Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945-1965 3791355848, 9783791355849

This unprecedented global survey of the art of the postwar era represents a comprehensive examination of the production

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10 Johannes Ebert Secretary-General, Goethe-Institut 11 Hortensia Völckers Artistic Director, Kulturstiftung des Bundes Alexander Farenholtz Administrative Director, Kulturstiftung des Bundes


Yule Heibel Germany’s Postwar Search for a New Image of Man


Sarah Wilson New Images of Man: Postwar Humanism and its Challenges in the West


Homi K. Bhabha Remembering Fanon: Self, Psyche, and the Colonial Condition



Stephen Petersen “Forms Disintegrate”: Painting in the Shadow of the Bomb


146 Ariella Azoulay The Natural History of Rape

Okwui Enwezor

Okwui Enwezor, Katy Siegel, Ulrich Wilmes



20 Okwui Enwezor The Judgment of Art: Postwar and Artistic Worldliness



58 Ulrich Wilmes Postwar: Denazification and Reeducation 68 Mark Mazower Postwar: The Melancholy History of a Term 74

Dipesh Chakrabarty Legacies of Bandung: Decolonization and the Politics of Culture


Visual Essay: Social and Political Events


Chronology of Social and Political Events


Visual Essay: Arts and Culture


Chronology of Arts and Culture

Section Introduction

420 Alejandro Anreus Whatever happened to Realism after 1945? Figuration and Politics in the Western Hemisphere

Katy Siegel Art, World, History

VISUAL ESSAYS AND CHRONOLOGIES Compiled by Damian Lentini and Daniel Milnes Installation view of the Ninth Street Show, New York, 1951.

Section Introduction

Yasufumi Nakamori Imagining a City Through Photography





7 Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs

Dr. Ludwig Spaenle Minister of State for Education and Culture, Science and Art









Tanaka Atsuko wearing her Electric Dress (Denkifuku) at the 2nd Gutai Art Exhibition, Tokyo, 1956.


Section Introduction


Emily Braun The Dirt Paradigm


Salah M. Hassan When Identity Becomes “Form”: Calligraphic Abstraction and Sudanese Modernism


Geeta Kapur Material Facture


Richard Shiff 0 to 1


Terry Smith Abstraction and Ideol- ogy: Contestation in Cold War Art Criticism

424 Ekaterina Degot Commitment to Humility 430

Anneka Lenssen Exchangeable Realism


Gao Minglu The Historical Logic of Chinese Nationalist Realism from the 1940s to the 1960s


Nikolas Drosos and Romy Golan Realism as International Style

Jewad Selim’s Monument of Freedom at Tahrir Square, Baghdad, 1962.


Section Introduction


478 Pedro Erber Out of Words: The Spacetime of Concrete Poetry


Section Introduction


Galia Bar Or Channels for Democratic Iteration

484 Andrea Giunta Simultaneous Abstractions and Post- war Latin American Art


Atreyee Gupta After Bandung: Transacting the Nation in a Postcolonial World


Chika Okeke-Agulu Fanon, National Culture, and the Politics of Form in Postwar Africa


Mari Carmen Ramirez The Necessity of Con- creteness: A View from the (Global?) South


Section Introduction


Zainab Bahrani Baghdad Modernism


Catherine Grenier Plural Modernities: A History of a Cosmo- politan Modernity

570 Courtney J. Martin Exiles, Émigrés and Cosmopolitans: London’s Postwar Art World 574 Tobias Wofford The Black Cosmopolitans 580 Damian Lentini Cosmopolitan Contaminations: Artists, Objects, Media

Lygia Clark’s first major European exhibition takes place at Signals, London, 1965.


Selected Documents


Artists’ Biographies

806 Bibliography 812 About the Contributors 816

List of Works

826 Index 834 Hermann Nitsch’s first Aktion (‘Action’) takes place on December 19 at the flat of Otto Mühl, Vienna, 1963.

List of Lenders

836 List of Acknowledgments 840 Image Credits


Section Introduction


Ješa Denegri Art in the Network of Technological Media and Mass Communica- tion: New Tendencies


Walter Grasskamp True Grid


Anne Massey Reframing the Independent Group


Pamela M. Lee and Fred Turner The Cybernetic Vision in Postwar Art

844 Colophon


Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier · Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs


n examination of the global development of modern art between the end of World War II and 1965 is an ambitious but highly worthwhile undertaking. Haus der Kunst has taken on that challenge. The result, in my opinion, is impressive: an exhibition that aims to offer its visitors new perspectives on the artistic development of the period worldwide. The show presents works by 218 artists, many of them barely known in Europe, from more than sixty countries. Postwar makes possible a change of vantage points and introduces us to things of which we were previously unaware. Both are urgent necessities, because—in politics but also elsewhere—to insist that one is in possession of the absolute truth only leads to deadlocks and conflicts. If we want peaceful global development to have a chance, we must all strive to acquaint ourselves with different perceptions of the same reality. Only if we succeed in accepting different viewpoints and then uniting them in dialogue will we succeed in true mutual understanding.

In a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams, cultural politics has a decisive role to play in this process. Both inside and outside our country, we must learn to see the whole picture. The more we trust the social capacity of culture and education to keep differences from leading to misunderstandings, misunderstandings to conflicts, and conflicts to wars, the more possible that will be. This is precisely the aim of Postwar: to contribute to exploring and understanding other perspectives. That is why I was glad to take on the show’s patronage. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all involved in the realization of this exhibition for their outstanding work, in particular Okwui Enwezor, Ulrich Wilmes, and Katy Siegel. I wish all of the exhibition’s visitors new insights and new impulses for lively discussion.

Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier


BAVARIAN STATE MINISTER’S STATEMENT Dr. Ludwig Spaenle · Bavarian Minister of State for Education and Culture, Science and Art


hat art unifies society at its core is clear in our rich, diverse, and vibrant cultural scene. We accord special status to art that crosses boundaries, and Haus der Kunst, with its prominence and reputation, makes a valuable contribution in this context. That is why it is the right venue for the exhibition Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965, which follow the coastlines of two great oceans, the Pacific and the Atlantic: from Germany to Japan to South and North America. The exhibition lays out the postwar era by perceiving it as a global phenomenon. A study project as well as an exhibition, Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 encompasses a wide

spectrum of international events, including conferences, seminars, and workshops with regional foci. The research and discussion it developed are now mirrored in the show, which is devoted to the dynamic relationships among artworks and artists in international, national, and local contexts, as well as to the complex aesthetic forms that blossomed all over the world after the turmoil of World War II. I wish visitors to the exhibition a stimulating and enjoyable aesthetic experience and many new insights as they immerse themselves in this presentation of the multifarious facets of the postwar period. I extend my sincere thanks to the organizers for their exemplary dedication and effort.

Dr. Ludwig Spaenle


PREFACE Johannes Ebert · Secretary-General, Goethe-Institut


ith its project of the three major thematic exhibitions Postwar, Postcolonialism, and Postcommunism, Haus der Kunst, under the direction of Okwui Enwezor, is taking a new, globally oriented look at the art of these periods from differing perspectives. The approach of interrelating these various vantage points—North and South, East and West, colonizers and colonized—in all their nuances corresponds to the dialogical principle of the work of the Goethe-Institut. It is our great concern—and our strength— to support and make perceptible viewpoints and discourses thatare part of our everyday business all over the world before they are known in Germany. Renowned both nationally and internationally, Haus der Kunst has proven an ideal partner in this effort. It has undertaken nothing less than to create, through an in-depth research phase of several years, a foundation for the writing of a new, globalized history of modern and contemporary art after 1945. The “Goethe-Institut Fellowship at Haus der Kunst” was launched in 2013 in support of the preliminary research for these exhibitions. Through this cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, Haus der Kunst seeks to establish research as a new mainstay within its spectrum of activities. International in scope, the program is directed toward emerging scholars who, in addition to their own research work, are


integral members of the curatorial team for one year, making fundamental contributions to the preparation of the exhibition. In this context the collaboration with Okwui Enwezor, Ulrich Wilmes, and the entire team at Haus der Kunst has proven eminently productive. The program’s first fellows—Atreyee Gupta, Yan Geng, and Damian Lentini—came from India, China, and Australia. To the same extent that they gained from new experiences themselves, they also gave the project new impulses. The concern in this reflective setting is with the interplay between art, culture, politics, the economy, and society as understood in modern and contemporary art on the global level. That is a strong, future-oriented counter-position to the architecture and history of Haus der Kunst, which is now becoming a nexus for encounter and mutual exchange between fellowship recipients and artists, curators and scholars. Part I of the trilogy—Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965—is now open to the public. Thanks to the inclusion of artistic approaches from the most diverse corners of the world, it is now, for the first time, possible to read this world not solely from a Western perspective. Instead, with the aid of works little known in the West, the world presents itself here as a globally interlinked and mutually influencing whole.

Johannes Ebert

PREFACE Hortensia Völckers · Artistic Director, Kulturstiftung des Bundes Alexander Farenholtz · Administrative Director, Kulturstiftung des Bundes


sked what he thought of Western civilization, Mahatma Gandhi replied, “I think it would be a good idea.” The same could be said of the postwar era: in retrospect, it might seem to have been a “good idea” had the war been succeeded by a period of peace. Instead, hardly had the defeated countries signed their surrenders than the Cold War broke out between the victorious powers. In the early postwar years, the war continued to make itself felt in many ways—including the politics of culture and exhibitions. Munich’s Haus der Kunst housed a military officers’ club, and the Allies used other parts of the premises for “reeducation” events such as an exhibition on international children’s and young people’s literature, or shows designed to rehabilitate art movements proscribed under National Socialism, from French Impressionism to the Blaue Reiter. From the time of this new beginning onward, the concern was not solely with ex-post-facto denazification in art and culture; the postwar affiliation with the West advanced to become the chief perspective of West German cultural politics. For decades, standardized collection histories, research foci, exhibition practices, and art-historical narratives made “modern art” and “Western art” look like one and the same thing. The Postwar project shows that it was a “good idea” to counter this transatlantic one-sidedness with globally expanded research projects.

Haus der Kunst had already committed itself to this goal some time ago in its guiding curatorial principles, which are informed by recognition of the fact that the “development lines of contemporary art follow a global and complex course, and defy constraint by geographic, conceptual and cultural boundaries.” In this spirit, the Kulturstiftung des Bundes is pleased to support a project in which researchers, curators, art historians, and students—from Germany and, significantly, from many other countries as well—pursue the endeavor of defining a global modernity that takes into account artistic approaches not only of Germany, France, England, and the United States but also of India, China, Japan, Egypt, Nigeria, Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and more. Haus der Kunst had already organized a research symposium on this subject in 2014. Now, two years later, it is opening an exhibition that offers a splendid abundance of works dating from the “postwar” period. What it teaches us is that multiple “modernisms” await discovery in places far remote from the Western centers. It is our hope that Postwar will meet with a positive response, draw a broad public, and trigger a discourse that will inspire many other exhibition venues to retell the stories of modern art under the conditions of globalization.

Hortensia Völckers and Alexander Farenholtz




n his posthumously published Prison Notebooks, the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, writing in the 1930s, in the depths of his incarceration by the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini, made the following observation: “The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and without becoming disillusioned. I am a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” Gramsci’s reflection on modernity is all the more captivating for having anticipated so succinctly the wretched spirit engendered by the catastrophe of World War II across the world. For many who survived the war—especially those who witnessed the concentration camps or the destruction wrought by the atom bombs, saw the images of destroyed lives and cities that these disasters produced, and lived through the social conditions of the period—to refuse to become disillusioned required extraordinary vigilance. Even before the war ended, the prescient incisiveness with which Gramsci had confronted the positivist idealism of modernity had united many modern artists, thinkers, policy-makers, legal theorists, and ordinary people around a singular fact: the necessity of emerging from the unprecedented trauma and violence of World War II without illusions, particularly at a time when humanity faced the daunting task of refusing disillusionment while building an entirely new modern and humanistic global compact. In Europe and Japan, the postwar period inspired a profound reflection on how to assimilate the lessons of the war and the invidious

statecraft of colonialism, while also recognizing, without equivocation, the quest of the colonized for the end of colonial empires and imperial dominions. Both the victors and the vanquished of the war had to live up to new responsibilities, to which end they instituted new programs and policies to allow a smooth transition from a bellicose period to a more peaceful one. It is in this sense that within the remit of this project “postwar” should be seen not as purely an aftermath but as a horizon into which the ideals of global emancipation and decolonization could be projected as the new world order transitioned into a multilateral system of governance. In culture, similar ideals were pursued and questions were raised across the world around issues of art and heritage, scientific and educational exchange, cultural preservation and social interaction. These reflections were important contributors in the founding of UNESCO in Paris in 1945. From the defeat of Japan and Germany to the retreat of empire; from the creation of the Atlantic charter, the Pacific alliance, and the Warsaw pact to the building of a system of multilateral global institutions; from decolonization and the emergence of new nation states to the partition of others; from revolutions to dictatorships, Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 probes the creative ferment in which artists attempted to come to terms with the dawn of a new contemporary era. Through the vital relationship between artworks and artists, produced and understood from the point of view of local and specific contexts, Postwar aims to project a broad global understanding of the

