Long Island Books: “New York School Abstract Expressionists: Artist’s Choice by Artists”
Rose C.S. Slivka | December 14, 2000
“New York School Abstract
Expressionists: Artist’s Choice by Artists”
Edited by Marika Herskovic
New York School Press, $95
Marika Herskovic, the editor and driving force behind the book “New York School Abstract Expressionists: Artist’s Choice by Artists,” may well have hauled in the most complete roundup of the many and varied painters and sculptors who created and defined the most adventurously American art movement of the 20th century.
This lavish book presents 265 artists in 393 pages, with no less than 172 full-page reproductions and statements by 86 artists.
The New York School movement was undoubtedly the most significant in the history of American art. Taking place in downtown New York where artists worked in neighboring studios during the post World War II boom, Abstract Expressionism received visibility in artist-organized exhibits beginning with the “9th Street Show” in 1951 and continuing uptown with the annual Stable Gallery shows until 1957.
The New York School was inhabited by a variety of yet-to-be-known makers and individual styles, yet all shared the brave new art world of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko.
The book documents not only those who made it and became world famous, but the many about whom, still, little is known. Yet they participated richly with their energy, work, and ideas in this tumultuous, generative period. The book represents them vividly, thereby ensuring that they will not be lost.
What most defined the time was its high camaraderie, a group spirit in downtown New York that had its genesis in the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression, when artists worked on government sponsored projects and murals in public spaces. The movement reached its peak in the late 1940s and early 1950s and has not been equaled since.
|Ibram Lassaw Erinnys, 1954
All right reserved by the artists or by his delegates.
Published by the New York School Press, the book has been luxuriously printed on heavy coated stock. It contains installation shots of both the “9th Street Show,” which took place in a rented loft, and the Stable Gallery on West 57th Street, together with replicas of announcements and lists of artists. The lists give ages and the numbers of times each artist showed as well as other statistical data and a complete index of artist participation in these events.
Having been around the scene at the time, I was amused to see that age is as prone to the manipulations of vanity among the men as legend would have it was among the women.
While many of the reproductions were supplied by the artists, their galleries, and collectors, an impressive number are photographs done for the book by Geoffrey Clements, who is treated as an artist in his own right, with a full-page photograph of himself and two pages of text.
This is on a par with the work of the incomparable Aaron Siskind, the photographer-collagist who influenced the painting of his time, particularly the work of Franz Kline. With two full-page reproductions, a statement from Siskind’s own writings, plus a curriculum vitae including all his solo and group exhibits, the point of his importance is certainly made clear.
A member of the Artists Club, he was the only photographer whom the artists welcomed as a participant. Otherwise, the painters of that era considered photographers on a lower plane.
It comes as a fresh surprise to see how important the East End becomes as the place that harbored Action Painting, as Abstract Expressionism was also called by its foremost critic, Harold Rosenberg, who lived in New York and in Springs.
The list of those who lived and worked on the East End, many of whom still do, numbers 53.
All the books by Marika Herskovic/New York School Press are available at: