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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Abstract Expressionism, Weapon of the Cold War : Eva Cockroft


Teena George


Thesis Statement: "Rockefeller, through Barr and others at the Museum his mother founded and his family controlled, consciously used Abstract Expressionism, 'the symbol of political freedom', for political ends."



Paragraph 1:

Topic Sentence:

"To understand why a particular art movement becomes successful under a given set of historical circumstances requires an examination of the specifics of patronage and the ideological needs of the powerful."

Supporting ideas:

Ø Earlier and during Renaissance – patronage hand in hand with official power.

Ø Post industrial revolution – art became part of general flow of commodities in the market – no direct contact with patrons

Keywords: Patronage; commodities.



Paragraph 2:

Topic sentence:

"In rejecting materialistic values of bourgeois society and indulging in the myth that they could exist entirely outside the dominant culture in Bohemian enclaves, avant-garde artists generally refused to recognize or accept their role as producers of a cultural commodity"

Supporting ideas:

Ø Rejected materialistic values of bourgeois society – refused to accept their roles as creators of a commercial product

Ø Especially in the United States – abdicated responsibility to their own economic interests and to the uses to which their art is put after entering into the market.

Keywords: rejection of material values




Paragraph 3:

Topic sentence:

"Museums, for their part, enlarged their role to become more than mere repositories of past art, and began to exhibit and collect contemporary art."

Supporting ideas:

Ø United States – came to fulfill the role of official patronage – no accountability, however – primarily a private institution – supported by giants of industry and finance – governed by self-perpetuating boards of trustees – they also control banks and corporations and help in the formulation of foreign policy, which ultimately determine museum policy

Ø Rising success of abstract expressionism post WWII entails consideration of the role of the leading museum of contemporary art – The Museum Of Modern Art (MOMA) – also concerned with the ideological needs of officers (period of virulent anti-communism and an intensifying 'Cold war').

Keywords: Patronage; MOMA; anti-communism




Paragraph 4:

Topic sentence: "In an article entitled 'American Painting During the Cold War', published in the May 1973 issue of Artforum, Max Kozloff pointed out the similarity between 'American cold war rhetoric' and the way many Abstract Expressionist artists phrased their existentialist-individualist credos."

Supporting ideas:

Ø May 1973 – Artforum – Max Kozloff – similarity between 'American cold war rhetoric' and way many Abstract Expressionist artists phrased their existentialist-individualist credos.

Ø However – failed to examine full import of this insight – claimed: 'This was a coincidence that must surely have gone unnoticed by rulers and ruled alike.' – not so.

Keywords: American cold war rhetoric; existentialist-individualist credos



Paragraph 5:

Topic sentence: Links between cultural cold war politics and the success of abstract expressionism are by no means coincidental, or unnoticeable.

Supporting ideas:

Ø Links between cultural cold war politics and the success of abstract expressionism – forged consciously – by most some of the most influential figures controlling museum policies a

Ø And advocating enlightened cold war tactics to woo European intellectuals.

Keywords: links; forged consciously; enlightened cold war tactics



Paragraph 6:

Topic sentence: The political relationship between Abstract Expressionism and the cold war can be clearly perceived through the international programs of MOMA

Supporting ideas:

Ø MOMA – major supporter of the Abstract Expressionist movement – huge impact in the sphere of contemporary American art.

Ø MOMA – Rockefeller-dominated institution – also financed by the Whitneys, Paleys, Blisses, Warburgs and Lewisohns to a lesser degree than the Rockefeller's.

Keywords: political relationship




Paragraph 7:

Topic sentence: "The development of American cold war politics was directly shaped by the Rockefellers in particular and by expanding corporations and banks in general (David Rockefeller is also chairman of the board of Chase Manhattan Bank, the financial centre of the Rockefeller dynasty)."