Okwui Enwezor


historical forces that attended the shaping of art after 1945. Covering the years 1945 to 1965, the exhibition proposes, through exhaustive research and case studies organized across regions, to explore the global view of contemporary art in the wake of the radical geopolitical transformation and realignment after the defeats of Japan and Germany. It is thus positioned not only as a reflection on the defeat of the aggressive regimes located on the shores of two oceans—the Pacific and the Atlantic—but also as a tracing of the spaces of art across the sweeping lines of those two oceans on five continents. By mapping these oceanic lines and their continental contours, Postwar straddles nations, political structures, economic systems, institutional frameworks, and ideological positions. More important, it engages with the vividness of the artistic systems and cultural networks of the period. Postwar can also be understood as the site of making and unmaking, connecting the ceaseless points of movement of the cosmopolitans and the diasporic, the exiles and the displaced, the immigrants and the refugees. From this turning point in global history it is possible to see the strong shift in artistic identities fomented by the entangled histories of the postwar period: who made art? Where and why, with what and how? The exhibition is devoted precisely to the untangling of this question. Employing a dramaturgical and social lens, Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 is centered in the interregnum between recovery from the devastation of the war and the creation of new artistic networks in the war’s aftermath. It responds to the multifarious conceptions of art among artists working with a vital awareness of a world created from conflict and within the experience of change. For these artists—who lived in different parts of the world, and many of whom were scarred by war and by imperialism, colonialism, racism, and segregation—the idea that art and artists had roles to play in such a period of instability, while constructing fresh insights into human culture and creativity, was fundamental to the shaping of a new artistic modernity. Artists were also deeply involved in the search for new subject matter, creating contemporary forms and harnessing materials in fresh ways that have since come to define modern and contemporary art. It should also be noted that the two decades covered here, from 1945 to 1965, marked a cultural turning point: the end of European dominance of contemporary around the world, the rise of the international prominence and hegemony of contemporary American art, popular culture, and mass media, and the incipient globalization of art. For even as the United States was consolidating its newly found cultural position, other nations, in South America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and East and Central Europe, were busy as well, exploring and rethinking the artistic paradigms of their respective contexts. This changing of stakes in the language, material, and form of art led artists to develop new and alternative modernities to mirror the changed terms of geopolitical dialogue across the world. In Europe, as the Cold War divided the continent into two separate ideological spheres—the Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern and Central Europe, allied with the Soviet Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries of Western Europe, allied with the United


States—the emerging global South of twenty-nine newly independent Asian and African countries convened in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955 to lay the foundation for the principle of nonalignment, of supporting neither East nor West but instead “facing forward,” in the memorable phrase of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah. In the arts, even while the ideological fissure created by the competition for cultural dominance between East and West, communism and capitalism, socialism and liberal democracy, created a crude binary in the way the terms “abstraction” and “socialist realism” were taken as moral equivalents, artists in newly independent countries were discovering the role that they could play in nation-building and the advancement of a de-Westernized national culture. Artists across the world grappled not only with aesthetic and formal issues of artistic creation but also with debates on the correct ideological and cultural position: conformity or individualism, subjectivity or collectivity, regionalism or internationalism, alignment or nonalignment. In recent years, scholarship around the world has begun to shed light on the many alternative histories of contemporary art from this period, and these inquiries have created opportunities to interrogate former conclusions and the general history of the postwar period. They have often ended up challenging and expanding previous discourses of modernity that were grounded in Western practices of exclusion. We in turn have gained critical insight into the art of the postwar era by broadening the borders of art history since 1945 while reflecting back on the debates and discourses that were crucial and fundamental to artists and their ideas in different regions of the world. At the same time, we have explored how different terrains of artistic practice and conditions of production that flourished in previously underrecognized and understudied art-historical canons can enrich our current understanding of postwar art history. The emergent scholarship on postwar art has made a deep impact on the curatorial arguments that frame this exhibition; in turn, it requires exhibitions such as this one to foreground them. What is crucial is that it is the art itself, and the systematic conceptual and aesthetic approaches undertaken by the artists of the period, that have been the real revelation. It is our hope that some of these issues will come to sharper relief in the course of the exhibition. Postwar has involved 218 artists from more than sixty countries and 150 lenders from 36 countries. A project of this complexity, scope, and ambition must be multipronged in its affiliations and networks. After nearly five years of research, it gives me great pleasure to thank my two colleagues and co-curators of the exhibition—Ulrich Wilmes, chief curator and deputy director of Haus der Kunst, and Katy Siegel, Eugene V. and Claire E. Thaw Endowed Chair in Modern American Art at Stony Brook University, New York—for the incredible privilege of developing and realizing such an important exhibition with them. Ulrich’s and Katy’s exemplary knowledge of the field, their commitment to research and their marshaling of every available intellectual resource at their disposal, and finally their insistence on building a more global account of postwar art has meant that together we could curate an exhibition worthy of the ambition we all invested in its making.

Director’s Foreword

A project of this globe-spanning dimension requires not only delicate diplomacy but also a shared common horizon among participants and collaborators. To this end we are pleased to acknowledge the generous support provided to us by so many artists, colleagues, lenders, archivists, foundations, museums, artists’ estates, galleries, and research institutes over the course and the process of its planning. Our immense gratitude goes to the patron of this exhibition, the honorable Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany, whose support has been vital to the objectives of Haus der Kunst as an open, global institution. We wish to thank our principal collaborating institution, the Brooklyn Museum, New York, and especially Anne Pasternak, president and director; Nancy Spector, deputy director and chief curator; and Sharon Matt Atkins, vice director, exhibitions and collections management, for their enthusiastic endorsement of the exhibition and for making it possible to present it in New York, a city where an important body of postwar art was created and historicized. We are indebted to so many individuals and organizations who have played key roles in funding Postwar. We are particularly thankful to the shareholders and the major supporter of Haus der Kunst: The Free State of Bavaria, the Gesselschafft der Freunde Haus der Kunst, and the Alexander Tutsek-Stiftung for their annual funding support. As the planning of the exhibition began, we received two major grants from the Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Berlin, and the Goethe Institute, Munich, that underwrote the exhibition and research. These two grants were strengthened by two more from the Art Mentor Foundation, Lucerne, supporting the exhibition and our educational programs. We are very grateful to the boards and officers of these organizations, and especially to Hortensia Völckers, Artistic Director, and Alexander Farenholtz, Administrative Director, Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Berlin; Johannes Ebert, General Secretary, and Hans-Georg Knoop, former General Secretary, Goethe Institut, Munich; and Evelyn Kryst, Karin Ebling, and Miriam Lüthold Lindén, Art Mentor Foundation, Lucerne. Further thanks go to Darren Walker, President, and Elizabeth Alexander, Director, Creativity and Expression, at the Ford Foundation, New York; Wolfgang Heubisch, President, and Michael Barnick, Heinke Hagemann, Irmin Rodenstock-Beck, and Philippe Litzka, Members of the Board, of the Gessellschaft der Freunde Haus der Kunst; and Hans-Ewald Schneider and Ingrid Schuchlenz at Hassenkamp, Cologne, for the additional funding support they provided to us. Finally, the staff of Haus der Kunst and the core organizational team of this exhibition have played an impressive role in shaping its outcome on every level. It is with gratitude that I recognize their contributions and thank each of them for ably shepherding the entire process and bringing special professional care and sensitivity to the realization of this mammoth project.

Okwui Enwezor


CURATORS’ ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Okwui Enwezor, Katy Siegel, Ulrich Wilmes


ostwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 has been in the making for five years. During that time we have accrued debts to so many individuals and institutions who have supported our work along the way. The generous support that artists, colleagues, scholars, archivists, foundations, museums, artists’ estates, and research institutes have provided to us over the course and process of planning the exhibition has enabled us to map a truly global view of the art of the postwar era. We are especially thankful to the lenders, who not only lent key and rare works to the exhibition but granted us permission to reproduce them in the catalogue. In 2013 and 2014, during several curatorial meetings at Tate Modern, London, and in Munich, we benefited from the knowledge and research of colleagues at Tate Modern who hosted us and participated in our deliberations on the meaning of “postwar.” We are especially thankful to Chris Dercon, former Director; Achim Borchardt-Hume, Director of Exhibitions; and, for their contributions during a two-day curatorial workshop, to Tate curators, fellows, and researchers including Tanya Barson, Juliet Bingham, Elena Crippa, Lena Fritsch, Matthew Gale, Mark Godfrey, Shoair Mavlian, Jennifer Mundy, Vassilis Oikonomopoulos, Nada Raza, Kasia Redzisz, Helen Sainsbury, Chris Stephens, Sandra Sykorova, Alex Taylor, Katy Wan, Andrew Wilson, and Zoe Whitley. We acknowledge the early support and interest of Catherine Grenier, former deputy director, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris.

In the best possible way this project has been structured by exchange. The exhibition has been enriched by the participation of the large group of scholars who participated in a four-day conference organized by Haus der Kunst in May 2014. Our gratitude goes to Atreyee Gupta, Haus der Kunst’s inaugural Goethe Institut Post-Doctoral Fellow, who helped to convene and coordinate the conference and the publication of its papers. For the insight they provided through their respective researches we thank the participants in the conference and the contributors to the forthcoming Postwar Reader: Sam Bardaouil, Nicholas Cullinan, Iftikhar Dadi, Federico Deambrosis, Alessandro Del Puppo, Burcu Dogramaci, Nikolas Drosos, Patrick Flores, Éva Forgács, Hal Foster, Alessio Fransoni, Jacopo Galimberti, Walter Grasskamp, Boris Groys, Serge Guilbaut, Hideki Kikkawa, Sohl Lee, Gregor H. Lersch, Paula Barreiro López, Tara McDowell, Abigail McEwen, Armin Medosch, Kobena Mercer, Gerardo Mosquera, Alexandra Munroe, Chika Okeke-Agulu, Mari Carmen Ramírez, Amanda Katherine Rath, Dorothea Schöne, Nada Shabout, Devika Singh, Terry Smith, Ming Tiampo, Reiko Tomii, and Isobel Whitelegg. In organizing the conference we also benefited from the support of two crucial partners in Munich, the Zentral Institute für Kunstgeschichte and the art history department of Ludwig Maximillian University, which hosted sessions of the conference in their respective institutions. We thank Iris Lauterbach, Events and Fellowships Manager at the Zentral Institute für Kunstgeschichte, and Burcu

Okwui Enwezor, Katy Siegel, Ulrich Wilmes


Dogramaci, Professor of Art History at Ludwig Maximillian University, for their staunch solidarity. Thanks are due to Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw for their generous support for Katy Siegel’s scholarly work and research. We further acknowledge the support of Joachim Bernauer, Head of Culture at the Goethe-Institut, and Johannes Hossfeld, Head of the Film, Television, and Radio Division at the Goethe-Institut. We are grateful to Uchenna Enwezor and Louise Neri for their unceasing support throughout the preparations for Postwar. We are delighted by the overwhelming response that our invitation to contribute to the project has received from so many esteemed colleagues. Our thanks go to Alejandro Anreus, Ariella Azoulay, Zainab Bahrani, Galia Bar Or, Homi K. Bhabha, Emily Braun, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Ekaterina Degot, Ješa Denegri, Nikolas Drosos, Pedro Erber, Gao Minglu, Romy Golan, Andrea Giunta, Walter Grasskamp, Catherine Grenier, Atreyee Gupta, Salah Hassan, Yule Heibel, Geeta Kapur, Pamela M. Lee, Anneka Lenssen, Damian Lentini, Courtney Martin, Anne Massey, Mark Mazower, Yasufumi Nakamori, Chika Okeke-Agulu, Stephen Petersen, Mari Carmen Ramírez, Richard Shiff, Terry Smith, Fred Turner, Sarah Wilson, and Tobias Wofford for their illuminating contributions to the catalogue. We acknowledge with gratitude the excellent contributions of the graphic designers at Double Standards, Berlin, especially Chris Rehberger, Annika Riethmüller, and Julia Egger, for the beautifully designed catalogue and the accompanying exhibition guide. We thank Thomas Byttebier, Jerome Coupé, Dimitri Jeurissen, Jacques Letteson, and Sander Vermeulen at Base Design, Brussels, for the engaging and stimulating design of our new website, the microsite for Postwar, film trailer, and the image campaign. We were fortunate to have the capable hands of David Frankel editing the texts in the catalogue; David’s consummate skill, precision, and sensitivity to elucidating the meaning of the writer’s core ideas shaped the book and transformed the essays immeasurably. Our thanks go to Sophie Reinhardt, the copy editor of the German catalogue and exhibition guide, for her incisive and patient work. It was a pleasure to work with Ann Henderson, Stacy Moore, Monica Rumsey, and Emily Salmon, the team of copy editors of the catalogue and exhibition guide in English, who provided the editorial overview with precision and reliability. Further thanks are due to other contributors to the copy-editing process, including Jonathan Fox (chronologies) and Wendy Vogel (artists’ biographies). Our thanks go to the contributing writers of the shortguide entries and artist biographies: Andrianna Campbell, Tiffany Floyd, Yan Geng, Megan Hines, Carina Kaminsky, Damian Lentini, Nicolas Linnert, Daniel Milnes, Alexandra Nicolaides, Ady Nugeraha, Amy Rahn, Tim Roerig, Tatjana Schäfer, Gemma Sharpe, Petronela Soltész, Joseph Underwood, Wendy Vogel, Caroline V. Wallace, and Rachel Wetzler. We further acknowledge the important work of translating the texts from Croatian, French, Hebrew, and German, a task rendered by Richard Flantz, Dorotea Fotivec, Judith Rosenthal, Rebecca van Dyck, and David Wharry. For the enormous task of translating the catalogue texts from English into German we thank Bernd Weiß,


translation coordinator, David Drevs, Bettina Eschenhagen, Dörte Fuchs, Barbara Hess, Barbara Holle, Norma Keßler, Felix Mayer, Jutta Orth, Trude Stegmann, and Christine Wunnicke. We also thank Nikolaus Schneider, David Drevs, Barbara Holle, and Anne Pitz for their excellent translations of the exhibition guide texts. It has been great to rely on the unflappable dedication of our colleagues at Prestel Verlag, the publisher that has overseen the production of the catalogue and exhibition guide. We are especially thankful to Christian Rieker, publisher, Wolfram Friedrich, production director, Katharina Haderer, editor in chief, Constanze Holler, editorial direction, and Cilly Klotz, production management. Our immense thanks go to Nina Beitzen, Valeska Höchst, and Wilfried Kuehn at Kuehn Malvezzi, Berlin, who with vivid and meticulous clarity provided the beautiful exhibition design. We are indebted and grateful to colleagues and staff at Haus der Kunst for their dedicated work and or the attention they gave to every detail of the project. Marco Graf von Matuschka, Chief Financial Officer, and Moritz Peterson, Assistant, guided the financial, legal, and operational work necessary to achieve our goals. Thanks are due to Melissa Klein, Executive Assistant to the Director, and to Iris Ludwig, Teresa Lengl, and Sonja Teine, Assistants to the Director, for maintaining the smooth running of the Director’s office. We recognize with immense thanks the excellent and peerless work of a team of curators, fellows, researchers, and liaisons at Haus der Kunst who have enriched this exhibition. We especially thank Sabine Brantl, Curator of the Archive; Patrizia Dander, former Curator; Leon Krempel, former Senior Curator; Isabella Kredler, Assistant to the Chief Curator; Yan Geng, 2014 Goethe Institut Post-Doctoral Fellow; Luz Gyalui, Exhibition Liaison; Damian Lentini, 2015 Goethe-Institut Post-Doctoral Fellow and Assistant Curator; Julienne Lorz, Curator; Megan Hines, Curatorial and Research Assistant to Katy Siegel; Daniel Milnes, Assistant Curator; Markus Mueller, Music Program; Mark Nash, Film Program; Tim Roerig, Managing Editor and Curatorial Assistant; Andrea Saul, Coordinator of Public Programs; Anna Schneider, Assistant Curator; Sonja Teine, Curatorial and Research Assistant; Carina Kaminsky, Curatorial Intern; and Laura Lang, Curatorial Intern, for their impressive effort on every facet of the exhibition. The professional and meticulous work of Tina Köhler, Head of Exhibition Production and Coordination; Cassandra Schmid, Registrar; Sophia Sprick, Assistant, Exhibition Coordination; Lucas Hagin and Mareike Hetschold, Assistant Registrars; Chloé Coquilhat and Maxim Weirich, Interns; Johannes Baur, Marjen Schmidt, and Susanne von der Groeben, Conservators; Anton Bosnjak, Markus Brandenburg, Elena Carvajal Díaz, Tanja Eiler, Andrea Faciu, Vincent Faciu, Florian Falterer, Hans-Peter Frank, Moritz Friedrich, Adam Gandy, Ben Goossens, Martin Hast, Tommy Jackson, Marzieh Kermani, Christian Leitna, Ruth Münzner, Kaori Nakajima, Roland Roppelt, Tina Schultz, Andrea Snigula, Nikolaus Steglich, Magnus Thoren, Tim Wolff, and Laura Ziegler, exhibition preparation and installation; Anton Köttl, Head of Facilities; and Glenn Rossiter, Technical Assistant, has been

Curators’ Acknowledgments

indispensable in the logistical organization and coordination of such a complex project. Last but not least, we acknowledge the efforts of Tina Anjou, Marketing; Anna Schüller, Digital Communication; Jacqueline Falk, Digital Communication Assistant; Elena Heitsch, Press; Martina Fischer, Mediation and Visitor Relations; Chris Goennawein, (Jakob Jakob) graphic design; Christian Gries, Digital Communications Consultant; and all those both inside and outside Haus der Kunst whose contributions have been invaluable in the realization of this project.

Okwui Enwezor, Katy Siegel, Ulrich Wilmes



Introductory Essays



n April 30, 1945, soldiers of the American Seventh Army entered the bombarded, nearly destroyed, and deserted streets of Munich.1 One day earlier, regiments of the army had liberated the Dachau concentration camp, just a few miles away on the outskirts of the city.2 Among the many events auguring the collapse of the Nazi regime, Munich’s capture was especially significant, as this was where the Nazi Party had been founded, in 1920, and it had served as the springboard for Adolf Hitler’s murderous political ambition. In the early days, the city, known as “Hauptstadt der Bewegung” (Capital of the movement), had been the center of the party’s ideological machinery and base to its many loyalists and brutal epigones.3 When American forces occupied the ruined city, the official capitulation of the German army was still over a week away. 4 And when the war’s end was celebrated all across Europe on May 8, 1945, World War II as such was far from over: as Europe began the process of reconstruction, the war in the Pacific was still raging. The surrender of the Japanese imperial military would demand another three months of intense

Fig. 2. Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, General Douglas MacArthur, looks on as Umezu Yoshijiro, Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff, signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945

earlier times important guests including Hitler, Benito Mussolini, the Aga Khan, and Edward, Duke of Windsor, had recorded their visits to the museum.6 The soldiers’ graffiti-like inscriptions marked the final chapter of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst before it hurtled, along with the rest of Germany, into the postwar era.


Fig. 1. Aerial view of Munich's city center after Allied air raids, c. 1945

fighting—including the relentless fire-bombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities—before their dramatic conclusion: the detonation of two atomic bombs, respectively christened “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” in Hiroshima on August 6 and in Nagasaki on August 9.5 Meanwhile, in Munich, American forces had occupied the Haus der Deutschen Kunst, a miraculous survivor of the bombing that had leveled a great part of the city. The occupation of the building on May 5, 1945, was memorialized by the signatures of three American soldiers on the pages of the institution’s Goldenes Buch (visitors book; fig. 3), where in

It is a serendipitous bargain of history that the exhibition Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 should be organized in Haus der Kunst, a building that in its former incarnation as the Haus der Deutschen Kunst completely abjured modern art and international exchange in the arts. While the exhibition is not commemorative, Postwar marks the seventieth anniversary of Haus der Kunst as a public institution under its current name (acquired within a year after the end of the war) and the revision of its critical perspective. Its past history of intolerance remains inextinguishable, though. Perhaps for this reason, Haus der Kunst exemplifies the deep contradictions of the postwar era.7 To reach a sense of why Postwar matters in this context, we must go beneath the building’s skin to review the institution’s earlier, antimodern understanding of art. In its former life as a Nazi cultural icon, the building was designed as a showcase, a triumphant work of architectural propaganda. For Hitler the Haus der Deutschen Kunst was not just any building: it was a “temple” of German art, conceived, designed, and constructed expressly for the purpose of exhibiting the timelessness and purity of Germany’s national aesthetic spirit. This point was adumbrated in a speech Hitler gave on July 18, 1937, to mark the opening of the building and inaugurate the first edition of the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (Great German Art Exhibition; fig. 4): “When, therefore, the cornerstone

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of this building was laid, it was with the intention of constructing a temple, not for a so-called modern art, but for a true and everlasting German art, that is, better still, a House for the art of the German people, and not for any international art of the year 1937, ’40, ’50 or ’60.” 8 Describing Impressionism, Futurism, Cubism, and Dadaism as “insane and inane monstrosities,” the speech underscored Hitler’s fervent aesthetic ethnocentrism and overall disenchantment with modern art.9 He denounced Jews in particular, accusing them of being the leading propagators of the fraud of modernism in museums and in the press:

were extinguished in Germany while museums were stripped of the works of modern art in their collections.12 In counterpoint to these condemnations of modern art and Jews, the resplendent white galleries of the new art “temple” provided the perfect backdrop for the grandiose type of work that Hitler and the Nazis saw as the true German art. It was in this building that eight editions of the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung were staged between 1937 and 1944. Their remit was to show the types of mimetic art (mostly idealized figurative, landscape, and genre paintings and monumental heroic sculptures), by regime-favored artists such as the painter Adolf Ziegler and the sculptor Arno Breker, that glorified the Nazi aesthetic position.13 In this role the Haus der Deutschen Kunst not only signified the ideological strictures to which artists working in Nazi Germany had to conform, it also conveyed the corrosive ethos of identity discourse, thus putting in place the Führer’s purifying vision of art: Cubism, Dadaism, Futurism, Impressionism, etc., have nothing to do with our German people. For these concepts are neither old nor modern, but are only the artifactitious stammerings of men to whom God has denied the grace of a truly artistic talent, and in its place has awarded them the gift of jabbering or deception. I will therefore confess now, in this very hour, that I have come to the final inalterable decision to clean house, just as I have done in the domain of political confusion, and from now on rid the German art life of its phrase-mongering. “Works of art” which cannot be understood in themselves but, for the justification of their existence, need those bombastic instructions for their use, finally reaching that intimidated soul, who is patiently willing to accept such stupid or impertinent nonsense—these works of art from now on will no longer find their way to the German people.14 For eight years of its existence the Haus der Deutschen Kunst fulfilled Hitler’s vision of artistic purity in his “temple” of art. Despite the increasing battlefield losses of the German army and the near certainty of defeat, Hitler insisted that plans for the 1945 edition of the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung should proceed. It was a delusional thought.

Fig. 3. Title page of the Goldenes Buch signed by Adolf Hitler and U.S. Army Sergeant Richard S. Radelet, 1945

On these cultural grounds, more than on any others, Judaism had taken possession of those means and institutions of communication which form, and thus finally rule over public opinion. Judaism was very clever indeed, especially in employing its position in the press with the help of so-called art criticism and succeeding not only in confusing the natural concepts about the nature and scope of art as well as its goals, but above all in undermining and destroying the general wholesome feeling in this domain.10 A day after the speech, its verbal excoriation of modern art was escalated into a merciless public denunciation in the form of the exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art; fig. 5), staged in the arcade galleries of a nearby building in the Hofgarten.11 With modernist art thus condemned as degenerate, the leading lights of experimental modernism


Introductory Essays

Fig. 4. Visitors at the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung, 1937

POSTWAR TRANSITIONS: FROM HAUS DER DEUTSCHEN KUNST TO HAUS DER KUNST The aftermath of the war midwifed an atmosphere of great indeterminacy, a state of change. Germany entered an extensive phase of denazification. It was under this policy that the Haus der Deutschen Kunst became Haus der Kunst, thus shedding its ignominious past, 15 but it is not clear today how the removal of “Deutschen” from the museum’s name took place or who gave the order. 16 The name change may have been made by the American military administration, which had control of the building; 17 that the initiative was German also seems plausible, given the ideology of the institution’s original patron. In any case the name change signaled a new direction, an embrace of what had once been excluded, deemed filthy or degenerate, and the rehabilitation of modern art in the reconstituted institution.

Fig. 6. Title page of the exhibition catalogue Ausstellung Bayerischer Gemälde des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts (Fifteenth and Sixteenth-Century Bavarian Paintings), 1946

Fig. 5. Installation view of Entarte Kunst at the Hofgarten Arcades, Munich, 1937

On January 17, 1946, after less than a year of closure, the building reopened to the public under its new name. The inaugural exhibition was Ausstellung Bayerischer Gemälde des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts (Fifteenthand Sixteenth-Century Bavarian Paintings).18 Presented in the vast galleries of the building’s west wing, this major exhibition was a veritable blockbuster of masterpieces, including Albrecht Dürer’s Self-Portrait in Fur Coat (1500) and Four Apostles (1526), Matthias Grünewald’s Saints Erasmus and Mauritius (1523), Albrecht Altdorfer’s Battle of Alexander at Issus (1529), and almost 200 more works.19 An unsigned review of the exhibition in The Bavarian, the English-language newspaper catering to the American military and civilian population, described this important moment of the return of classical European painting to public view as their return from exile.20 There followed a series of exhibitions of modern art, ranging from Moderne Französische Malerei (Modern French Painting, 1946) to Georges Braque (1948) to Die Maler am Bauhaus (Bauhaus Painters, 1950).21 In September 1949, five months after the partition of Germany into the

German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Haus der Kunst staged the grand exhibition Der Blaue Reiter München und die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (The Blue Rider in Munich and the Art of the Twentieth Century), showcasing works by Georges Braque, Robert Delaunay, André Derain, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, August Macke, Franz Marc, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Kees van Dongen, Maurice Vlaminck, Alexej von Jawlensky, and other artists who had been ostracized a dozen years earlier under the Nazi regime. In 1955 the museum staged a triumphant Picasso retrospective that brought together many major works of the artist’s career up to that point, including half a dozen from New York’s Museum of Modern Art and all fifteen paintings of the newly completed series “Women of Algiers”(1954–55).22 The exhibition also included Guernica (1937), Picasso’s great antiwar painting depicting the destruction of the Basque town by the German and Italian air forces on April 26, 1937—the first presentation of this work in Germany. Joining this most political of paintings was another antiwar work, Massacre in Korea (1951; plate 117), an addition to the rich trove of politically oriented works that Picasso pursued following Guernica, throughout and after the German Occupation. The capstone of this period of Haus der Kunst’s integration of modernism came with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Entartete Kunst. On October 25, 1962, the museum opened Entartete Kunst. Bildersturm vor

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25 Jahren (Degenerate Art: The Iconoclasm Twenty-Five Years Ago),23 an attempt to reconstruct the 1937 exhibition. That show had contained some 650 works of modern art, by 112 artists, that the Nazi regime had labeled degenerate and had seized from private and public collections. With the 1962 exhibition, which brought together works by such artists as Kandinsky, Max Beckmann, James Ensor, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, August Marc, Emil Nolde, and many others, Haus der Kunst finally made a specific link between its past condemnation of these artists and their contemporary rehabilitation in the context of postwar Germany. In doing so it completed its journey into its own fractured history. Yet in all the intervening years, and indeed right up to the present day, not once did the museum organize any exhibition related to either the theme of the war or its aftermath.

South, the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the independence of Laos. The process of recovery was not limited to the political and economic spheres. Moral insight into the atrocities and suffering of the war was just

A TIME OF RECKONING: REMAKING A SHATTERED WORLD The conflicts of World War II had barely ebbed before the process started of reconfiguring, suturing, and repairing what had been broken and shattered. What would the postwar peace look like? Who would be responsible for overseeing it? What institutions would ensure that its terms were respected? Whether successful or not, as an attempt to consider the totality of the world as a single entity, the postwar planning process was one of the most complex and unprecedented undertakings in history. On January 1, 1942, the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and Great Britain signed the Declaration of the United Nations, a declaration joined a day later by twenty allied nations fighting the Axis powers and brought to fruition on October 24, 1945, when the United Nations was formally established as a global institution.24 Around the same time as the Declaration of the United Nations, preparatory meetings were taking place for the Bretton Woods Conference of July 1944, which created the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The conference, which was planned in Washington, D.C., and held in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, was initiated at the invitation of the United States; forty-four allied nations from six continents— Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America—participated in shaping the final agreement, which reordered the international finance and banking systems that would be essential in financing the postwar reconstruction.25 Postwar planning, however, was not the province of the United States and the European powers alone. As the new great powers were reorganizing the affairs of the world, leaders in other regions were making their own plans for the end of the war. The League of Arab States (also known as the Arab League) was established in Cairo on March 22, 1945; in October of the same year, the Fifth Pan-African Congress, held in Manchester, England, gathered delegates from many African and West Indian countries to demand freedom and an end to colonial rule in Africa and the West Indies.26 This was also the year of Korea’s division into North and


Fig. 7. Participants at the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, November 10, 1945

as pressing. As a consequence, an enormous space of thinking fell open to art. After all, artists and art institutions had been involved in processing, transmitting, and translating reflections on the war for the public in various parts of the world. In the United States, The Museum of Modern Art had strongly supported the war effort, producing nearly forty related exhibitions.27 It is important to note that the question of the means or approach by which art might address the urgent moral questions that arose from the harrowing experiences of the war pointed to the complex possibilities available to art and artists during this pivotal moment, beyond the conventional repertoire of recognizable imagery.

ANTHROPOLOGICAL MACHINES: BETWEEN HUMAN AND ANIMAL In order to understand the gripping hold of World War II on the cultural, ethical, and moral imagination, it is necessary to underscore the war’s scale and the toll it exacted. Any discussion of art and the postwar era must first come to terms with the effect of the war on the thinking of artists, intellectuals, and the general public alike. World War II was the most catastrophic and lethal conflict in human history. It was the ultimate killing field: in less than a decade, tens of millions of people were annihilated. Owing to technological advances

Introductory Essays

in weaponry and machinery, the sheer number of combatants, and the planetary scale of the conflict, the war produced casualties—wounded, maimed, and dead—in incalculable numbers beyond those of any other war.28 World War II was in fact several wars, fought across continents and among countries and territories, among ideological and political beliefs. The war stamped multiple enduring images on the global imagination. The extent of the horrors came into focus slowly, with photographs, films, and writings documenting the cities, towns, and countryside in ruin and desolation,29 the grotesque concentration camps,30 the industrial-scale annihilation of the Holocaust,31 and finally the cataclysmic devastation of the atom bombs that vaporized Hiroshima and Nagasaki.32 The growing awareness of what had happened introduced the sense of a new possibility: that humanity possessed the capability liter-

were already developed within the institutions of the colonial state, where early prototypes of concentration camps and mass killing were first conceived and tested.35 The acknowledgment of the dialectical relationship between colo­nialism and violence complicated any sense of the uniqueness of the Holocaust. In fact the logic of race and bureaucracy that the Nazis integrated in the planning of the Final Solution, and on which Arendt wrote so compellingly, operates through the blurring of the distinction between man and animal, whereby “it functions by excluding as not (yet) human an already human being from itself.” 36 Writing at the height of the global struggle against colonialism, Aimé Césaire observed how in the colonial state, “colonization works to decivilize the colonizer.” 37 In such a state, the colonizer is the victim of his own self-dehumanization;

Fig. 8. Yo�suke Yamahata. Nagasaki Journey. August 10, 1945. Silver gelatin print on glossy fiber paper, 9.5 × 14.5 cm. Courtesy Daniel Blau, Munich

ally to destroy itself. With tens of millions dead and many more millions left homeless, displaced, and stateless, the aftermath of World War II demonstrated the crisis of humankind in extremis.33 World War II established a radical threshold between life and death. It unleashed a debate about the nature of humanity and confronted the entire global sphere with the dramatic misalignment of means and ends: the sublation of power by dangerous ideological systems into fearful anthropological machines, to use a term coined by Giorgio Agamben.34 The Holocaust and the camps were natural consequences of the extensive development and deployment of the technologies of race, bureaucracy, and violence. As Hannah Arendt pointed out, these instruments

and colonization, Césaire insists, “dehumanizes even the most civilized man … the colonizer who in order to ease his conscience gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself to treating him like an animal, and tends objectively to transform himself into an animal.” 38 Here, colonial violence is a vital extension of the anthropological machine. For Agamben, the condition in which the human is reduced to the nonhuman level is the state of “bare life,” a concept that enables the distinction between worthy and worthless lives to be posited and institutionally interpolated. He writes, “Nazism determines the bare life of homo sacer in a biological and eugenic key, making it into the site of an incessant decision on value and nonvalue.” 39

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ven before World War II ended, artists were dealing with its repercussions. Many were exploring the possibilities of the war as subject matter. With the stench of death everywhere, painting too carried the acrid fumes of decay and the stains of decomposition. Picasso’s Charnel House (1944–45; fig. 10), for example, its grisaille tonality suggesting black-and-white documentary images of the war and of the death camps, represented a coda to the artist’s Guernica, of 1937. It depicts the rigid and contorted forms of a slain family, their bound and stiff bodies crammed beneath a simple wooden table in their own home. Francis Bacon painted his breakthrough triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944; fig. 11) in London, a city devastated by German bombing raids. The work provided the pictorial model for a subsequent series of paintings on the theme of crucifixion, including Fragment of a Crucifixion (1950; plate 2). Against an orange-ocher background, figures with elongated necks and distended bodies show snaggletoothed mouths bellowing out of their heads. The forms are pallid and gray, as if dusted with ash; posed on a studio table and a sculptor’s modeling plinth, they suggest monsters emanating from the abyss of torture and the agonies of death. Several years earlier in Paris, Jean Fautrier had explored the anatomy of executed prisoners: paintings such as Sarah (1943) and La Juive (The Jewess, 1943; plate 1) suggest the bodies of violated women and, through their titles, expose the entanglement of identity and race. 40 In the series Otages (Hostages, 1943–45), meanwhile, Fautrier used seriality to communicate a sense of the multiplicity of the Nazis’ victims. With their built-up surfaces of plaster troweled onto canvas and coated with slick smears of oil, the paintings have a relief effect that fuses the abstract with the anthropomorphic. Made in the bleak years of the German Occupation, they come close to an art of witnessing, depicting bodies frozen in their own congealed fat, severed, tree-stump-like limbs, and splayed, grisly heads marked with the punctures and lesions left by blunt instruments. With such images of the tortured and killed in circulation, and news from the concentration camps emerging in the press, the tense air was laden with grief-filled resonance. After the liberation of France on August 19, 1944, elation was mixed with revanchist passion, as if the veil of war had simultaneously dissolved and reappeared. The mood was both triumphant and anxious, laced with bitterness and vengefulness. Liberated France called for a thorough cleansing and demanded accounting from those who had betrayed the country. As Sarah Wilson writes, “The epuration, however, was far more bloody. … It was a period of denunciation, revenge killings, the settling of scores, and jealousies, and above all of public trials with hastily assembled judicial apparatus.” 41

The trials and cleansings in France presented a clear idea of what awaited all occupied countries as the war ended. As images and accounts of the war became increasingly common after the Soviet army’s liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, and the release of grisly scenes of Bergen-Belsen by the British Army Film and Photographic Unit, 42 it was no longer possible to deny the imperative of images to speak to what had initially been rendered obscure or invisible. 43 A growing debate in the immediate postwar years centered around the representation of the death camps and specifically on the notion of the Holocaust as “unrepresentable.” Theodor Adorno’s controversial statement from 1949 that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” opened up debates around whether eschewing such representations made the Holocaust even more susceptible to opacity, almost to the point of being an anomaly. 44 It was still impossible, however, to interpret the afterlives of the images as mere evidence of the state’s anaesthetized bureaucratic order—as the pictorial assembly of “the banality of evil,” to borrow an incisive phrase of Arendt’s. 45 The death camps had been reported on only sketchily during the war; now images of them appeared, conveying their horrendous scope and stupefying scale. Artists had to confront their anomalous status. 46 In Germany, it was difficult for such images to find their way into art for at least a decade. When they did, it was in the form of allegory. Joseph Beuys, who during the war had been conscripted into the Luftwaffe as a pilot, was one of the very few artists to draw directly from his wartime experiences in the shaping of his artistic persona. His sculptural installation Auschwitz Demonstration (1956–64), composed of symbolic objects in a series of wood-and-glass vitrines, was the rare exception capable of invoking Auschwitz by name; an earlier tableau, Hirschdenkmäler (Monuments to the Stag, 1958/85; plates 5, 6), could only suggest it. While the dissonance of the war and its anesthetized memory remained issues for the postwar generation of German artists, explicit references to the camps, as well as the use of wartime experiences and imagery as subject matter, were not entirely absent. In the three-part environment Das schwarze Zimmer (The Black Room) Wolf Vostell brought together parts of three individual assemblages— Deutscher Ausblick (German View, 1958–59; plate 7), Auschwitz Scheinwerfer (Auschwitz Floodlight, 1958–59) and Treblinka (1958–59; fig. 12)—into one overarching system to deal with the atrocities of the war. 47 Representations of the war and its devastation first appeared in Gerhard Richter’s work as part of the vast archival resource Atlas (1962–), an open-ended databank of images placed in reserve, a pictorial cauldron liable to singe all who touch it. The camps did not appear in Atlas until 1963: panel 11 contains a single such image, nestled among generic and unrelated nature and wildlife scenes (fig. 9). The image is unmistakably gruesome: it shows a cluster of blackened, emaciated, and rotting corpses scattered across a narrow lane between two low buildings. A flock of vultures perch in a row on the roof of the building to the left, like sentries



Introductory Essays

watching over the macabre scene. Two years later, in 1967, Richter would add several more images of concentration camps in panels 16–20. No images of the camps have appeared since. Atlas is collated in numbered panels, organized mostly chronologically (there are sometimes jumps in sequence) and according to idiosyncratic categories. Each panel contains multiple images derived from a variety of sources—newspapers, magazines, photo albums, books, snapshots. This arbitrary combination of pictorial genres sometimes defies any sense of standard or systematic organization, yet the sudden appearance of the photograph in panel 11 seems calculated rather than afterthought. It leads one to question whether Richter’s delay in introducing pictures of the camps, as well as prewar images in which Jews are publicly shamed and humiliated, was a result of the traumatic violence contained within the fragile, yellowing paper of these newspaper cutouts and photographs. As some of his early work shows, his reticence in using war-related images to produce paintings was not categorical. 48

Whatever compelled Richter’s initial process of collocating and collectivizing images of calculated shock, in some senses Atlas responds to the very state of incommensurability into which photographs of Nazi atrocities were plunged after the war. As Benjamin H. D. Buchloh has observed, the first appearance of the concentration camps in the work ruptures “the overall banality of found photographs” that preceded that photograph in panel 11: “The puncturing suddenly positions the Atlas project within the dialectics of amnesia and memory.” 49 But it also represents the challenge to artists to confront and demystify what was, in the early postwar period, the then evolving idea of the unrepresentability of the Holocaust, one corresponding to Adorno’s remark about Auschwitz and poetry. In its relationship to the history of postwar Germany, Atlas represents an ongoing act of commentary on the anomalous status of the archive and on the traumatic relationship to contemporary German history provoked by images of the camps. As Buchloh notes,

Fig. 9. Gerhard Richter. Newspaper & Album Photos (Atlas Sheet 11). 1963. 14 b/w clippings, 2 b/w Photographs, 51.7 cm × 66.7 cm. Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München, Munich

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Fig. 10. Pablo Picasso. Le charnier (The Charnel House). 1944–45. Oil and charcoal on canvas, 199.8 × 250.1 cm. New York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Mrs. Sam A. Lewisohn Bequest (by exchange) and Mrs. Marya Bernard Fund in memory of her husband Dr. Bernard Bernard and anonymous funds. Acc. n.: 93.1971


Introductory Essays

The first set of photographs of the victims of a concentration camp now functions as a sudden revelation, namely, that there is still one link that binds an image to its referent within the apparently empty barrage of photographic imagery and the universal production of sign exchange value: the trauma from which the compulsion to repress had originated. Paradoxically, it is at this very moment that the Atlas also yields its own secret as an image reservoir: a perpetual pendulum between the death of reality in the photograph and the reality of death in the mnemonic image.50



eanwhile, artists in Central and Eastern Europe found the concentration camps and the Holocaust far from unrepresentable: they drew openly from imagery of the destructions and killings perpetrated by German soldiers. Explicit references to these programmatic massacres appeared in the paintings of the young Andrzej Wróblewski, who, at barely twenty years old, painted some of the most startling narratives of the destruction of the Jews of Poland. The figure of the Gestapo executioner appears repeatedly in such works as Executed Man, Execution with a Gestapo Man (1949 ; plate 10). Beyond this sinister figure of terror, so indelibly sketched by Paul Celan in the searing poem “Todes Fugue” (Death Fugue, 1945),51 Wróblewski also refers to the Warsaw ghetto in the double-sided painting Liquidation of the Ghetto/ Blue Chauffeur (1949; plate 9). Another Polish artist, Alina Szapocznikow, explored the Holocaust in sculptures such as Hand—Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto II (1957; plate 8). In relation to Adorno’s phrase about poetry and Auschwitz, it is interesting that Wróblewski’s paintings are contemporary with Celan’s poem, and with Boris Taslitzsky’s depiction

of the concentration camp in The Small Camp, Buchenwald (1945; fig. 13). Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, written and performed by the composer in a Nazi prison camp in 1942, and Arnold Schoenberg’s jarring composition A Survivor from Warsaw (1947) also share in the ceaseless explorations of the themes of death and survival inspired by the Holocaust. At different turns in the first two decades after World War II, the war as subject matter or catalyst for artistic reflection was addressed through what could be called a “de-figured” representation. Mark Godfrey has written compellingly on the relationship of abstraction to represen­ tations of the Holocaust; his eloquent exploration considers whether abstract art, or a work without the figure, has the capacity to tackle genocide, which seems to call for an explicitly representational language rather than a symbolic one.52 Among the examples he envisions as able to overcome the seeming limitations of a symbolic, abstract language are Frank Stella and Morris Louis—Stella in his breakthrough black geo­ metric paintings Die Fahne Hoch and Arbeit Macht Frei (1958 ; plate 13), which explore the vision of the Nazi regime through the meaning of the paintings’ titles; Louis in using the gestural vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism as a form of coded writing in Untitled (Jewish Star) and the series “Charred Journal: Firewritten” (both 1951; plates 14, 15).

