The mainstreaming of modern art in America
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This interdisciplinary research project investigates the individual and collective efforts of a four-pronged advocacy coalition which promoted Modernism in America between 1930 and 1950. The study documents the activities of the commercial art dealers, the patrons and collectors, the museums and the educators who mainstreamed modern art into the cultural psyche of the United States. Through their interactions and collective power, they were instrumental in the grafting of fledgling American art sensibilities to vanguard European practices, the establishment of valid educational mechanisms to promote an appreciation of Modernism, the recognition of New York as the international capital of art and culture, and the formation of aesthetic theories which were uniquely representational of America. Through the analysis of unpublished archival material, journals, memoirs, artists’ statements, relevant critical writings and educational publications, the individual and concomitant activities of these advocacy groups are examined. The research documents the congruent exhibitions, theoretical discussions, and didactic programs devoted to Modernism and draws correlations between the modern art movement and the catalytic shifts in educational practices. Findings from the research suggest the conscious formation of a cultural coalition which proselytized modern art, created a system of patronage for the art and disseminated its philosophical and iconographical principles throughout the United States. The research indicates that it was the unfaltering efforts of a powerful art collective which included the dealers, the patrons, the museums and the educational systems, who used their aegis to transform the aesthetic identity of the United States and poise America to become the new center of the artistic world. This collective promoted not only a body of work, but also a body of institutions and a matrix of practices which were dispersed into and absorbed by the American public. The result of their actions was an amalgamation of ideals concerning democracy, free will and individual creative expression which mark a meridian of the intellectual and artistic history of our society.