries and studios, these decorative arts rely on ideals of beauty in shape and color as well as an appreciation of well-executed crafts. Some of these forms are also developed commercially.

The decorative arts provide a wide range of opportunity for creative expression and have become a means for Americans to actively participate in art and to purchase art for their homes that is more affordable than works produced by many contemporary fine artists. 4. Performing arts As in other cultural spheres, the performing arts in the United States in the 20th century increasingly blended traditional and popular art forms. The classical performing arts—music, opera, dance, and theater—were not a widespread feature of American culture in the first half of the 20th century.

These arts were generally imported from or strongly influenced by Europe and were mainly appreciated by the wealthy and well educated. Traditional art usually referred to classical forms in ballet and opera, orchestral or chamber music, and serious drama. The distinctions between traditional music and popular music were firmly drawn in most areas. During the 20th century, the American performing arts began to incorporate wider groups of people. The African American community produced great musicians who became widely known around the country.

Jazz and blues singers such as Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday spread their sounds to black and white audiences. In the 1930s and 1940s, the swing music of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller adapted jazz to make a unique American music that was popular around the country. The American performing arts also blended Latin American influences beginning in the 20th century. Between 1900 and 1940, Latin American dances, such as the tango from Argentina and the rumba from Cuba, were introduced into the United States.

In the 1940s a fusion of Latin and jazz elements was stimulated first by the Afro-Cuban mambo and later on by the Brazilian bossa nova. Throughout the 20th century, dynamic classical institutions in the United States attracted international talent. Noted Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine established the short-lived American Ballet Company in the 1930s; later he founded the company that in the 1940s would become the New York City Ballet. The American Ballet Theatre, also established during the 1940s, brought in non-American dancers as well.

By the 1970s this company had attracted Soviet defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, an internationally acclaimed dancer who served as the company’s artistic director during the 1980s. In classical music, influential Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, who composed symphonies using innovative musical styles, moved to the United States in 1939. German-born pianist, composer, and conductor Andre Previn, who started out as a jazz pianist in the 1940s, went on to conduct a number of distinguished American symphony orchestras.

Another Soviet, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, became conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D. C. , in 1977. Some of the most innovative artists in the first half of the 20th century successfully incorporated new forms into classical traditions. Composers George Gershwin and Aaron Copland, and dancer Isadora Duncan were notable examples. Gershwin combined jazz and spiritual music with classical in popular works such as Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and the opera Porgy and Bess (1935).

Copland developed a unique style that was influenced by jazz and American folk music. Early in the century, Duncan redefined dance along more expressive and free-form lines. Some artists in music and dance, such as composer John Cage and dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, were even more experimental. During the 1930s Cage worked with electronically produced sounds and sounds made with everyday objects such as pots and pans. He even invented a new kind of piano.

During the late 1930s, avant-garde choreographer Cunningham began to collaborate with Cage on a number of projects. Perhaps the greatest, and certainly the most popular, American innovation was the Broadway musical, which also became a movie staple. Beginning in the 1920s, the Broadway musical combined music, dance, and dramatic performance in ways that surpassed the older vaudeville shows and musical revues but without being as complex as European grand opera.

By the 1960s, this American musical tradition was well established and had produced extraordinary works by important musicians and lyricists such as George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Jerome Kern, and Oscar Hammerstein II. These productions required an immense effort to coordinate music, drama, and dance. Because of this, the musical became the incubator of an American modern dance tradition that produced some of America’s greatest choreographers, among them Jerome Robbins, Gene Kelly, and Bob Fosse.

In the 1940s and 1950s the American musical tradition was so dynamic that it attracted outstanding classically trained musicians such as Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein composed the music for West Side Story, an updated version of Romeo and Juliet set in New York that became an instant classic in 1957. The following year, Bernstein became the first American-born conductor to lead a major American orchestra, the New York Philharmonic. He was an international sensation who traveled the world as an ambassador of the American style of conducting.

He brought the art of classical music to the public, especially through his “Young People’s Concerts,” television shows that were seen around the world. Bernstein used the many facets of the musical tradition as a force for change in the music world and as a way of bringing attention to American innovation. In many ways, Bernstein embodied a transformation of American music that began in the 1960s. The changes that took place during the 1960s and 1970s resulted from a significant increase in funding for the arts and their increased availability to larger audiences.