OTHER ARCHIVES Like many traumatic relics of the war, the archive, far from being an aide-memoire, addresses the implicit question, what is an image in relation to the event it references or depicts? The destruction caused by

Fig. 11. Francis Bacon. Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. c. 1944. Oil paint on 3 boards, 94 × 73.7 cm (each). TATE Collection, London. Presented by Eric Hall 1953

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the atom bomb, and the number of people killed, did not fall into the category of the unrepresentable or unspeakable. Rather, the images of the atomic blasts produced by Japanese photographers were soon subjected to active censorship by the occupying forces of the American army. At first, Japanese newspapers widely published images of the enigmatic mushroom clouds that emerge from the ground zeroes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while the American media used such images to consolidate the U.S. status as the only superpower with a nuclear arsenal. However, as concern about the bombs and condemnation of their effects began to appear worldwide, photographs showing those effects, and the dead, were either restricted or outright suppressed. The Japanese military photographer Yōsuke Yamahata arrived in Nagasaki on August 10, 1945, a day after the bomb was dropped, and photographed the aftermath extensively (plate 28). He was one of the earliest photographers to document the destruction of the city, and some of his images appeared ten days later in the August 21 issue of the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shinbun. Upon Japan’s surrender, on August 14, images of the aftermath were restricted by the occupying American military government until the restrictions were lifted in 1952.53 When the army successfully detonated a plutonium device in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945—a device similar in design and makeup to Fat Man, the bomb soon detonated over Nagasaki—the United States effectively won a new arms race, becoming the first country to acquire nuclear capabilities for military purposes. In destructive force and power, the atom bomb was unlike any weapon previously developed, let alone deployed for warfare. The implications were immediately apparent: not only did the atom bomb come to symbolize U.S. military superiority, it became the central animating military weapon in the search for a balance of power that led to the Cold War. The bomb also instilled the fear that the ensuing nuclear arms race would lead to unintended consequences.54 Before long, however, the debates over radioactive nuclear fallout were counteracted by a growing interest in atomic power as a source of cheap, safe, clean energy. The dialectic of a dystopian and a utopian view of nuclear science was an important one in postwar public thought. Artists throughout the world were not merely attuned to these nuclear debates, they weighed in on the various attributes of the technology—its ethical dimension, the fate to which it exposed civilization and humanity.55 With the military doctrine of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (mad) between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Cold War exacerbated existential doubts regarding the survival of humankind. Artists such as Maruki Iri and Maruki Toshi in Hiroshima Panels (1950–82; fig. 14, plates 26, 27), Isamu Noguchi in Bell Tower for Hiroshima (1950; plate 17) and Atomic Man (1952; plate 22), Karel Appel in Hiroshima Child (1958; plate 25), and Yves Klein in Hiroshima (1961) employed different representational strategies to engage with the effects of the bomb on Japanese civilians. In these works, Hiroshima, much like Auschwitz, becomes an emblem of annihilation. For artists such as Salvador Dalí, in Atomic Idyll and Melancholic Uranium/Melancholic Atomic (1945); László Moholy-Nagy, in Nuclear I CH (1945; fig. 15) and Nuclear II (1946); Weaver Hawkins, in


Atomic Power (1947; plate 29); Enrico Baj, in Manifesto Nucleare BUM (1951; plate 37); Henry Moore, in Atom Piece (1964–65; plate 39); Roy Lichtenstein, in Atom Burst (1965; plate 38); and Andy Warhol, in Atomic Bomb (1965), the iconography of the mushroom cloud served an allegorical function as a means by which to both address the actuality of a nuclear catastrophe and render its possibility unthinkable.56 The inquiry into the nature of the human had always been ambivalent, for the question is profoundly unanswerable and unknowable, under constant interrogation. It became all the more so after World War II, which produced devastating demonstrations of man as both victim and perpetrator of violence. Alberto Giacometti’s shrunken, cadaverous figures tottering on spindly legs attest to these issues, as do the skeletal, distended figures in Ibrahim El Salahi’s paintings. Both bodies of work respond to an ambivalence, and recall the photographs of the gaunt, emaciated inmates of the death camps staring out at the viewer with hollow, vacant eyes. The terrible images of violated bodies left to the postwar generations incessantly raised the question of what defines the human and sets it apart. Throughout Postwar, the figure is encountered in countless states of precarity: crushed, mutilated, flayed, dismembered, tortured, crucified, as in David Siqueiros’s Cain en los Estados Unidos (Cain in the United States, 1947; plate 164), Magda Cordell’s Figure 59 (1958; plate 136), Colette Omogbai’s Agony (1963; plate 171), and Jack Whitten’s Head IV (1964; plate 148). In this procession of tormented figures and maimed bodies, Siquieros and Whitten introduce a new resonance in their treatments of the black body as it was subjected to racist violence in the United States during the postwar era.



s the preoccupation with the human form in states of privation, degradation, desolation, and worry took hold in Europe, African, Asian, and African American artists lifted the body from its beleaguered and anguished state onto the historical stage as a figure of social agency. It was almost as if prior representations of existence through a collective leitmotif of suffering had been cast into doubt. Yes, suffering remained, and mattered; it seemed a mistake, though, to read the human predicament purely through the lens of the abjection of the white body. Certainly, when the topography of postwar art is scanned, an absence emerges, namely that of the colonized body whose trauma had constantly been erased to the point of expungement from the historical record. As Homi Bhabha notes, “It is as if the question of desire that emerged from the traumatic tradition of the oppressed has to be denied … to make way for an existentialist humanism that is as banal as it is beatific.” 57 Because of this absence of the colonized body, a philosophical combat was shaping up on the poverty of the Western discourse on “humanism.”

Introductory Essays

Fig. 12. Wolf Vostell. Treblinka from the environment “Das schwarze Zimmer” (The Black Room). 1958–59. Dé-Collage: motorcycle part, wood, film, and transistor radio, 180 × 141 × 31 cm. Berlinische Galerie, Berlin

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Fig. 13. Boris Taslitzky. Le petit camp à Buchenwald (The Small Camp Buchenwald). 1945. Oil on canvas, 300 × 500 cm. Paris, Centre Pompidou - Musée national d'art moderne - Centre de création industrielle

The tools were those of postcolonial battle. For postcolonial critics the target in Western humanism was not just its internal contradictions but its hypocrisy and complicity in maintaining the colonial state. Césaire confronts this question head-on in the opening lines of his Discourse on Colonialism: “The fact is that the so-called European civilization—‘Western’ civilization—as it has been shaped by two centuries of bourgeois rule, is incapable of solving two major problems to which its existence has given rise: the problem of the proletariat and the colonial problem.” 58 In this context the absolution of colonial violence by philosophy and art was addressed with alacrity by many who knew otherwise. “I do not come with timeless truths,” 59 are the words Frantz Fanon used to set the stage of the combat. In his rhetorical query “What does a man want? What does the black man want?” Fanon asked that the question of man be considered, not in the language of universal abstraction, but in the concrete realm of a refigured blackness. Blackness can be both figural and metaphoric in the works of postcolonial artists, as in Maqbool Fida Husain’s Man (1951; plate 155), Gerard Sekoto’s Head of a Man (1963; plate 169), El Salahi’s Self-Portrait of Suffering (1961; plate 119), and Malangatana Valente Ngwenya's To The Clandestine Maternity Home (1961; fig. 16). On Kawara’s Thinking Man (1952; plate 157) may not literally depict someone black, but the mottled brown skin of the diseased figure, standing slightly off-center in the frame, discloses itself as other. Certain works suggest blackness as constituting a resistance to an idealized and blinding whiteness.60 This is made the more so by blackness’s need for intense acts of looking. In Francis Newton Souza’s Head of


a Man Thinking (plate 153) and Two Saints (After El Greco) (plate 154), two of a series of dense black paintings that the artist produced in 1965, the figure melts into the background (fig. 17). Rather than one dominating the other, figure and ground hold the same pictorial valence, as if Souza were demanding of viewers that their gaze penetrate the materially compacted surface in order to make out the forms gouged deep into the caked crust. One looks, but can barely perceive the images in the thick, hatched impasto of black-on-black oil paint. Yet this makes the blackness still more luminous. Postwar Paris may have been consumed by existentialism61 but in cities like Algiers, Baghdad, Bombay, Cairo, Dakar, Jakarta, Lagos, Nairobi, New Delhi, Saigon, Tehran, and Tunis, the rights of the black and the brown, from the Sahara to the Himalayas and beyond, were dialectically jousting with the rights of the white/European, from New York to Paris and London. Decolonization and civil rights movements demanding independence, equal rights, and an end to oppression, racism, segregation, and exclusion had revealed the hollowness of the high-minded discourse of humanism. These ideas also played out in the domain of art, producing different strands of pictorial effects. In Africa, for example, there was the idea of cultural sovereignty and of the uniqueness of postcolonial African modernity, a theme derived from the Négritude movement. An exemplary work of this culturalist take is Ben Enwonwu’s painting Going (1962; plate 289), a festival of forms, objects, and figures in a pictorial pageant of post-independence Nigeria.62 Graceful female figures float through a raucous landscape packed with

Introductory Essays

classical African masks and sculptures, suggesting the daily interaction among precolonial and postcolonial African cultures. Uche Okeke meanwhile sought similar results through different iconographic means and a concept of “natural synthesis,” 63 an attempt to harness both African and Western-modernist pictorial forms. Here, cultural sovereignty does not supersede individual autonomy; they are held in dialogic tension. In Aba Revolt (Women’s War) (1965; plate 290) Okeke foregrounds the discursive relevance of the postcolonial experience against the expressionist exuberance that is a core trope of modernist painting. His imagery is drawn from a tradition of feminist militancy in Africa, where women may strip naked as a shaming tactic against an oppressor, their nudity thus becoming a sign of radical protest. Both Enwonwu and Okeke articulate the presentness of the battle for decolonization and independence, as well as foregrounding a discursive interplay among different cultural archives—among colonial and postcolonial memories, among African and European forms. The depiction of decolonization through the image of the nubile celebrant suggests the continuity of tradition within the changing space of postcolonial modernity, while independence is embodied by an engaged figure committed to defending the integrity of the African space from colonial injustice.

REFIGURING THE OTHER The humanism articulated by European intellectuals in the postwar period was met with radical postcolonial doubt. As Césaire made clear, “What is serious is that ‘Europe’ is morally, spiritually indefensible.” 64 The reasons for these repudiations of Europe—a term to be understood as including the United States—had to do with the fact that Western traditions of thought had constructed a civilizational scaffold that defined man through a hierarchical scheme, a “racial epidermal schema,” in Fanon’s phrase.65 This scaffold set the European (white) “man” at the apex, the negated, deracinated figure of the black/brown, non-European other at the base. In self-exile in Paris, James Baldwin wrote of this figure, “The black

man insists, by whatever means he finds at his disposal, that the white man cease to regard him as an exotic rarity and recognize him as a human being.” 66 Invited by Léopold Sédar Senghor to write an introduction to an anthology of black and Malagasy poetry, Jean-Paul Sartre drew on the dialectic of race and racism as a route into the tension between humanism and colonialism. 67 To tackle that tension he articulated a recognition, “what I shall call the moment of separation or negativity: this antiracist racism is the only road that will lead to the abolition of racial differences.” 68 The prescription, though troubling in its strange advocacy, is worth considering, especially in the context of the search on the part of the oppressed for an insurgent, radical, separatist, and militant subjectivity.69 Sartre’s “moment of separation and negativity” was based precisely on the agenda of decolonization and the self-determination of the oppressed. Although the European powers initially failed to accept or recognize it, the postwar period marked the start of the collapse of empire and imperial rule in the search for justice, freedom, and an alternative global order of equality and self-determination among nations and peoples. This was the world envisaged by the Bandung Conference, organized by Sukarno in Indonesia in April 1955. The conference brought together a coalition of twenty-nine independent Asian and African countries—plus Yugoslavia, the one European participant—to discuss the postwar global order from the perspective of the colonized in the midst of the Cold War. In his opening address Sukarno requested vigilance among the gathered countries: I beg of you, do not think of colonialism only in the classic form which we of Indonesia, and our brothers in different parts of Asia and Africa, knew. Colonialism has also its modern dress, in the form of economic control, intellectual control, actual physical control by a small but alien community within a nation. It is a skillful and determined enemy, and it appears in many guises. It does not give up its loot easily. Wherever, whenever and however it appears, colonialism is an evil thing, and one which must be eradicated from the earth.70

Fig. 14. Markui Iri and Toshi Maruki. Water (Panel III) from “Hiroshima Panels” (series of 15 panels), 1952. Indian ink on Japanese paper, 180 × 720 cm. Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels, Higashimatsuyama

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Fig. 15. László Moholy-Nagy. Nuclear I, CH. 1945. Oil and graphite on canvas, 96.5 × 76.2 cm. Gift of Mary and Leigh Block 1947.40. The Art Institute of Chicago


Introductory Essays

The Bandung Conference was a landmark moment in the postwar period. It inspired a new international consciousness in the decolonization movements and laid the foundation for an incipient world picture. What would a world liberated from totalitarian tyranny and colonial rule and exploitation be? Who and what should oversee the control of human destiny? Because of the nebulous alliances around which the battles were fought, the postwar arrangements that emerged after the war had the effect of producing atomized geopolitical spaces that were soon reconfigured into new battle fronts, from liberation wars to the Cold War. Nevertheless, the postwar period brought the business of European colonial empires to a crashing halt. As Tony Judt writes, the period entailed “Europe’s reduction,” for the Continent and its constituent states “could no longer aspire, after 1945, to international or imperial status.” 71 In the aftermath of the war, decolonization and liberation struggles would fundamentally reshape the imperial mission of European colonialism. They would mark the attenuation of empire.72 Even while the embers of imperialism still glowed across vassal states in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, in the decades that followed the shrinking of Europe also witnessed, as Judt observes, “the withering away of the ‘master narratives’ of European history: the great nineteenth-century theories of history, with their models of progress and change, of revolution and transformation.” 73 The postwar period also accelerated the process of movement between the colonies and the colonial metropoles. Within a decade after the end of the war, as refugees and the displaced returned to their home countries or moved elsewhere to be resettled, former colonial subjects began a counter-movement to the European cities their countries had been affiliated with to study, seek opportunity, and live. These migrations and exilic movements, a flow of people that included many artists, expanded the cosmopolitan imaginary. The Europe of the immigrations, to paraphrase the subtitle of Sarat Maharaj’s essay “The Congo Is Flooding the Acropolis,” was being transformed into a scene of radical alterity. The Continent foregrounded what Maharaj describes as the “immigrant exile’s portmanteau.” 74 The narrator of V. S. Naipaul’s autobiographical novel The Enigma of Arrival (1987) captures this epochal moment in a telling passage: Because in 1950 in London I was at the beginning of that great movement of peoples that was to take place in the second half of the twentieth century—a movement and a cultural mixing greater than the peopling of the United States, which was essentially a movement of Europeans to the New World. This was a movement between all continents. … Cities like London were to change. They were to cease being more or less national cities; they were to become cities of the world, modern-day Romes, establishing the pattern of what great cities should be, in the eyes of islanders like myself and people even more remote in language and culture. They were to be cities visited for learning and elegant goods and manners and freedom by all the barbarian peoples of the globe, people of forest and desert, Arabs, Africans, Malays.75

