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Avant-Garde589 VA The American We are norv committed to an unqualified act, not illustrating out\\orn mr-ths or And

the contemporarl'alibis.One must accepttotal responsibilityfor what he exccutes. in realizing measureof his greatness u,ill be in the depth of his insight and his couragie his olvn vision. Demands for communication are both presumptuous and irrelevant. The obsener usuall-vwill seervhat his fears and hopes and learning teach him to see.But if he can escapethese demands that hold up a mirror to himself, then perhaps somc of the implications of the u,ork mav be felt. But whatever is seen or felt it should be he,something else.It is the pricc one remembered that f:- j.s pa1, for cl: oured onlv as an instrument.f has to seduction or assaul $r*rer

16 Harold Rosenberg (1906-1978)frorn'The Arnerican Action Painters' were and Rosenberg Greenberg Expressionism, representationAbstract of In the critical dramaand existential modes, formeremphasizing the for responsible the two dominant 'Action innovation. upon where latterconcentrated formalandtechnical the commitment art abstract of the 1940sand which newinformal under the Painting'was designation the supplanted to criticism, be gradually known English-language in firstbecame widely 1950s 'Abstract - a specifically to tends Expressionism' termwhich bythe nowmorewidespread painters contemporarEuropean rather than theircomparable identify workof Amerrcan the of a his have may ies.lnfactRosenberg originally intended titleto carry connotationpolitical (i.e. rather Painters' ignored to read as'American-Action which been commitment haslargely Paris'(lVD12), fromhisearlier'Fallof Echoing Action-Painters'). a theme as'American than 'Action 'lnternational Painting' and of Culture', of America thenewlocus the as he identifies possibility revolution keptalive is at of the in form as the advanced of thatculture, which published News, 1952,pp. Ll, NewYork, December inArt least imagination.Originally in The of in 22ff Reprinted Rosenberg, Tradition theNew,NewYork,1959,pp. 23-39.The . present is fromthefirsthalfof theessay. extract taken


Getting Inside the Canr,as painterafteranother to to began appear oneAmerican At a certainmomentthe canvas redesign, in a space which to reproduce, as an arenain rvhichto act ratherthan as 'express' object, go on the canvas not \,ras What wasto actual imagined. or or an analvse a picturebut an event. in rn'ith image his mind; he u'entup to an his The painterno longerapproached easel in to in it rvith material his handto do something that otherpieceof material front of him. The imagervouldbe the resultof this encounter.
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(abstract' 'Abstract-Expressionist', u'hat or 'Expressionist' or Call this painting counts is its special motive for ertinguishing the object, rvhich is not the samc as in other abstractor Expressionistphasesof modern art. 'pure' art, since the extrusion of the object was The neu, American painting is not not for the sakeof the aesthetic.The apples rveren't brushed off the table in order to