Supporting ideas:

Ø MOMA – founded in 1929 – through the efforts of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Ø 1939 – Nelson Rockefeller became president of MOMA – left in 1940 to become President Roosevelt's co-coordinator of the office of Inter-American Affairs – later, Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs – dominated museum throughout 1940s and 1950s – returned to MOMA's presidency in 1946.

Ø 1960s and 1970s – David Rockefeller and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller (the third) – assumed responsibility of the museum for the family.

Ø Almost every secretary of state after the end of World War II – has been trained and groomed by various foundations and agencies controlled or managed by the Rockefellers.

Keywords: controlled; managed; groomed; trained



Paragraph 8:

Topic sentence: "The involvement of the Museum of Modern Art in American foreign policy became unmistakably clear during the Second World War."

Supporting ideas:

Ø June 1941 – central press wire story – MOMA – 'largest and strangest recruit in Uncle Sam's defense line-up' – quoted Chairman of the Museum's Board of trustees, John Hay Whitney – The museum could serve as a weapon for national defense – to 'educate, inspire and strengthen the hearts and wills of free men in defense of their own freedom'

Ø Whitney – worked for the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor of the CIA) during the war – in 1967, his charity trust was exposed as a conduit of the CIA

Ø Throughout the early 1940s – MOMA engaged in a number of war-related programs – set the pattern for its later activities as key institution in the cold war.

Keywords: Recruit in Uncle Sam's line-up



Paragraph 9:

Topic sentence: "Primarily, MOMA became a minor war contractor, fulfilling 38 contracts for cultural materials totaling $1,590,234 for the Library of Congress, the Office of War Information, and especially Nelson Rockefeller's Office of the Co-coordinator of the Inter-American Affairs"

Supporting ideas:

Ø For Nelson's Office of Inter-American Affairs – mother's museum put together 19 exhibitions of contemporary American painting – shipped around Latin America – area in which Nelson R. developed his most lucrative investments – for example, Creole Petroleum

Ø Creole Petroleum – a subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey – single-most important economic interest in oil-rich Venezuela.

Keywords: Creole petroleum; contemporary American painting



Paragraph 10:

Topic sentence: "After the War, staff from the Inter-American Affairs Office were transferred to MOMA's foreign activities."

Supporting ideas:

Ø Rene d'Harnoncourt – expert in the organization and installation of art exhibits – helped American Ambassador, Dwight Morrow cultivate the Mexican muralists – at the time when Mexico's oil nationalism threatened Rockefeller oil interests – was appointed head of art section of Nelson's Office of Inter-American Affairs in 1943 – Vice President in charge of foreign activities, a year later – became MOMA's director in 1949.

Ø Porter A. McCray – 1950s – worked in the Office during the War.

Keywords: Mexican muralists



Paragraph 11:

Topic sentence: "McCray is a particularly powerful and effective man in the history of cultural imperialism."

Supporting ideas:

Ø Trained as an architect at Yale University – introduced to the Rockefeller circuit through their architect, Wallace Harrison.

Ø After the war – Brought to MOMA by Nelson Rockefeller – as director of circulating exhibits

Ø 1946 to 1949 – served as member of MOMA'a coordinating committee

Ø 1951 – a year's leave of absence – to work for exhibitions section of the Marshall plan in Paris

Ø 1952 – MOMA's international program – five year grant of $ 625,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund – McCray became its director

Ø 1956 – Led the programs expanded division – international council of MOMA – crucial years of the cold war.

Ø According to Russell Lynes – Good Old Modern: An Intimate Portrait of the Museum of Modern Art – purpose of MOMA's international program – to 'let it be known especially in Europe that America was not the cultural backwater that the Russians, during that tense period called the "cold war", were trying to demonstrate that it was.'