This convergence of dark peoples in Europe’s modern-day Romes sign­ posts the colonial/postcolonial clash so succinctly captured in Maharaj’s twinning of the Congo and the Acropolis. In his civilizational metaphor, the Congo essays backwardness while the Acropolis carries the stamp of all that is excellent, good, and enduring. In this scene, as Maharaj writes, “If the Congo evokes the swelling tide of the ‘dark peoples,’ the Acropolis signals Europe’s domination which the colonised seek to shake off.” 76


Artworks never exist in time. They have entry points. — Redza Piyadasa77

Throughout this essay the term “postwar” is used to describe the historical period following the end of World War II. These years were marked on the one hand by reconstruction and rehabilitation and on the other by a fundamental program of taking stock, asking questions, and a flurry of institutional activities: the creation of new global bodies such as the United Nations, the first global courts of justice, tribunals for war crimes, the agencies arising out of Bretton Woods (the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization), unesco, the Commission on Human Rights, and other corporate devices for mediating relationships among nations, economies, and scientific projects. The building of the foundations of the postwar global order was accompanied by the drafting of key international documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rise of global decolonization and nonaligned movements that would usher in and solidify postcolonial accounts of political and cultural sovereignty. In the field of art, the postwar period marks a historical and cultural turning point, for it brought about a waning of the dominance of the Western European art capitals and the rise of the international presence and hegemony of contemporary American art, popular culture, and mass media.78 If America liberated Western Europe from the scourge of Nazism, it also liberated itself from the artistic and cultural domination of Western Europe. This shift in fact mirrored the altered terms of geopolitical power, with defeated Europe acquiring and acquiescing to new patrons and protectors. As the Cold War divided the Continent into two spheres of influence, between the Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern and Central Europe, allied with the Soviet Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries of Western Europe, allied with the United States, the arts also created a distinct ideological relationship between communism and capitalism, socialism and liberal democracy. A crude binary for sure, but the ideological differences in the division of East and West posited abstraction and socialist realism into two moral equivalents: freedom and restriction.

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It would be a mistake, however—one often made in the narratives of postwar history—to place the entire focus on the North Atlantic world and its Pacific corollary, as if the rest of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America did not exist. Surveys of art history in the postwar period—“art since 1945”—are notorious for such exclusions and blind spots. Until recently, art-historical narratives have tended to stay on the safe ground of an exclusivist illusion in which all forms of artistic innovation

Fig. 16. Malangatana Valente Ngwenya. To the Clandestine Maternity Home. 1961. Oil on canvas, 84.5 × 97.8 cm. Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth. Courtesy DEVA, Universität Bayreuth

begin and end in the dominant centers of North American and Western European spheres of influence. This geopolitical bias has often tilted to the advantage of the countries that emerged victorious in the war—in other words to the North Atlantic alliance, thus skewing the study of contemporary art. While it is not our task to rewrite this narrative, it is nevertheless our purpose in this exhibition to present a new understanding of the actors and to raise substantial questions about the trajectories and genealogies of postwar art and its histories. In recent decades, a new art history has come to the fore that is neither exclusivist in its interests nor exclusionary in scholarship. New spaces of research are opening up, just as reconceived maps and networks of the flow of art and the assessment of its meaning are being constituted.79 And the rise of interest in the construction of a new map of global art history coincides with the emergence of recent scholarship that understands the value of studying the uneven development of historical methodologies across art histories. With this transformation in the optics of analysis, a vivid picture of postwar art is taking shape. Inevitably, such changes are attended by disputes that are at once methodological and historical, cultural and political. Yet these disputes not only engage and complicate the modernist narratives of art history, they have also produced insightful studies focused on regions, continents, countries, as well as individual artists. New


art-historical scholarship from across the world in Asia, Africa, South America, the Middle East, and the former Eastern Europe are expanding the study of postwar art. It is our hope that some of these issues will come into sharper relief through this exhibition. Rather than being a map, Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 is about networks. The project is also about the conundrums that have shaped the uneven exchange between the West and the Rest. On one hand it is a meditation, despite all doubts, on the creative vitality and potential of art, the ways in which the artists of the period engaged and experimented with forms and materials. This includes the transformations that occurred within aesthetic systems and within the logic of artistic production as new ideas and movements, technologies and techniques, emerged to redefine the subjects, strategies, and languages of contemporary art. At the same time, the postwar years mark a critical juncture in global art: the decline of the power of European art to set the agenda of global art discourse and the rise of American artistic hegemony. At the same time, an artistic worldliness emerged in which diasporic, transnational, and decolonized subjectivities charted new paths of artistic discourse. With this in mind, this exhibition is premised on the construction of a global picture of artistic production in the two decades that the project covers. Following the arc of two oceans—the Pacific and the Atlantic— Postwar is a reflection and retracing of the spaces and conditions of artistic production. By navigating the broad sweep of these epic bodies of water, the exhibition straddles continents, nations, geopolitical structures, economic patterns, and institutional frameworks to map new cultural networks and aesthetic agendas. These include case studies on the emergence of new nation states, the partition of others (India and Pakistan, North and South Korea, China and Taiwan, Israel and Palestine, East and West Germany), and the remaking of old ones. The encounters and artistic dialogues among artists, their exchanges of ideas, lend insight into the development of postwar art. From the First World to the Second World and Third World, from liberation struggles and civil rights movements to decolonization and nonalignment, from revolutionary socialism to liberal democracy, from the atomic age to the space age, from mass communication to consumerism, this survey informs and frames the processes that attended the remaking and remodeling of the global order. But which stories of art can this exhibition tell of the momentous events that shaped the world seventy years ago? Inevitably, a project of this scope and ambition faces vexing questions on multiple fronts. These include questions of interpretation, such as social versus formal art-historical methodology; of diachronic in contrast to synchronic curatorial approaches; of the criteria governing the inclusion and exclusion of artists and artworks; and of the balance between Western and non-Western art. At the same time, an exhibition such as this emerges from a long lineage of exhibitions and academic writing on art and artists of the period that this project covers. Against this backdrop, we must inevitably confront the weight of “canonical” art history, whose immense shadow falls on

Introductory Essays

Fig. 17. Francis Newton Souza. Untitled (Head). 1965. Oil on board, 73.7 × 58.4 cm. Courtesy Aicon Gallery, New York

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the shoulder of historical accounts and aesthetic interpretations in the face of alternative narratives. To soldier forth with this endeavor, the weight of “canonical” art history must first be shrugged off, let fall, gracefully, by the wayside. This does not necessarily mean casting it aside in toto, nor abandoning some of its many important insights. But it is part of this exhibition’s mission to acknowledge and identify the persistent blind spots of that history, and the Eurocentric limits that it places on artistic activities outside Europe and North America. To whatever extent possible, Postwar seeks, even in abbreviated terms, to be global and expansive, so as to tell a different kind of story of postwar art since 1945. In many ways the exhibition is revisionist in the best possible sense: it aims to create a multivalent network of relationships and differences, affiliations and cultural solidarities, singularities and multiplicities. Most significantly, it seeks to bring into dialogue the work of artists from North and South, East and West, regional and metropolitan, national and transnational, cosmopolitan and diasporic. In doing so it reshapes unsustainable art-historical boundary-making, which for too long has sequestered artists (including Europeans) in ethnocentric corrals and has divided the art world into consolidated enclaves, while consigning many significant artists from outside Western Europe and North America to the margins of critical inquiry. Postwar is a story that can only make sense on a broad canvas. It is neither a chronological narrative nor an episodic account of art movements; instead, the privileged mode of narration of this complex and complicated topoi is heterotemporal80 and heterochronical. 81 In other words, there is neither a singular temporality nor one sole chronicle. One way to approach this task might be to “provincialize” 82 (to borrow Dipesh Chakrabarty’s illuminating term) the postwar art-history industry—“Art since 1945”—in order to project what Terry Smith has called “the world-picture” of modern and contemporary art. 83 This clearly calls for a recasting of art history—an examination on a global scale, bearing in mind the work of artists across the world, in every continent, and of every shade. 84 It is our hope that Postwar not only reconceives the very syntax of artistic modernity but enlivens the multiplicity of the accounts that have come to shape it.


Introductory Essays

1 The first American forces to enter Munich were a small squad of soldiers under the command of twenty-seven-year-old, German-born Lieutenant Wolfgang F. Robinow. See Charles Hawley, “Remembering World War II: The US Soldier Who Liberated Munich Recalls Confronting the Nazi Enemy,” Spiegel Online, April 29, 2005, available online at international/remembering-world-war-ii-the-us-soldier-who-liberated-munich-recalls-confronting-the-nazi-enemy-a-354029.html (accessed June 2016). 2 Located just sixteen kilometers (ten miles) from Munich, Dachau was the Nazi regime’s first concentration camp. It opened in March 1933, initially to house political prisoners opposing the regime, and was the model for all later concentration camps and subcamps built in Germany and German-occupied countries. See the website of the Dachau memorial at (accessed June 2016). 3 See Winfried Nerdinger, ed., Munich and National Socialism, trans. Jefferson Chase (Munich: C. H. Beck, 2015), p. 9. 4 V-E Day, the official end of the war, is commemorated on May 8 in Europe and on May 9 in the Soviet Union. Germany’s capitulation had been announced two days earlier, on May 6, in Rheims, where General Dwight D. Eisenhower had accepted the German surrender. Celebrations were postponed until May 8, however, when the Allied and Soviet commands signed the document of surrender together in Berlin. See Ian Buruma, Year Zero: A History of 1945 (New York: The Penguin Press, 2011), pp. 15–18. 5 See Sadao Asada, “The Shock of the Atomic Bomb and Japan’s Decision to Surrender: A Reconsideration,” in The Pacific Historical Review 67, no. 4 (November 1998): 477–512. 6 Like trophy hunters, American army officers added their signatures to the Goldenes Buch next to the names of august earlier visitors to the building. On the main and title page of the book, Sgt. Richard S. Radelet signed his name between the printed name and the signature of Adolf Hitler; Sgt. Eugene Johnson signed on the top page, above where Benito Mussolini and the Aga Khan had signed on September 25 and October 22, 1937; and 1st Lt. Robert E. Bishoff left his name below the signature of Edward, Duke of Windsor, who had visited on October 23, 1937. The guest book lies in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich. 7 On the complexity of the new geopolitical arrangements that followed the end of the war see Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (London: Penguin Books, 2005). 8 Hitler, “Speech Inaugurating the ‘Great Exhibition of German Art,’ Munich,” in Herschel B. Chipp, ed., Theories of Modern Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), p. 476. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid., p. 475. 11 Entartete Kunst opened on July 19, 1937, one day after the inauguration of the new Haus der Deutschen Kunst. See Entartete Kunst Ausstellungsführer, exh. cat. (Berlin: Verlag für Kultur- und Wirtschaftswerbung, 1937). 12 On Entartete Kunst and its impact on artists and the avant-garde see Stephanie Barron, “Degenerate Art”: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991). 13 After 1936, besides being one of Hitler’s favorite painters, Adolf Ziegler also served as president of the Reichskulturkammer (Chamber of visual arts), a position that gave him the responsibility of coordinating the seizure of artworks deemed degenerate from museums throughout Germany. It was Ziegler who was responsible for the hasty organization of the Entartete Kunst exhibition, beginning in Munich and then touring the country’s cities. 14 Hitler, “Speech Inaugurating the ‘Great Exhibition of German Art,’ Munich,” p. 479. 15 The various testimonies presented in the course of the denazification of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst include a submission made by three Frenchmen who had been sent to work there during the war as forced labor. The letter, signed by a Mr. Armand, a Mr. Mesler, and a Mr. Petior Grolet, stated that during their time at the museum, Mr. H. Gräf, Mr. A. Kugler, Mr. Otto, Mr. K., and Mr. Koppauer had treated them correctly. The letter clearly implicates the museum in the use of forced labor. See M. Armand, M. Mesler, and M. Petior Grolet, denazification certification letter for Heinrich Gräf, May 1, 1945. Spk A K539 Gräf, Heinrich, Staatsarchiv München, Munich. 16 The earliest published document using the changed name is the title page of the book Ausstellung Bayerischer Gemälde des 15. und 16 Jahrhunderts (Munich: Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives, Office of the Military Government for Bavaria, 1946), the catalogue for an exhibition that opened on January 17, 1946. 17 The building seems to have remained identified as the Haus der Deutschen Kunst at least until late in 1945. A letter in the Haus der Kunst archives written on November 2, 1945, identifies the Officers’ Club as located in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst through both the printed letterhead and writing in the letter itself. It is signed by the civilian personnel chief of the Officers’ Mess and carries an identification stamp noting the same location. 18 See the exhibition catalogue Ausstellung Bayerischer Gemälde des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts. The exhibition was the first, other than the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung, to be staged in

Okwui Enwezor


the building since 1944. It contained works from the Bayerische Staatsgemälde-Sammlungen,

that laid many German cities to waste see W. G. Sebald, On the Natural History of Destruction,

the Bavarian state painting collection.

1999, Eng. trans. Anthea Bell (New York: Random House, 2003).

