American modernism 1910 – 1935

As a name for the mainstream tendency in 20th-century abstract art ‘modernism’ came into widespread usage only in the 1960s It was applied to the Abstract Expressionists and to contemporary hard-edge painting, colour field painting and abstract sculpture, most influentially by the American critic Clement Greenberg Its lineage was traced back to Manet as the initiator of a sequence of formal innovations, particularly those that lessened illusionism in painting and mimeticism in sculpture Reflecting the economic and cultural ascendency of the USA and the enormous power of the New York art market, this viewpoint became orthodox internationally It was, however, subject to subversion by Pop and Minimalist artists and to devastating criticism by conceptual, political and feminist artists and commentators By the early 1970s it was displaced as a paradigm for most artists, although it persists in many museums, galleries and educational systems

American modernism, much like the modernism movement in general, is a trend of philosophical thought arising from the widespread changes in culture and society in the age of modernity American modernism is an artistic and cultural movement in the United States beginning at the turn of the 20th century, with a core period between World War I and World War II Like its European counterpart, American modernism stemmed from a rejection of Enlightenment thinking, seeking to better represent reality in a new, more industrialized world

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Characteristically, modernist art has a tendency to abstraction, is innovative, aesthetic, futuristic and self-referential It includes visual art, literature, music, film, design, architecture as well as life style It reacts against historicism, artistic conventions and institutionalization of art Art was not only to be dealt with in academies, theaters or concert halls, but to be included in everyday life and accessible for everybody Furthermore, cultural institutions concentrated on fine art and scholars paid little attention to the revolutionary styles of modernism Economic and technological progress in the US during the Roaring Twenties gave rise to widespread utopianism, which influenced some modernist artists, while others were skeptical of the embrace of technology The victory in World War I confirmed the status of the US as an international player and gave the people self-confidence and a feeling of security In this context American modernism marked the beginning of American art as distinct and autonomous from European taste by breaking artistic conventions that had been shaped after European traditions until then

American modernism benefited from the diversity of immigrant cultures Artists were inspired by African, Caribbean, Asian and European folk cultures and embedded these exotic styles in their works

The Modernist American movement is a reflection of American life in the 20th century In this quickly industrializing world and hastened pace of life, it is easy for the individual to be swallowed up by the vastness of things; left wandering, devoid of purpose Social boundaries in race, class, sex, wealth, and religion are all being challenged As the social structure is challenged by new incoming views the bounds of traditional standards and social structure dissolve and a loss of identity is all that remains; translating later into isolation, alienation, and an overall feeling of separateness from any kind of “whole” The unity of a war rallied country was dying, along with it the illusion of the pleasantries it sold to its soldiers and people The world was left violent, vulgar, and spiritually empty

The middle class worker falls into a distinctly unnoticeable position, a cog much too small to hope to find recognition in much greater machine Citizens were overcome with their own futility Youths dreams shatter with failure and a disillusioning disappointment in recognition of limit and loss The lives of the disillusioned and outcasts become more focal Ability to define self through hard work and resourcefulness, to create your own vision of yourself without the help of traditional means becomes prized Some authors endorse this, while others, such as F Scott Fitzgerald, challenged how alluring but destructively false the values of privilege can be