Keywords: architect; international council of MOMA; cultural backwater



Paragraph 12:

Topic sentence: "It [MOMA] assumed a quasi-official character, providing the 'United States representation' in shows where most nations were represented by government-sponsored exhibits"

Supporting ideas:

Ø MOMA's international program – provided exhibitions of contemporary American art for international exhibitions in London, Paris, Sao Paulo and Tokyo – primarily Abstract Expressionists

Ø Assumed a quasi-official character – provided 'United States representation' – In shows where representations were mostly government-sponsored.

Ø United States government – had trouble in handling delicate issues of free speech and free artistic expression – generated by McCarthyist hysteria of the early 1950s – made it necessary and convenient for MOMA to assume this role of international representation for the United States.

Ø For example – the State department – refused to take responsibility for the United States representation at the Venice Biennale – one of the most important of international-cultural-political art events – all European countries, including the Soviet Union competed for cultural honors.

Ø MOMA – bought the United States pavilion in Venice – took sole responsibility for the exhibitions from 1954 to 1962

Ø Only case of a privately owned pavilion at the Venice Biennale – generally, government-owned.

Keywords: Quasi-official; representation; biennale



Paragraph 13:

Topic sentence: "The CIA, primarily through the activities of Thomas W. Braden, also was active in the cold-war cultural offensive."

Supporting ideas:

Ø Braden – represents the important role of MOMA in the cold war.

Ø Before joining the CIA in 1950 to supervise its cultural activities, from 1951 to 1954 – was MOMA's executive secretary from April 1948 to November 1949.

Ø Published an article in defense of his political cultural activities – 'I'm glad the CIA is "Immoral"' – in the 20 May 1967 issue of Saturday Evening Post. – According to Braden – enlightened members of the governmental bureaucracy recognized in the 1950s that 'dissenting opinions within the framework of agreement on cold-war fundamentals' - an effective propaganda weapon abroad.

Ø Rabid anti-communists – in Congress and the nation as a whole – made official sponsorship of many cultural projects impracticable.

Ø Braden: "… the idea that Congress would have approved many of our projects was about as likely as the John Birch Society's approving Medicare."

Ø 1967 exposes – revealed – CIA funded a host of cultural programs and intellectual endeavors – from the National Student Association (NSA) – to Encounter magazine and innumerable lesser-known 'liberal and socialist' fronts.

Keywords: Immoral; dissenting opinions; liberal and social fronts



Paragraph 14:

Topic sentence: "As this example suggests, CIA's purpose in supporting international intellectual and cultural activities were not limited to espionage or establishing contact with leading foreign intellectuals."

Supporting ideas:

Ø Cultural field – CIA – funded a Paris tour of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1952.

Ø Done, according to Braden, to avoid severe security restrictions imposed by the United States Congress – required security clearance for every last musician in order to procure funds for the tour to ensure no left-wing connections.

Ø Money was well-spent – said Braden – 'the Boston Symphony Orchestra won more acclaim for the United States in Paris than John Foster Dulles or Dwight d. Eisenhower could have brought with a hundred speeches.'

Keywords: Boston Symphony Orchestra; acclaim



Paragraph 15:

Topic sentence: " The functions of both the CIA's undercover aid operations and MOMA's international programs were similar."

Supporting ideas:

Ø No pressure in the form of unsubtle red-baiting and super-jingoism applied to official government agencies, such as the United States Information Agency (USIA)

Ø CIA and MOMA cultural projects – could provide well-financed and more persuasive arguments and exhibitions – necessary to sell the rest of the world on the benefits of life and art under capitalization

Keywords: capitalization; red-baiting; super-jingoism



Paragraph 16:

Topic sentence: "In the world of art, Abstract Expressionism constituted the ideal style for these propaganda activities."

Supporting ideas:

Ø Contrast to 'regimented, traditional and narrow' nature of 'socialist realism' – new, fresh and creative – artistically avant-garde and original

Ø Abstract Expressionism – could show the United States as culturally up-to-date in competition with Paris.

Ø Possible since Pollock and most of the other avant-garde artists no longer interested in political activism.