New York City, the American center for art performances, experienced an artistic explosion in the 1960s and 1970s. Experimental off-Broadway theaters opened, new ballet companies were established that often emphasized modern forms or blended modern with classical (Martha Graham was an especially important influence), and an experimental music scene developed that included composers such as Philip Glass and performance groups such as the Guarneri String Quartet. Dramatic innovation also continued to expand with the works of playwrights such as Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, and David Mamet.

As the variety of performances expanded, so did the serious crossover between traditional and popular music forms. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, an expanded repertoire of traditional arts was being conveyed to new audiences. Popular music and jazz could be heard in formal settings such as Carnegie Hall, which had once been restricted to classical music, while the Brooklyn Academy of Music became a venue for experimental music, exotic and ethnic dance presentations, and traditional productions of grand opera. Innovative producer Joseph Papp had been staging Shakespeare in Central Park since the 1950s.

Boston conductor Arthur Fiedler was playing a mixed repertoire of classical and popular favorites to large audiences, often outdoors, with the Boston Pops Orchestra. By the mid-1970s the United States had several world-class symphony orchestras, including those in Chicago; New York; Cleveland, Ohio; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Even grand opera was affected. Once a specialized taste that often required extensive knowledge, opera in the United States increased in popularity as the roster of respected institutions grew to include companies in Seattle, Washington; Houston, Texas; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

American composers such as John Adams and Philip Glass began composing modern operas in a new minimalist style during the 1970s and 1980s. The crossover in tastes also influenced the Broadway musical, probably America’s most durable music form. Starting in the 1960s, rock music became an ingredient in musical productions such as Hair (1967). By the 1990s, it had become an even stronger presence in musicals such as Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk (1996), which used African American music and dance traditions, and Rent (1996) a modern, rock version of the classic opera La Boheme.

This updating of the musical opened the theater to new ethnic audiences who had not previously attended Broadway shows, as well as to young audiences who had been raised on rock music. Performances of all kinds have become more available across the country. This is due to both the sheer increase in the number of performance groups as well as to advances in transportation. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the number of major American symphonies doubled, the number of resident theaters increased fourfold, and the number of dance companies increased tenfold.

At the same time, planes made it easier for artists to travel. Artists and companies regularly tour, and they expand the audiences for individual artists such as performance artist Laurie Anderson and opera singer Jessye Norman, for musical groups such as the Juilliard Quartet, and for dance troupes such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Full-scale theater productions and musicals first presented on Broadway now reach cities across the country. The United States, once a provincial outpost with a limited European tradition in performance, has become a flourishing center for the performing arts. . Arts and letters The arts, more than other features of culture, provide avenues for the expression of imagination and personal vision. They offer a range of emotional and intellectual pleasures to consumers of art and are an important way in which a culture represents itself. There has long been a Western tradition distinguishing those arts that appeal to the multitude, such as popular music, from those—such as classical orchestral music—normally available to the elite of learning and taste. Popular art forms are usually seen as more representative American products.

In the United States in the recent past, there has been a blending of popular and elite art forms, as all the arts experienced a period of remarkable cross-fertilization. Because popular art forms are so widely distributed, arts of all kinds have prospered. The arts in the United States express the many faces and the enormous creative range of the American people. Especially since World War II, American innovations and the immense energy displayed in literature, dance, and music have made American cultural works world famous.

Arts in the United States have become internationally prominent in ways that are unparalleled in history. American art forms during the second half of the 20th century often defined the styles and qualities that the rest of the world emulated. At the end of the 20th century, American art was considered equal in quality and vitality to art produced in the rest of the world. Throughout the 20th century, American arts have grown to incorporate new visions and voices. Much of this new artistic energy came in the wake of America’s emergence as a superpower after World War II.

But it was also due to the growth of New York City as an important center for publishing and the arts, and the immigration of artists and intellectuals fleeing fascism in Europe before and during the war. An outpouring of talent also followed the civil rights and protest movements of the 1960s, as cultural discrimination against blacks, women, and other groups diminished. American arts flourish in many places and receive support from private foundations, large corporations, local governments, federal agencies, museums, galleries, and individuals.