a Sign.psychic state' concentration r.are aurilaesthetic.He must become the evoked' spontaneous' gradationsbetween the is'I entire duration of a lucid dranl'i or actull minutes taken up with spotting the canvas the a' The act-painting is of the samemetaphysicalsubstance in sign language.t. 'world'. into a discardedas irrelevant. What matters alwavs effect.irrg crrt in tlvo.v the of 'read' a paintins criticism that rvantsto ps-Vchological creation. T h e t e n s i o no f t h e P r i r a 'I'he a c t o n t h e c r n r a ss P r i n 'storY' lvhen the Painter fir recognition. anr 6ne of u'hich is the revelation unpaintecl canvases can be dispensedrvith. he u'an 'na meant liberation from the leavebehind the self that rvish to the Past. do $'ith action It follows thar an-vthingis relevant to it.voung 'l'he of a man Inuy b. as has iaries.alert rvaiting.usua episodes.vall. T h e r e r o l u t i o na g a i n s t has provided EuroPean val \merica in the form of . Their tvpe is not a . the painter around seven.The work. The diagonal born one. they hacl \.lan. With the American. psychologvot is 'ir is a processof the personalit. In this gesturing with materials thc would get in thc $'a1' of the act of draw-ing. a desPer tlther. Americansten their emotions. composition. been attempted logicalll'.Not that of the so-called thc the act' translates or for cluesto the artist's sexualpreferences debilities. Or it attemPts his total personalit-v m]'th Some formulate their With others. the exhilarationof an a t r u e i m a g eo f h i s i d e n t i t r' Painting could now be re that would be an alte .v of the painters were had been trying to paint Art (cubism' Postbeen trying to paint societ-v. It's Not That' It's Not That' found their rvar with a few important exceptions. Stevens balance. fiom it. heir c lnd Societr'\ as not exPerie heginningof an oPtimism re1 The American vanguardP: Ishmael took to the sea' On the one hand. colour.philosophy.others Imoressionism). hero worship' Anything but art criticisnr psvchologv. rightness of sa)-s poetr\ ' As etc. u'ith or practicall.y taking place in the four-sided arena. what givesthe canvastt: references With traditional aesthetic his emotionll meaning is not psychologicaldata but role. The painting A painting that is an act is inseparablefrom the biography of the 'moment' meansthc 'moment' in the adulteratedmixture of his life .essentialh'a ir sion has been exPerienced mvths. direction of a connoisseur the and relaxationof the lvill. and lif-e. historv. duration.v the 5 9 0 T h e I n d i v r d ua n dt h e S o c i a l go so that nothing make room filr perf ect relations of spaceand colour.Jights.a dramatic interest' act Criticismmustbeginbyrecognizinginthepaintingtheassumptionsinherentinit.Form. b"& into painting b.most of the artists of this vanguard painter but a reto their present work bv b. the imagc' containeclin the act. thinks of himself as a battleg ). over amounts to the samething' The big moment camewhen the canvaslvas a gestureof lib If the war and the decline there is n suddenimpatience.v o i o m a t i cm e m o r i e s f P a i n t i n t ( ) k e e pf r o m i n t r u d i n g i n t o satched for what each nove Ilasedon the Phenomenonol religio irainters. com. artists' congresses). hls been subordinated. has to think in rr mode of creation. the 'It's Not That.vles.Yet it is strangehon : the past ten vears and abando doing. Thei' had to painting. can't get al1'l' T'he painter gets alvay from art through his act of action: its inception. passivity. texturc' Art relation of the painting to the rvorks of the past. the critic form . him from his personaland artistic past' grand crisis separates 'Marxists' (wPA unions.and thus transcendsit' psvchologicallygiven into thsintentional. A far-off watcher unab might have assumedthev uer At its centre the movemen of the Past and the Good Lift The refusalof valuesdid nc ' it did after the First World *'orld to be different. conclucted betrveenart The new painting has broken down everv distinction thc irrtist's existence. and intellectualenerg.. were in a living situation.rctivit. It is to be taken for granted that in the final whaterer be tlr be not in it. An-vthing that has to mythology.ivhether itr.v"vavof ps. will be a tension' Dramas Of As If artist. Since the painler has becomean actor' the spectator . The critic who goes on iudging (the work of art)' painter were still concernedwith producing a certain kind of object ' '] instead of living on the canvas is bound to seem a stranger' [' of colour. the way the artist organizes The interest lies in the kind ot ur-if n.vcholog.'.'But the ps." if thtin terms of schools.