Ø Change – manifested in the organization of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors in 1943. – Included several of the Abstract Expressionists. – Kozloff: "interested more in aesthetic values than in political action."

Ø Formed in opposition to the politically motivated Artists Congress.

Ø Earlier political activism of some of the Abstract Expressionists – liability in terms of attaining congressional approval for government-sponsored cultural projects.

Ø Cold Warrior's point of view – such linkages to controversial politics – heighten the value of these artists as a propaganda weapon in demonstrating the virtues of 'freedom of expression' in an 'open and free society'.

Keywords: regimented, traditional and narrow; freedom of expression; open and free society



Paragraph 17:

Topic sentence: "Heralded as the artistic 'coming of age' of America, Abstract Expressionist painting was exported abroad almost from the beginning."

Supporting ideas:

Ø William de Kooning – work was included in the United States representation at the Venice Biennale – 1948

Ø 1950 – Arshile Gorky and Pollok

Ø From 1951 – United States representation at the Biennales in Sao Paulo – featured an average of 3 Abstract Expressionists per show.

Ø Abstract Expressionists – also represented at shows in Venezuela, Japan, India, etc.

Ø By 1956 – MOMA show – 'Modern Art in the U.S.' – included works of twelve Abstract Expressionists (Baziotes, Gorky, Guson, Hartigan, de Kooning, Kline, Motherwell, Pollock, Rothko, Stamos, Still and Tomlin) – toured eight European cities, including Vienna and Belgrade.

Keywords: artistic coming of age



Paragraph 18:

Topic sentence: "In terms of cultural propaganda, the functions of both the CIA cultural apparatus and MOMA's international programs were similar and, in fact, mutually supportive."

Supporting ideas:

Ø 1950s – Porter McCray – director of MOMA – in effect, also carried out government functions.

Ø Braden and the CIA served interests of the Rockefellers and other corporate luminaries in the American ruling class.

Ø McCray – on of the Rockefeller's main agents – furthering programs for the export of American culture to areas considered vital to Rockefeller interests – Latin America during the War, Europe just after, Asia during the 1950s and 1960s.

Ø 1962 to 1963 – McCray – year's travel – Asia and Africa – under the joint auspices of the State Department and MOMA.

Ø October 1963 – Asia became a particularly crucial area for the United States – McCray left MOMA – became director for the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund – newly created cultural exchange program directed towards Asia, specifically.

Keywords: corporate luminaries; mutually supportive; cultural apparatus



Paragraph 19:

Topic sentence: "The United States government simply could not handle the needs of cultural imperialism alone during the cold war, at least overtly."

Supporting ideas:

Ø 1956 art-show scandals of the USIA – illustrative of the problems faced by the government – solution provided by MOMA.

Ø May 1956 – show of paintings by American artists called Sport in Art – organized by Sports Illustrated for USIA – scheduled to be shown in conjunction with the Olympic Games, Australia.

Ø Cancelled – due to strong protests in Dallas, Texas, where the shoe toured before being sent abroad.

Ø Right-wing group in Dallas – the Patriotic Council – objected on grounds that four of the included artists had once belonged to communist-front groups.

Keywords: cultural imperialism; Patriotic Council



Paragraph 20:

Topic sentence: "In June 1956, even more serious case of thought censorship hit the press."

Supporting ideas:

Ø USIA abruptly cancelled a major show of American art – '100 American Artists'

Ø 21 June issue of New York Times – show had been planned as 'one of the most important exhibits of American painting ever sent abroad'.

Ø Show – organized for USIA – by American Federation of Arts – non-profit organization, based in New York – refused to cooperate with USIA's attempt to force it to exclude about ten artists considered by the information agency to be 'social hazards' and 'unacceptable' for political reasons.

Ø Federation's trustees – voted unanimously – not to participate in the show – if any paintings were barred by the government – cited a 1954 resolution that art 'should be judged by its merits as a work of art and not by the political or social views of the artist.'