What is considered worthy of support often depends on definitions of quality and of what constitutes art. This is a tricky subject when the popular arts are increasingly incorporated into the domain of the fine arts and new forms such as performance art and conceptual art appear. As a result, defining what is art affects what students are taught about past traditions (for example, Native American tent paintings, oral traditions, and slave narratives) and what is produced in the future.

While some practitioners, such as studio artists, are more vulnerable to these definitions because they depend on financial support to exercise their talents, others, such as poets and photographers, are less immediately constrained. Artists operate in a world where those who theorize and critique their work have taken on an increasingly important role. Audiences are influenced by a variety of intermediaries—critics, the schools, foundations that offer grants, the National Endowment for the Arts, gallery owners, publishers, and theater producers.

In some areas, such as the performing arts, popular audiences may ultimately define success. In other arts, such as painting and sculpture, success is far more dependent on critics and a few, often wealthy, art collectors. Writers depend on publishers and on the public for their success. Unlike their predecessors, who relied on formal criteria and appealed to aesthetic judgments, critics at the end of the 20th century leaned more toward popular tastes, taking into account groups previously ignored and valuing the merger of popular and elite forms. These critics ften relied less on aesthetic judgments than on social measures and were eager to place artistic productions in the context of the time and social conditions in which they were created. Whereas earlier critics attempted to create an American tradition of high art, later critics used art as a means to give power and approval to nonelite groups who were previously not considered worthy of including in the nation’s artistic heritage. Not so long ago, culture and the arts were assumed to be an unalterable inheritance—the accumulated wisdom and highest forms of achievement that were established in the past.

In the 20th century generally, and certainly since World War II, artists have been boldly destroying older traditions in sculpture, painting, dance, music, and literature. The arts have changed rapidly, with one movement replacing another in quick succession. a) Visual arts. The visual arts have traditionally included forms of expression that appeal to the eyes through painted surfaces, and to the sense of space through carved or molded materials. In the 19th century, photographs were added to the paintings, drawings, and sculpture that make up the visual arts.

The visual arts were further augmented in the 20th century by the addition of other materials, such as found objects. These changes were accompanied by a profound alteration in tastes, as earlier emphasis on realistic representation of people, objects, and landscapes made way for a greater range of imaginative forms. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, American art was considered inferior to European art. Despite noted American painters such as Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, and John Marin, American visual arts barely had an international presence.

American art began to flourish during the Great Depression of the 1930s as New Deal government programs provided support to artists along with other sectors of the population. Artists connected with each other and developed a sense of common purpose through programs of the Public Works Administration, such as the Federal Art Project, as well as programs sponsored by the Treasury Department. Most of the art of the period, including painting, photography, and mural work, focused on the plight of the American people during the depression, and most artists painted real people in difficult circumstances.

Artists such as Thomas Hart Benton and Ben Shahn expressed the suffering of ordinary people through their representations of struggling farmers and workers. While artists such as Benton and Grant Wood focused on rural life, many painters of the 1930s and 1940s depicted the multicultural life of the American city. Jacob Lawrence, for example, re-created the history and lives of African Americans. Other artists, such as Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper, tried to use human figures to describe emotional states such as loneliness and despair. Abstract Expressionism.

Shortly after World War II, American art began to garner worldwide attention and admiration. This change was due to the innovative fervor of abstract expressionism in the 1950s and to subsequent modern art movements and artists. The abstract expressionists of the mid-20th century broke from the realist and figurative tradition set in the 1930s. They emphasized their connection to international artistic visions rather than the particularities of people and place, and most abstract expressionists did not paint human figures (although artist Willem de Kooning did portrayals of women).

Color, shape, and movement dominated the canvases of abstract expressionists. Some artists broke with the Western art tradition by adopting innovative painting styles—during the 1950s Jackson Pollock “painted” by dripping paint on canvases without the use of brushes, while the paintings of Mark Rothko often consisted of large patches of color that seem to vibrate. Abstract expressionists felt alienated from their surrounding culture and used art to challenge society’s conventions. The work of each artist was quite individual and distinctive, but all the artists identified with the radicalism of artistic creativity.

The artists were eager to challenge conventions and limits on expression in order to redefine the nature of art. Their radicalism came from liberating themselves from the confining artistic traditions of the past. The most notable activity took place in New York City, which became one of the world’s most important art centers during the second half of the 20th century. The radical fervor and inventiveness of the abstract expressionists, their frequent association with each other in New York City’s Greenwich Village, and the support of a group of gallery owners and dealers turned them into an artistic movement.