19 Because Munich’s Alte Pinakothek had been damaged during the war, the paintings were

30 After the end of the war, beyond the exhaustive reports of governmental and human-rights

exhibited at Haus der Kunst, where the collection remained until the 1950s.

organizations on the nature of the death camps, a range of memoirs by survivors began to

20 The Bavarian, January 24, 1946, p. 8.

appear. One of the earliest accounts published, originally in 1947, was that of the Jewish-­

21 A review of the museum’s rapid reorganization of its artistic program is available online

Italian chemist Primo Levi, who had survived internment in Auschwitz. See Levi, If This Is a

at (ac-

Man, trans. Stuart Woolf (London: Orion Press, 1959). For a compelling elaboration of the

cessed June 2016).

meaning of Auschwitz and its moral and ethical implications see Giorgio Agamben, Remnants

22 The Pablo Picasso exhibition included 126 paintings, 34 sculptures, 25 drawings, 56

of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, 1998, Eng. trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (New York:

prints, and 13 ceramic works. It traveled to the Rheinisches Museum Köln-Deutz, Cologne, and

Zone Books, 1999). Even camp administrators, including some of the most notorious ones,

to the Kunstverein and the Kunsthalle-Altbau, Hamburg. See Picasso 1900–1955 (Munich:

wrote memoirs; see Rudolph Höss, Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the Kommandant at

Austellungleitung München, e.V. Haus der Kunst, 1955).

Auschwitz, 1946–47, Eng. trans. Andrew Pollinger (Boston: Da Capo Press, 1996).

23 See Jürgen Claus, Entartete Kunst. Bildersturm vor 25 Jahren, exh. cat. (Munich: Ausstel-

31 See Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 1961 (rev. ed. New York: Holmes

lungsleitung München e.V. Haus der Kunst, 1962).

and Meier, 1985).

24 See Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley, FDR and the Creation of the U.N. (New Haven

32 For many, World War II has come to signify and conjure two particular images of appalling

and London: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 45.

horror: the Holocaust—the extermination of millions of European Jews—and the dropping of

25 See Official Proceedings and Documents of United Nations Monetary and Financial Con-

atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

ference, vols. 1 and 2, available online at

33 See Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, 1958 (reprint ed. Chicago: University of Chicago

books/1948_state_bwood_v1.pdf and

Press, 1998).

1948_state_bwood_v2.pdf (accessed June 2016). See also Ben Steil, The Battle of Bretton

34 See Agamben, The Open: Man and Animal, 2002, Eng. trans. Kevin Attell (Stanford:

Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order

Stanford University Press, 2002), pp. 33–38.

(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012).

35 For Arendt, the convergence of the ideology of race and its management was “actually

26 The Pan-African Congress was organized by Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana (formerly the

made on the Dark Continent. Race was the emergency explanation of human beings whom

Gold Coast) to independence from Britain in 1957 and became its first prime minister, and the

no European or civilized man could understand and whose humanity so frightened and hu-

Trinidadian writer and trade unionist George Padmore. The congress, a postwar attempt to re-

miliated the immigrants that they no longer cared to belong to the same human species.” See

suscitate W. E. B. Dubois’s earlier Pan-African Congresses, brought together representatives of

Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951 (reprint ed. San Diego and New York: Harcourt,

African and West Indian political, labor, and civic organizations who declared, “The delegates of

1985), p. 185.

the Fifth Pan-African Congress believe in peace. How could it be otherwise when for centuries

36 Ibid, p. 37.

the African peoples have been victims of violence and slavery. Yet if the Western world is still

37 Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, 1950, rev. 1955, Eng. trans. Joan Pinkham

determined to rule mankind by force, then Africans, as a last resort, may have to appeal to force

(New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), p. 35.

in the effort to achieve Freedom, even if force destroys them and the world.” See Padmore, ed.,

38 Ibid., p. 41.

History of the Pan African Congress (London: The Hammersmith Bookshop, 1947), p. 5.

39 Agamben, Homer Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, 1995, Eng. trans. Daniel Heller-­

27 “During the war years the museum modified its program, working in support of the war

Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), p. 153.

effort by preparing special programs, posters, films, and exhibitions for the government, the

40 See Rachel E. Perry, “Jean Fautrier’s Jolies Juive,” October 108 (Spring 2004): 51–72.

armed forces, and later on for veterans. The Museum executed thirty-eight contracts for various

41 Sarah Wilson, “Paris Post War: In Search of the Absolute,” in Frances Morris, Paris Post War:

governmental agencies, including Office of War Information, the Library of Congress, and the

Art and Existentialism 1945–55, exh. cat. (London: Tate Gallery, 1994), p. 27.

Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. Nineteen exhibitions were sent abroad and

42 The British Army Film and Photographic Unit was a corps of trained photographers and

twenty-nine were shown on the premises, all related to the war and the problems and suffering it

cameramen established on October 24, 1941, to record military events in which the British

engendered.” Sam Hunter, “The Museum of Modern Art: Introduction,” in The Museum of Modern

Armed Forces were engaged. The No. 5 British Army Film and Photographic Unit entered the

Art, New York: The History and Collection (New York: Harry N. Abrams and The Museum of Mod-

Belsen-Bergen concentration camp on April 17, 1945, two days after the camp had been lib-

ern Art, 1984), pp. 20–21. In a bulletin from 1942, the Museum had this to say about its collec-

erated by British and Canadian Forces, although some of the unit’s photographers had already

tion: “Though it does not so obviously bear upon the War, the museum collection is a symbol of

entered the camp earlier. One year later, in 1946, the unit disbanded. See Mark Celinscak, 

one of the four freedoms for which we are fighting—the freedom of expression. It is art that Hitler

Distance from the Belsen Heap: Allied Forces and the Liberation of a Nazi Concentration Camp

hates because it is modern, progressive, challenging (Hitler insists upon magazine cover realism

(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015), p. 38.

or prettiness); because it is international, leading to understanding and tolerance among nations

43 On the question of what images can show about the Holocaust see Georges Didi-­

(Hitler despises the culture of all countries but his own); because it is free, the free expression of

Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, 2003, Eng. trans.

free men (Hitler insists upon the subjugation of art).” “The Museum and the War,” The Bulletin of

Shane B. Lillis, 2008 (repr ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).

the Museum of Modern Art 10, no. 1 (October–November 1942): 19. Even in the postwar period,

44 At the end of the essay “Cultural Criticism and Society,” 1951, Theodor Adorno, who spent

no museum was more directly involved than MoMA as an arbiter of “progressive” modernism

the war years in Los Angeles, wrote that “cultural criticism finds itself faced with the final

and a promoter of American contemporary art. In 1952, the Museum’s second director, René

stage of the dialectic of culture and barbarism. To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

d’Harnoncourt, established its International Program (later succeed by its International Coun-

See Adorno, Prisms, Eng. trans. Shiery Weber Nicholsen and Samuel Weber (Cambridge, Mass.:

cil) to promote modern art and contemporary American art through a global lending program

The MIT Press, 1983), p. 34.

and through traveling exhibitions sometimes organized in collaboration with U.S. government

45 This dictum came as the subtitle of “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” an in-depth article on the

agencies. These collaborations were the subject of controversy, especially when they involved

trial of Adolf Eichmann that Arendt wrote on assignment for The New Yorker, which published

the CIA-financed Congress for Cultural Freedom. See Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid the

it in February and March 1963. Arendt later revised and expanded the article into a book:

Piper?: The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (London: Granta Books, 1999), pp. 267–74.

Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: Viking, 1964).

28 Worldwide statistics remain incomplete, but it is calculated that over 40 million died across

46 Immediately after the war, with the onset of the Nuremberg trials and the denazification

the world. The Soviet Union alone incurred an estimated 20 million war dead. See Micheal

process, the German people were confronted with questions of their responsibility, or lack

Clodfelter, Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other

thereof, for the crimes of National Socialism. One of the first thinkers to grapple with the

Figures, 1494–2007, 1992 (rev. ed. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2008), pp. 560–61.

issue of guilt was the philosopher Karl Jaspers, who had been expelled by the Nazis from the

29 Buruma recounts a chilling exchange during the German surrender to the Soviets. Field

University of Heidelberg in 1937 but had remained in Germany through the war, although he

Marshal Wilhelm Keitel of Germany, Buruma writes, “told the Russians that he was horrified

was strongly anti-Nazi. When he launched his inquiry into the idea of German guilt, then, in a

by the extent of the destruction wrought on the German capital. Whereupon a Russian officer

series of public lectures delivered in the fall of 1945, just a few months after Germany’s sur-

asked Keitel whether he had been equally horrified when on his orders, thousands of Soviet

render, he had the authority to engage the most important moral dilemma faced by Germans

villages and towns were obliterated, and millions of people, including many children, were bur-

of the postwar generation. See Jaspers, Die Schuldfrage, 1947, Eng. trans. as The Question of

ied under the ruins.” See Buruma, Year Zero, p. 18. For a riveting recollection of the bombings

German Guilt, trans. E. B. Ashton (New York: Doubleday Broadway, 1948). Arendt, Wolfgang


Introductory Essays

Borchert, Alfred Döblin, and Eugen Kogon were among the important voices dealing with the

Centre, Asele Institute, and Minneapolis: African American Cultural Center, 1982).

issue of guilt within Germany immediately after the war.

64 Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, p. 32.

47 See Claudia Mesch, Modern Art at the Berlin Wall: Demarcating Culture in the Cold War

65 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, p. 112.

Germanys (London and New York: Tauris Academic Studies, 2008), p. 55.

66 James Baldwin, “Stranger in the Village,” Harper’s Magazine, October 1953, p. 45.

48 Some of Gerhard Richter’s early paintings, including Hitler (1962), Bombers (1963),

67 Born in 1906 in Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor cofounded the black-consciousness literary

Uncle Rudi (1965), Herr Heyde (1965), Family by the Seaside (1964), and others, address

movement Négritude, with Césaire and Léon Damas, in 1935, several years before the outbreak

images, events, and individuals related to Nazism and the war. He recently completed a

of World War II. A Paris-based coalition of intellectuals of the African diaspora, the founders used

cycle of four large-scale abstract paintings based on grainy black-and-white photographs of

their literary journal L’Étudiant noir as a platform for a dialogic, positivist black/African humanism

Birkenau. It is intriguing that he chose abstraction as a way to engage this obviously difficult

and a resistance to colonialism. Négritude—a neologism coined by Césaire—appropriated the

subject matter, after over fifty years without producing such a picture. See Helmut Friedl,

negativity of the pejorative racist terms “négre” and “nigger” and deployed W. E. B. Dubois’s dia-

Gerhard Richter: Birkenau (Cologne: Buchhandlung Walther König, 2015).

lectical idea of a diasporic black double consciousness to contest, challenge, and reject Western

49 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, “Gerhard Richter’s Atlas: The Anomic Archive,” October 88

cultural, racial, and moral domination. The movement’s influence went beyond the initial franco-

(Spring 1999): 143.

phone world of African and Caribbean writers to encompass much of the African and diasporic

50 Ibid., pp. 143–44.

worlds. See James A. Arnold, Modernism and Négritude: The Poetry and Poetics of Aimé Cesairé

51 For a careful translation and examination of Celan’s great poem, which thematizes the nec-

(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981); Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York:

essary voicing of the Shoah, see Paul Celan, “Death Fugue,” Eng. trans. John Felstiner, in

Bantam Books, 1989); and Cesairé, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, 1947, Eng. trans.

Felstiner, Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), pp. 31–32.

Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 2001).

52 Mark Godfrey, Abstraction and the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007). 53 After their initial appearance in Mainichi Shinbun in August 1945, Yosuke Yamahata’s

68 Jean-Paul Sartre, “Black Orpheus,” 1948, Eng. trans. John MacCombie, The Massachusetts

photographs were proscribed and kept out of circulation. The ban was lifted in 1952, and the

as the introduction to Senghor, ed., Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie negre et malgache (Paris:

magazines Asahi Graph and Life soon published the photographs, respectively in the issues

Quadrigge/Presse Universitaire de France, 1948).

Review 6, no. 1 (Autumn 1964–Winter 1965): 18. The essay was originally published in French

of August 6 and September 29, 1952. In 1955, Edward Steichen, curator of photography at

69 See Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 1961, Eng. trans. Constance Farrington (New York:

New York’s Museum of Modern Art, included some of the photographs in the Museum’s influ-

Grove Press, 1963).

ential exhibition The Family of Man. Similar censorship of images of the bomb also occurred in

70 Sukarno, quoted in Partha Chatterjee, “Empire and Nation Revisited: 50 Years After

films. As Jerome F. Shapiro writes, “Recently, film historians have brought to light the extent

Bandung,” in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 6, no. 4 (August 2006): 487.

to which the Supreme Command of Allied Powers (scap) censored references to Hiroshima

71 Judt, Postwar, p. 7.

and Nagasaki in films made during the Occupation years of Japan, and the extent to which the

72 See Chatterjee, “Empire and Nation Revisited,” pp. 487–96.

Japanese government itself also suppressed, and even now continues to suppress, culturally

73 Judt, Postwar, p. 7.

and historically important films about the atomic bombings.” See Shapiro, Atomic Bomb Cinema:

74 Sarat Maharaj, “The Congo Is Flooding the Acropolis: Art in the Britain of Immigrations,”

The Apocalyptic Imagination in Film (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), p. 6.

Third Text 15 (Summer 1991): 77–90.

54 Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein were among those alarmed about the consequences

75 V. S. Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), pp. 141–42.

of the introduction of atomic weapons of mass destruction. On July 9, 1955, they called a

76 Maharaj, “The Congo Is Flooding the Acropolis,” p. 81.

press conference at Claxton Hall, London, where they released the Russell-Einstein Mani-

77 The poignant and evocative text of this epigraph appears as an inscription on the surface

festo on nuclear disarmament. See Russell and Einstein, “The Russell-Einstein Manifesto,”

of a conceptual artwork, a painting titled Entry Points (1978), by the Malaysian artist Redza

in Joseph Rotblat, Scientists in the Quest for Peace: A History of the Pugwash Conferences

Piyadasa. In many ways it articulates with incisive brevity the task of mapping the global coor-

(Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1972), 137–140. The manifesto is also available online,

dinates of the artworks in this exhibition.

at; see also

78 Serge Guilbaut has made the contentious claim that the waning of Paris as the center


of modernism and the rise of New York were consequences of the concerted assertion of

1955/ (both accessed June 2016). See also Jaspers, The Future of Mankind, 1958, Eng. trans.

American hegemony in global cultural politics. See Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of

E. B. Ashton (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961). The book was also published under

Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War, Eng. trans. Arthur Goldhammer

the title The Atom Bomb and the Future of Man.

(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).