The tension of the private mvth is the content of everv painting of this 'anguarcl. *l. The result has been the creation of private m1'ths. Art as action rcsfs . enormous i .ith its episodes'With others. If the war and the cleclineof radicalism in America had anything to do with this sudden impatience. The refusalof valuesdid not take the form of cond. the fbundering of Art and Society was not erperiencedas a loss. ro pArNr.and art alreadythere. has re-entered America in the form of personal revolts.moral. The act on the canvassprings from an attempt to resurrect the saving moment in his 'storv' when the painter first felt himself . societl. 'I.even physica'y destroyed. has provided European vanguarclart with theories of a Ne* Realitr. he wanted his canvasto be a world. here one hears onlv of private Dark Nights' Yet it is strangehow many segregated individuals came to a dead stop rvithin the past ten \'earsand abandoned. rather than sincc Hegel . the exhilarationof an adventureover depths in which he might find reflectedthe t r u e i m a g eo f h i s i d e n r i t r .r.on the other. of the painters' essentiallya religious movement. In almost a"r". usually'deeper. About .. It was diffident. On the contrarr.r or defianceof society. On the one hand.a single voice.the painting itself is the erclus^'e fbrmulation.ff. movement is. At its centre the movement was a$'ay from. large issuesupon their emotions. there is no evidenceof it.myth of future self_recognition. heir of the pioneer and the immigrant.the work they had been doing' A far-off watcher unable to realizithat theseeventswere taking place in silence might have assumedthev were being directed by.. from varue poliiical.i""sed from value .he Great works of the Past and the Good Life of the Future becameequally TheAmerican Avant_Garde 591 The big moment camewhen it was decidedto paint. It was a mo\rementto leavebehind the self that wished to choosehis future and io nullifv its promissorvnotes to the pasr.rn th. aesthetic..Americans tend to be either reticent "f 'l'he or it did after the First World War. just -fhe .:.* sion has been experiencedin secularterms.s of Ishmael took to the sea. The lone arrist did not wanr rhe r'vorldto be different. Liberation from the object meant liberation from the 'nature'. French artist thinks of himself as a battleground of history. with the American. gestureon the canvaswas a gestureof liberation. Some formulate their myth verbally' and connect individual u'orks *.. The rer'-olutionagainst the given. Basedon the phenomenonof conversionthe ne\'. the con'er_ "". The American vanguardpainter took to the white expanse the canyasas Melville. Painting could now be reclucedto that equipment which the artist needed for an activity that would be an alternativeto both utilitl'and idleness. . in the self and in the u-orld. a slsn. a desperate recognitionof moral and intellectualexhaustion. however.Guided by visual and somatic memories of paintings he had seenor made memories rvhich he did his best to keep from intruding into his consciousness he gesticulatedupon the canvasand watched for what each novelty would declarehim and his art to be. with the majoritr.: I E :J F t t t .mvth of past self_ recognition' Or it attempts to initiate a new moment in which the painter u-ill realize his total personalitv. end of'Art marked the the beginning of an optimism regarding himself as an arrist.

.orks in a condition of open possibilitv. thc possibilitl. . l - 6tD of The omnir. . could not h b e ro n d r a n i n . 1 .u. to follorv Kierkegaard. risking.nor tt objective for social control.hich accompanies the fbrce to refrain from settling anvthing.orousness tht subtletv of insight from an Semanticalh'and ethica devices is equated lvith : damned to promote u ork displal'ed as evidenccof s presentedas evidenceof ir 'Paintin o of aesthetics r fallaciesbecomesa PoPuh Unknorvn are the crlm( c a l l e d \ r t . intrinsic al The rvork itself. or tl and lvastedvallevsand ct plain. he must erercise in himself a constant No. architccts esthetes.isioncould be achieved T o r c q u i r es u c h r n i n t technicsan conventional demanded full resolutro i n d i ri d u a l i s m .and 592 The Individual the Social irssumption that the artist accepts as real only that u'hich he is in the process ot creating. bv mainl--v hatred tll' c\.n . and its concor ffapped in the banal cor position'. t f r s c i n a t eh c i n d i f f e r c n t P I held it imPerative to er t h r o u g ha l l c u l t u r a lo P i a t r. no lc And the Act.n o e a P e r conceitsor technical fetis a n d c o m p o u n dd c c e i t . Thus it llas necessa tensions.rnguishof the aesthetic. a \\'arnlng s the relation I bear to thc and for another PurPos .E r e n t h c l h i r n and for their reassurancc artists.To maintain . rvhct of meaning. . It rvas as a journer th short-cuts rrerc permitt triumph. or failure.' Thc arrist u. Imagination. a m b i t i o n at this rvork.'Except the soul has divesteditself of the love of createdthings.lacking in realit.v.