Also known as the New York School, the participants included Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline, and Arshile Gorky, in addition to Rothko and Pollock. The members of the New York School came from diverse backgrounds such as the American Midwest and Northwest, Armenia, and Russia, bringing an international flavor to the group and its artistic visions. They hoped to appeal to art audiences everywhere, regardless of culture, and they felt connected to the radical innovations introduced earlier in the 20th century by European artists such as Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp.

Some of the artists—Hans Hofmann, Gorky, Rothko, and de Kooning—were not born in the United States, but all the artists saw themselves as part of an international creative movement and an aesthetic rebellion. As artists felt released from the boundaries and conventions of the past and free to emphasize expressiveness and innovation, the abstract expressionists gave way to other innovative styles in American art. Beginning in the 1930s Joseph Cornell created hundreds of boxed assemblages, usually from found objects, with each based on a single theme to create a mood of contemplation and sometimes of reverence.

Cornell’s boxes exemplify the modern fascination with individual vision, art that breaks down boundaries between forms such as painting and sculpture, and the use of everyday objects toward a new end. Other artists, such as Robert Rauschenberg, combined disparate objects to create large, collage-like sculptures known as combines in the 1950s. Jasper Johns, a painter, sculptor, and printmaker, recreated countless familiar objects, most memorably the American flag. The most prominent American artistic style to follow abstract expressionism was the pop art movement that began in the 1950s.

Pop art attempted to connect traditional art and popular culture by using images from mass culture. To shake viewers out of their preconceived notions about art, sculptor Claes Oldenburg used everyday objects such as pillows and beds to create witty, soft sculptures. Roy Lichtenstein took this a step further by elevating the techniques of commercial art, notably cartooning, into fine art worthy of galleries and museums. Lichtenstein’s large, blown-up cartoons fill the surface of his canvases with grainy black dots and question the existence of a distinct realm of high art.

These artists tried to make their audiences see ordinary objects in a refreshing new way, thereby breaking down the conventions that formerly defined what was worthy of artistic representation. Probably the best-known pop artist, and a leader in the movement, was Andy Warhol, whose images of a Campbell’s soup can and of the actress Marilyn Monroe explicitly eroded the boundaries between the art world and mass culture. Warhol also cultivated his status as a celebrity. He worked in film as a director and producer to break down the boundaries between traditional and opular art. Unlike the abstract expressionists, whose conceptual works were often difficult to understand, Andy Warhol’s pictures, and his own face, were instantly recognizable. Conceptual art, as it came to be known in the 1960s, like its predecessors, sought to break free of traditional artistic associations. In conceptual art, as practiced by Sol LeWitt and Joseph Kosuth, concept takes precedent over actual object, by stimulating thought rather than following an art tradition based on conventional standards of beauty and artisanship.

Modern artists changed the meaning of traditional visual arts and brought a new imaginative dimension to ordinary experience. Art was no longer viewed as separate and distinct, housed in museums as part of a historical inheritance, but as a continuous creative process. This emphasis on constant change, as well as on the ordinary and mundane, reflected a distinctly American democratizing perspective. Viewing art in this way removed the emphasis from technique and polished performance, and many modern artworks and experiences became more about expressing ideas than about perfecting finished products.

Photography. Photography is probably the most democratic modern art form because it can be, and is, practiced by most Americans. Since 1888, when George Eastman developed the Kodak camera that allowed anyone to take pictures, photography has struggled to be recognized as a fine art form. In the early part of the 20th century, photographer, editor, and artistic impresario Alfred Stieglitz established 291, a gallery in New York City, with fellow photographer Edward Steichen, to showcase the works of photographers and painters.

They also published a magazine called Camera Work to increase awareness about photographic art. In the United States, photographic art had to compete with the widely available commercial photography in news and fashion magazines. By the 1950s the tradition of photojournalism, which presented news stories primarily with photographs, had produced many outstanding works. In 1955 Steichen, who was director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, called attention to this work in an exhibition called The Family of Man.

Throughout the 20th century, most professional photographers earned their living as portraitists or photojournalists, not as artists. One of the most important exceptions was Ansel Adams, who took majestic photographs of the Western American landscape. Adams used his art to stimulate social awareness and to support the conservation cause of the Sierra Club. He helped found the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in 1940, and six years later helped establish the photography department at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (now the San Francisco Art Institute).