Keywords: censorship; social hazards



Paragraph 21:

Topic sentence: "Objections against censorship were also raised by the American Committee for Cultural Freedom (which was revealed as receiving CIA funds in the 1967 exposes).

Supporting ideas:

Ø Theodore Streibert, Director of USIA – testified before Senator Fulbright's Foreign Relations Committee – acknowledged that USIA had a policy against the use of politically suspect artist's works in foreign exhibitions.

Ø USIA – as a government agency – handcuffed by the virulent the noisy speeches of right-wing congressmen like Representative George A. Dondero (Michigan) – regularly denounced from the House floor abstract art and 'brainwashed artists in the uniform of the Red art brigade'.

Ø Reported on 28 June 1956 – New York Times – Fulbright: 'unless the agency changes its policy it should not try to send any more exhibitions overseas.'

Keywords: Foreign Relations Committee; speech; Red art brigade



Paragraph 22:

Topic sentence: "The Rockefellers promptly arranged a solution to this dilemma (see previous paragraph regarding sending of exhibitions overseas)

Supporting ideas:

Ø 1956 – international program of MOMA – greatly expanded in financial base and in its aims.

Ø Reconstituted as the International Council of MOMA – officially launched six months after the censorship scandal of USIA's 100 American Artists show.

Ø MOMA's newly expanded role – explained in New York Times article: "government – leery of anything so controversial as art – hampered by interference on the part of certain politicians – imminent projects overseas include United States participation in three major international art exhibitions and a show of modern painting to travel in Europe."

Keywords: controversial



Paragraph 23:

Topic sentence: "This major show of American painting was produced two years later by MOMA's International Council as The New American Painting, an elaborate traveling exhibition of the Abstract Expressionists."

Supporting ideas:

Ø Exhibition – included a comprehensive catalog by prestigious Alfred H. Barr Jr. – toured eight European countries – 1958-59.

Ø Barr's introduction to the catalog – exemplified the cold-war propaganda role of Abstract Expressionism: "existentialists – their 'anxiety', commitment, 'dreadful freedom' concern their work, primarily – defiantly reject the conventions of society around them – paintings are expressions of freedom – in a world where freedom connotes political attitude, they do not enter into politics.

Keywords: anxiety, commitment and dreadful freedom; defiant rejection



Paragraph 24:

Topic sentence: "As the director of MOMA from its inception until 1944, Barr was the single most important man in shaping the Museum's artistic character and determining the success or failure of individual American artists and art movements."

Supporting ideas:

Ø Barr – even after leaving directorship at MOMA – continued to serve as the agency's reigning tastemaker – his support of Abstract Expressionist art – played an influential role in their success.

Ø Barr was also artistic advisor to Peggy Guggenheim – Surrealist-oriented Art of this Century Gallery – gave some of these artists their first important shows – mid-1940s.

Ø For example – Guggenheim's gallery – offered one-man shows to Jackson Pollock – 1943, 1945, 1947. – Hans Hoffman, 1944 – Mark Rothko, 1945

Ø Barr – enthusiastic about work of the Abstract Expressionist – attended their informal meetings – chaired some of their panel discussions at their meeting place – The Club, New York City.

Keywords: Guggenheim



Paragraph 25:

Topic sentence: "Barr's 'credentials' as cultural cold warrior, and the political rationale behind the promotion and export of Abstract Expressionist art during the cold-war years, are set forth in a New York Times Magazine article Barr wrote in 1952, 'Is Modern Art Communistic?', a condemnation of 'social realism' in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

Supporting ideas:

Ø Barr – argued – totalitarianism and Realism go together

Ø Barr - Abstract art – feared and prohibited according to Hitlers and Stalins (as well as the Donderos of the world, who would equate abstraction with communism).

Ø In the battle against ignorant right-wing McCarthyists at home – Barr reflected the attitudes of enlightened cold warriors like CIA's Braden and MOMA's McCray.

