NARRATOR: Welcome to Signs & Symbols. Today, we’ll look at a number of works from the 1940s and 1950s, primarily drawn from the Whitney’s permanent collection.
This period is most often associated with the development of Abstract Expressionism—the large-scale, gestural works of artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman. We’ll look at some of those artists today, but we’ll encounter them early on—before they initiated the styles for which they’re best known. And we’ll put them in dialogue with some of their lesser-known contemporaries, following them all as they examine what it meant to make art in postwar America.
European movements, especially Cubism and Surrealism, were important for many of these artists. But in the aftermath of the war, there was a strong desire on the part of many young American artists to distinguish themselves from their European counterparts. They wanted to invent a new, national aesthetic. In many respects, what they created was a kind of visual language. Some focused on calligraphic mark-making—a kind of inscription on the canvas. Others developed deeply personal symbols. Still others drew both imagery and syntax from the art of non-European cultures, or invented visual systems of their own. Such visual languages became the formal basis of their art as they attempted to reinvent abstract art for the postwar generation.
This audio guide highlights selected works from the exhibition Signs & Symbols, focusing on the development of American abstraction after World War II.
To use the audio guide at the Museum:
|1.||Audio guide stop for Introduction to Signs & Symbols||COLLECT|
|2.||Audio guide stop for Louise Bourgeois, One and Others, 1955||COLLECT|
|3.||Audio guide stop for Mark Tobey, Universal Field, 1949||COLLECT|
|4.||Audio guide stop for Will Barnet, Male and Female, 1954||COLLECT|
|5.||Audio guide stop for Steve Wheeler, Laughing Boy Rolling, 1946||COLLECT|
|6.||Audio guide stop for Forrest Bess, Drawings, 1957||COLLECT|
|7.||Audio guide stop for Mark Rothko, Agitation of the Archaic, 1944||COLLECT|
|8.||Audio guide stop for Adolph Gottlieb, Vigil, 1948||COLLECT|
|9.||Audio guide stop for Aaron Siskind||COLLECT|
|10.||Audio guide stop for Helen Levitt||COLLECT|
|11.||Audio guide stop for Alexander Calder, The Brass Family, 1929||COLLECT|
|12.||Audio guide stop for Jackson Pollock, Untitled, c. 1939–42||COLLECT|
|13.||Audio guide stop for Richard Pousette-Dart, The Magnificent, 1950–51||COLLECT|
|14.||Audio guide stop for Isamu Noguchi, The Gunas, 1946||COLLECT|
|15.||Audio guide stop for Alfred Jensen, A Perfect Equal Area I, 1960||COLLECT|
|16.||Audio guide stop for Jasper Johns, White Target, 1957||COLLECT|
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