He also held annual photography workshops at Yosemite National Park from 1955 to 1981 and wrote a series of influential books on photographic technique. Adams’s elegant landscape photography was only one small stream in a growing current of interest in photography as an art form. Early in the 20th century, teacher-turned-photographer Lewis Hine established a documentary tradition in photography by capturing actual people, places, and events. Hine photographed urban conditions and workers, including child laborers.

Along with their artistic value, the photographs often implicitly called for social reform. In the 1930s and 1940s, photographers joined with other depression-era artists supported by the federal government to create a photographic record of rural America. Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein, among others, produced memorable and widely reproduced portraits of rural poverty and American distress during the Great Depression and during the dust storms of the period.

In 1959, after touring the United States for two years, Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank published The Americans, one of the landmarks of documentary photography. His photographs of everyday life in America introduced viewers to a depressing, and often depressed, America that existed in the midst of prosperity and world power. Photographers continued to search for new photographic viewpoints. This search was perhaps most disturbingly embodied in the work of Diane Arbus. Her photos of mental patients and her surreal depictions of Americans altered the viewer’s relationship to the photograph.

Arbus emphasized artistic alienation and forced viewers to stare at images that often made them uncomfortable, thus changing the meaning of the ordinary reality that photographs are meant to capture. American photography continues to flourish. The many variants of art photography and socially conscious documentary photography are widely available in galleries, books, and magazines. A host of other visual arts thrive, although they are far less connected to traditional fine arts than photography.

Decorative arts include, but are not limited to, art glass, furniture, jewelry, pottery, metalwork, and quilts. Often exhibited in craft galleries and studios, these decorative arts rely on ideals of beauty in shape and color as well as an appreciation of well-executed crafts. Some of these forms are also developed commercially. The decorative arts provide a wide range of opportunity for creative expression and have become a means for Americans to actively participate in art and to purchase art for their homes that is more affordable than works produced by many contemporary fine artists. . Performing arts As in other cultural spheres, the performing arts in the United States in the 20th century increasingly blended traditional and popular art forms. The classical performing arts—music, opera, dance, and theater—were not a widespread feature of American culture in the first half of the 20th century. These arts were generally imported from or strongly influenced by Europe and were mainly appreciated by the wealthy and well educated. Traditional art usually referred to classical forms in ballet and opera, orchestral or chamber music, and serious drama.

The distinctions between traditional music and popular music were firmly drawn in most areas. During the 20th century, the American performing arts began to incorporate wider groups of people. The African American community produced great musicians who became widely known around the country. Jazz and blues singers such as Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday spread their sounds to black and white audiences. In the 1930s and 1940s, the swing music of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller adapted jazz to make a unique American music that was popular around the country.

The American performing arts also blended Latin American influences beginning in the 20th century. Between 1900 and 1940, Latin American dances, such as the tango from Argentina and the rumba from Cuba, were introduced into the United States. In the 1940s a fusion of Latin and jazz elements was stimulated first by the Afro-Cuban mambo and later on by the Brazilian bossa nova. Throughout the 20th century, dynamic classical institutions in the United States attracted international talent.

Noted Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine established the short-lived American Ballet Company in the 1930s; later he founded the company that in the 1940s would become the New York City Ballet. The American Ballet Theatre, also established during the 1940s, brought in non-American dancers as well. By the 1970s this company had attracted Soviet defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, an internationally acclaimed dancer who served as the company’s artistic director during the 1980s. In classical music, influential Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, who composed symphonies using innovative musical styles, moved to the United States in 1939.

German-born pianist, composer, and conductor Andre Previn, who started out as a jazz pianist in the 1940s, went on to conduct a number of distinguished American symphony orchestras. Another Soviet, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, became conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D. C. , in 1977. Some of the most innovative artists in the first half of the 20th century successfully incorporated new forms into classical traditions. Composers George Gershwin and Aaron Copland, and dancer Isadora Duncan were notable examples.

Gershwin combined jazz and spiritual music with classical in popular works such as Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and the opera Porgy and Bess (1935). Copland developed a unique style that was influenced by jazz and American folk music. Early in the century, Duncan redefined dance along more expressive and free-form lines. Some artists in music and dance, such as composer John Cage and dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, were even more experimental. During the 1930s Cage worked with electronically produced sounds and sounds made with everyday objects such as pots and pans.