Ø In the case of MOMA's international policies – subterfuge not necessary – unlike in the CIA

Ø Aims similar to those of the CIA – can easily be followed with support of Nelson Rockefeller's millions.

Keywords: Communistic; social realism



Paragraph 26:

Topic sentence: "Especially important was the attempt to influence intellectuals and artists behind the 'iron curtain'."

Supporting ideas:

Ø Post-Stalin era – 1956 – Polish government was under Gomulka – became more liberal – Tadeusz Kantor, an artist from Cracow – impressed by Pollock's works and other abstractionists seen during an earlier trip to Paris – led movement away from socialist realism in Poland.

Ø This kind of development was seen as a triumph for the Non-communists – 'the American side'

Ø 1961 – Kandor and fourteen other non-objective Polish painters – given an exhibition at MOMA.

Ø This example - reflects the success of political aims of the international programs of MOMA.

Keywords: The American side; socialist realism



Paragraph 27:

Topic sentence: "Having succeeded so handsomely through MOMA in supporting the cold war, Nelson Rockefeller moved on, in the 1960s, to launch the council of the Americas and its cultural component, the Center for Inter-American Relations."

Supporting ideas:

Ø Funded almost entirely by Rockefeller money and that of other American investors in Latin America – Council advises the United States government on foreign policy.

Ø The Centre for Inter-American Relations – thinly veiled cultural attempt to woo back respect from Latin America in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution and the Bay of Pigs and missile crisis incidents.

Ø In its Park Avenue office – offers exhibitions of Latin American art and guest lectures by leading Latin American painters and intellectuals.

Ø The Centre – yet another link in a continuing and expanding chain of Rockefeller-dominated imperialism – like the john D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund.

Keywords: woo back respect from Latin America



Paragraph 28:

Topic sentence: "The alleged separation of art from politics proclaimed throughout the 'free world' with the resurgence of abstraction after the Second World War was part of a general tendency in intellectual circles toward 'objectivity'.

Supporting ideas:

Ø Idea of political commitment – foreign to the newly developing milieu of the 1950s.

Ø Daniel Bell – proclaimed the post-war period as 'the end of ideology'.

Ø Abstract Expressionists – gave their paintings an individual emphasis – eliminated recognizable subject-matter – succeeded in creating an important new art movement – also contributed to a purely political phenomenon – divorce between politics and art, which so perfectly served the needs of America during the Cold War.

Keywords: political commitment; end of ideology; divorce between politics and art



Paragraph 29:

Topic sentence: "Attempts to claim that styles of art are politically neutral when there is no overt political subject-matter are as simplistic as Dondero-ish attacks on all abstract art as 'subversive'."

Supporting ideas:

Ø Braden and his followers – intelligent and sophisticated – recognized that dissenting intellectuals who believe themselves to be acting freely could be useful tools in the international propaganda war.

Ø Rich and powerful patrons of art – like Rockefeller and Whitney – control museums and help oversee foreign policy – recognize the value of culture in the political arena

Ø Artist creates freely – his work is promoted and used by others.

Ø Rockefeller – through Barr and others at his museum – used Abstract Expressionism, 'the symbol of political freedom', for political ends.

Keywords: subversive; useful t


Anonymous said...

Absolutely spot on.
You nailed it.

Anil Pinto said...

Thank you for the comment

Anonymous said...

This is so great, I'm really thankful that you post this

scott davidson said...

As an encouraging mum, if I can say so myself, I had a nice time recently with my two kids to decorate their room in our new house that we just moved into. There were lots of the children's art work, made at home and school, that we happily put on the wall. Then we spent time together sitting in front of the iMac and looked through the big collection of digital images that Wahooart had for their customers to select from and have printed as canvas prints. The kids together chose this painting for their room, Ivan Horse by Edmund Dulac, that we ordered online to have delivered to our new house.