He even invented a new kind of piano. During the late 1930s, avant-garde choreographer Cunningham began to collaborate with Cage on a number of projects. Perhaps the greatest, and certainly the most popular, American innovation was the Broadway musical, which also became a movie staple. Beginning in the 1920s, the Broadway musical combined music, dance, and dramatic performance in ways that surpassed the older vaudeville shows and musical revues but without being as complex as European grand opera.

By the 1960s, this American musical tradition was well established and had produced extraordinary works by important musicians and lyricists such as George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Jerome Kern, and Oscar Hammerstein II. These productions required an immense effort to coordinate music, drama, and dance. Because of this, the musical became the incubator of an American modern dance tradition that produced some of America’s greatest choreographers, among them Jerome Robbins, Gene Kelly, and Bob Fosse.

In the 1940s and 1950s the American musical tradition was so dynamic that it attracted outstanding classically trained musicians such as Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein composed the music for West Side Story, an updated version of Romeo and Juliet set in New York that became an instant classic in 1957. The following year, Bernstein became the first American-born conductor to lead a major American orchestra, the New York Philharmonic. He was an international sensation who traveled the world as an ambassador of the American style of conducting.

He brought the art of classical music to the public, especially through his “Young People’s Concerts,” television shows that were seen around the world. Bernstein used the many facets of the musical tradition as a force for change in the music world and as a way of bringing attention to American innovation. In many ways, Bernstein embodied a transformation of American music that began in the 1960s. The changes that took place during the 1960s and 1970s resulted from a significant increase in funding for the arts and their increased availability to larger audiences.

New York City, the American center for art performances, experienced an artistic explosion in the 1960s and 1970s. Experimental off-Broadway theaters opened, new ballet companies were established that often emphasized modern forms or blended modern with classical (Martha Graham was an especially important influence), and an experimental music scene developed that included composers such as Philip Glass and performance groups such as the Guarneri String Quartet. Dramatic innovation also continued to expand with the works of playwrights such as Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, and David Mamet.

As the variety of performances expanded, so did the serious crossover between traditional and popular music forms. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, an expanded repertoire of traditional arts was being conveyed to new audiences. Popular music and jazz could be heard in formal settings such as Carnegie Hall, which had once been restricted to classical music, while the Brooklyn Academy of Music became a venue for experimental music, exotic and ethnic dance presentations, and traditional productions of grand opera. Innovative producer Joseph Papp had been staging Shakespeare in Central Park since the 1950s.

Boston conductor Arthur Fiedler was playing a mixed repertoire of classical and popular favorites to large audiences, often outdoors, with the Boston Pops Orchestra. By the mid-1970s the United States had several world-class symphony orchestras, including those in Chicago; New York; Cleveland, Ohio; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Even grand opera was affected. Once a specialized taste that often required extensive knowledge, opera in the United States increased in popularity as the roster of respected institutions grew to include companies in Seattle, Washington; Houston, Texas; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

American composers such as John Adams and Philip Glass began composing modern operas in a new minimalist style during the 1970s and 1980s. The crossover in tastes also influenced the Broadway musical, probably America’s most durable music form. Starting in the 1960s, rock music became an ingredient in musical productions such as Hair (1967). By the 1990s, it had become an even stronger presence in musicals such as Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk (1996), which used African American music and dance traditions, and Rent (1996) a modern, rock version of the classic opera La Boheme.

This updating of the musical opened the theater to new ethnic audiences who had not previously attended Broadway shows, as well as to young audiences who had been raised on rock music. Performances of all kinds have become more available across the country. This is due to both the sheer increase in the number of performance groups as well as to advances in transportation. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the number of major American symphonies doubled, the number of resident theaters increased fourfold, and the number of dance companies increased tenfold.

At the same time, planes made it easier for artists to travel. Artists and companies regularly tour, and they expand the audiences for individual artists such as performance artist Laurie Anderson and opera singer Jessye Norman, for musical groups such as the Juilliard Quartet, and for dance troupes such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Full-scale theater productions and musicals first presented on Broadway now reach cities across the country. The United States, once a provincial outpost with a limited European tradition in performance, has become a flourishing center for the performing arts.

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