55 Along with Russell and Einstein, the philosophers, theologians, and scientists addressing

79 Several exhibitions since the late 1980s have presented new curatorial research that

these issues included Jaspers, Günther Anders, and Lewis Mumford.

has broadened the field of postwar scholarship. For a few examples see Rasheed Araeen,

56 In cinema there emerged a genre of filmmaking that Shapiro calls “atomic bomb cinema”:

The Other Story, exh. cat. (London: The Hayward Gallery, 1989); Jean-Paul Ameline, Face

films such as Children of Hiroshima (1952), by Kaneto Shindõ; The Bells of Nagasaki (1953),

à l’histoire, 1933–1996, exh. cat. (Paris: Flammarion and Centre Georges Pompidou, 1996);

by Hideo Ôba; Gojira (Godzilla, 1954), by Ishirõ Honda; Hiroshima mon amour (1959), by Alain

Luis Camnitzer, Jane Farver, and Rachel Weiss, eds., Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin,

Resnais; La Jeteé (1962), by Chris Marker; and Stanley Kubrick’s classic nuclear war spoof

1950s–1980s, exh. cat. (New York: Queens Museum of Art, 1999); Okwui Enwezor, The Short

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). See Shapiro,

Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994, exh. cat. (Munich:

Atomic Bomb Cinema.

Prestel and Museum Villa Stuck, 2001); Mari Carmen Ramírez and Héctor Olea, Inverted

57 Homi Bhabha, “Foreword. Remembering Fanon: Self, Psyche, and Colonial Condition,” in

Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America, exh. cat. (New Haven: Yale University Press, and

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 1952, Eng. trans. Charles Lam Markmann (London:

Houston: Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 2004).

Pluto Press, 1986), p. xx.

80 See Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Preface to the 2nd edition,” in Provincializing Europe: Postco-

58 Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, p. 31.

lonial Thought and Historical Difference, 2000, (rev. ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press,

59 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, p. 9.

2007), p. xvii.

60 David Siqueiros’s Cain en los Estados Unidos shows a white mob—figures of the gro-

81 Nicolas Bourriaud uses this term to underline the multiplicity of accounts of contemporary

tesque—dragging a bloodied black man out of a prison cell for a lynching. In the blurry

art. See Bourriaud, statement from a brochure outline for the “Altermodern” program of the

forms of Jack Whitten’s series of heads (Head IV—Lynching, 1964, for example), whiteness

Tate Triennial (London: Tate Britain, April 2008).

assumes a ghostly presence.

82 The terminological turn made through Chakrabarty’s concept of provincialization is enor-

61 See Morris, Paris Post War. The intriguing aspect of Morris’s exhibition is not so much its

mously useful in grappling with how to break up historical master narratives. See his Provin-

exclusive focus on the work of white European artists as the absolute absence of any discus-

cializing Europe.

sion of French colonialism in Indochina and North Africa, regions that in the period in question

83 Terry Smith, “World Picturing in Contemporary Art: The Iconogeographic Turn,” Australian

were literally at war with the French state. The absence strikes one as part of a general his-

and New Zealand Journal of Art 7, no. 1 (2006): 24–46. See also Smith, What Is Contemporary

toricist fiction that pervades the art establishment and its institutions.

Art? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), pp. 5–6.

62 See Chika Okeke-Agulu, Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-­

84 For an important contribution toward an expansive methodological view of art history

Century Nigeria (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2015).

studied on such a global scale, see David Summers, Real Spaces: World Art History and the

63 See Uche Okeke, Art in Development: A Nigerian Perspective (Nimo, Nigeria: Documentation

Rise of Western Modernism (London: Phaidon, 2003).

Okwui Enwezor



Introductory Essays

L’histoire de la peinture est liée a celle de l’humanité (The history of painting is linked to the history of humanity). —Mohamed Khadda, 1964 1


ostwar is more than Aftermath and Triumph, the most obvious traces of World War II in the view from Europe or the United States. The destruction, ruin, and then reconstruction of Europe, alongside or in conflict with the rising tide of American affluence and influence, is only one part of the story, the part that focuses on the shifting fortunes of the West. The destroyed cities to be reconstructed and modernized included Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Tokyo, as well as the Arab cities—Cairo, Beirut, Damascus—bombarded by colonial violence before and after the war. 2 Yet the tragedies of European cities are often cast as singular in art-historical accounts, particularly those written for exhibitions that tell and retell the story of Europe and/or the United States, with increasing detail or polemic.3 In these accounts, even this story’s other, more proximate side—the tale of Communist Russia and Eastern Europe, the West’s competitors in the Cold War—was long in eclipse. 4 In recent decades, however, historians tout court have aggressively questioned and reconfigured received accounts of the postwar period.5 First came the revelations from Eastern European archives opened after 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Communist bloc, affording a much more detailed vision of Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the other Iron Curtain nations. A second wave of historical reconsideration looked at the so-called Third World; many political, social, and economic histories over the past two decades have discussed anticolonial struggles and new nationhood. 6 Still more recent accounts have traced the transnational ties of the pan-Arab and -African movements and the affiliations of the nonaligned nations. Many historians tackle the broader historical conundrum of the relation of these new accounts to the older ones that focused on the two superpowers and their Cold War, asking whether China, for example, or Asia broadly conceived, has a history incommensurate with that paradigm.7 Others have countered the East-West narrative altogether, reorienting to North-South and arguing that the American and Western European perception of the threat posed by masses of poor people of color was equal to that of the threat posed by Communism. 8 Debates have arisen around the subject matter of history as well, around whether to emphasize the paper trail of foreign policy or the more nebulous category of culture. 9 And some, particularly postcolonial theorists, have questioned the very idea of world history as a linear development in which the world’s cultures belong to a single master narrative. 10 Art historians have not been absent from these disciplinary shifts. Scholars and curators have done much—though certainly not all—of the primary research required to write accounts of the artistic

figures and institutions of new nations (although Western museums, particularly in the United States, have been slow to stage monographic exhibitions for postwar artists from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and the Middle East).11 The question of how such accounts might sit within, inform, or refigure a larger account of modern art, and of art history more broadly, remains far from resolved. Scholars studying the formerly colonized nations have produced penetrating critiques of the center/periphery account of modernism, with its implication of delayed or imitative versions in the non-West, and have developed subsequent debates about “alter” or hybrid modernities. 12 But no previous exhibition has attempted a global account of postwar art, staged from a perspective of interrelation. A worldwide perspective is often seen as properly relevant only after 1989, when the end of state Communism created the conditions for a global art world. This change has been categorized as a shift from the “modern” to the “contemporary.” 13 And in fact, contemporary art from the non-West seems an easier fit for the market than the work made earlier by “modern” artists in new nations, where stylistic choices were more obviously restricted by ideology (emphasized in many accounts of Chinese art) or seemed imitative to Western critics (as in many accounts of Middle Eastern art). Global art histories therefore rush to the post-1989 years, perhaps after a brief prelude, in order to leap over a moment—“the modern”—when much art is dismissed as being of questionable quality; as being marked by inadequate difference from other art sharing a seemingly belated style; or, conversely, as producing too much friction with globalism, thanks to a nationalist political orientation that now appears old-fashioned. A few scholars have sought to rewrite the history of world art as a whole, producing radically reconceived survey texts or theoretical reconsiderations of historical models, epitomized respectively by the work of David Summers and Hans Belting. 14 The global survey begins at a moment well before modernism and attempts to locate universal features of art from different cultures and periods, allowing an art history that doesn’t jump, as in the earlier survey model, from ancient Egypt to ancient Greece, as though art in Egypt simply stopped at a certain year. However well-intentioned, the approach can seem an art-historical analogue of the neoliberal “end of history,” while its attempt at global comprehension through the quest for universals—often found in formal similarities—occludes appreciation of the material specificities, politics, and conflicts in and among different artistic cultures. In other words, it occludes history itself—the relations and conflicts among nations and cultures that shaped the postwar world, with actors interacting intensely and in many directions on a global scale, well before 1989. (In fact, accepting 1989 as the crucial date presumes the centrality of the Cold War, a centrality that historians have recently sought to question.) It was in the postwar period that relations among artistic practices across the world became active and necessary, though not by any means equal. 15 After 1945, the world was united, not in the recurrent hope of a rational universalism in the

Katy Siegel


Fig. 1. Mohammed Khadda. Alphabet libre (Free Alphabet). 1964. Oil on canvas, 100 × 81 cm. Musée national des beaux-arts d’Alger, Algiers


Introductory Essays

interest of humanity as a whole, but by a new order based on continuous conflict among political and economic interests. This conflict both produced and was enforced by apocalyptic technology, mass production, endless war, new forms of economic empire and resistance, and global mass communication. Postwar seeks to explore—at least in a first draft—the artistic aspect of this situation, examining it in a way that is both global and historical, framed by the ambitious questions posed by historians and making use of the primary and critical work done by art historians in particular. No exhibition, of course, even one on the scale of Postwar, can fully measure up to this task. Not only did we have to make choices about what to include, but our choices were of course constrained by the availability of particular artworks, a condition itself reflecting a whole history of valuation (entailing economics and even international diplomatic relations). But within the practical limits curators always face, Postwar has taken its cues, above all, from reconsiderations of the nature of global history. The exhibition rests on the shoulders of those who have done the demanding work of recovering and studying individual artists from around the world, and also on those of recent art historians who have looked at transnational connections among artists, including those belonging to pan-Arab and -African, SouthSouth, and nonaligned networks.16 It reflects an attempt to see the Cold War as one aspect of a global struggle for power; to see Europe as only one terrain of that struggle, and as itself provincial in this sense; and to look at history not as the unfolding of a single story, or as a fractured plurality of stories, but as a knot of mutually inflecting histories. 17 This complexity was already sensed by the artist On Kawara in 1955, speaking at a roundtable, “Atarashii ningen zō ni mukatte” (Toward a New Human Image), in Tokyo:

the art-world battle between the United States, newly ascendant politically and economically, and the damaged nations of France, Germany, and to a lesser degree England. In fact, however, the makers (and even many supporters) of the apparently new artistic modes in New York and on the West Coast were initially tentative in their claims for their work, and exhibitions of these modes included European, Mexican, and Cuban artists along with Americans. The only insistent note was the assertion that American art, long seen as provincial, imitative, and

In our reality, we did not pass through an upwardly mobile time, or the best time, of modernity. Take, for example, capitalist production. We are already mired in late-stage ills of monopoly [without having gone through its earlier stages]. At the same time, feudal institutions and sentiments remain, permeating every aspect of our life. I suspect that these different historical stages are layered. When we try to transcend this, we cannot proactively change our reality, unless we shed a Westernized monolithic viewpoint and accept these contradictions as autonomous subjects in order to devise a method or plan for change based on the concrete reality.18

Fig. 2. Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze). Apatride. 1944. Photography. Private Collection

Kawara was speaking specifically about Japan, but his insistence that histories coexist, as historical strata, so to speak, has broad implications. Even though he uses the language of development—stages, modern­ ity—he undercuts its reality. As we begin to see the modern, including its dominant iterations in the United States and Europe, as both local and a matter of mutual exchange, the obdurate centrality of this category to our thinking about the art of the period may begin to dissolve. The starting point for most histories and exhibitions of the postwar period has historically been just that tale of Aftermath and Triumph—

primitive or even barbaric, might in fact be developing something of value. 19 Even within the United States, the art of Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Mark Tobey, and others that was later labeled “Abstract Expressionism” was only one mode among others; there were also realisms of all stripes, such as the identifiably American subjects of Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth and the popular leftist images of Ben Shahn (the last, famously, paired with de Kooning in the American Pavilion of the Venice Biennale of 1954), which, however, have come to be granted far less historical importance. 20

Katy Siegel


Despite growing excitement about Abstract Expressionism, the market and general regard for it were weak both inside and outside the United States until the mid-to-late 1950s, and the attention it received was balanced by scornful dismissal of its outlandishness. Early “since 1945” accounts (such as Documenta II, in 1959, and various textbook surveys) placed the United States in a relatively minor role, and often reached back before the dark interlude of the war (and its attendant, questionable art) in an effort to cast postwar European artists as the heirs of earlier modernists such as Vasily Kandinsky—Hans

the most obvious artistic (rather than territorial) issue was the apparently purely stylistic conflict between abstraction and figuration. This pair of categories—which became a cliché largely without passing through the stage of analysis—was described bluntly by the painter Georg Baselitz: “There was abstraction in the West and realism in the East.” 24 At the level of official policy, prescription, and nationalist promotion of the arts, the line between the two was indeed drawn firmly, as in the United States famously advertising abstraction as democratic freedom and the Soviets mandating legible, uplifting images

Fig. 3. Wifredo Lam. La Réunion (The Reunion). 1945. Oil on paper, remount, white chalk, 152 × 212 cm. Paris, Centre Pompidou - Musée national d'art moderne - Centre de création industrielle

Hartung, for example, or the politically blameless artist Wols (featured in Documenta I and II and in the 1958 Venice Biennale), a German resident in France who was interned in a French camp during the war and died six years after its end (fig. 2).21 It was in this context that the exhibition The New American Painting, which circulated through Basel, Milan, Madrid, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and London in 1958–59, accompanied by a Pollock retrospective, announced the newly uppercase, newly official label. Reviews were mixed, but regardless of their verdict critics often saw a battle between former national allies—a moment, as Lawrence Alloway characterized the 1960 Venice Biennale, when “[Jean] Fautrier slapped Franz Kline or Kline socked Fautrier.” 22 American political and artistic ascendance would become much more truly joined in the 1960s, with Pop art, whose content seemed to anticipate this reception.23 By this time the territorial battles between New York and Paris had long taken their place in the context of the Cold War. From this optic


of the labor and health made possible under Communism. This institutional history, of diplomatic papers and museum correspondence, has conditioned art-historical accounts. 25 But in the day-to-day lives of artists, the practices were rarely as fixed as the names for them were in the discourse. 26 Although critics could be didactic about the historical necessity and definition of abstraction, many artists were not interested in it as an explicit program or supposed telos of painting. Abstraction as an absolute dictate—as it was for Ad Reinhardt—was rare, and to some seemed ridiculous enough that Elaine de Kooning parodied it in her spoof article “Pure Paints a Picture.” 27 Her husband, Willem de Kooning, along with Wols, Tobey, Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Mark Rothko, and many others who were referred to as abstract painters rejected the term, linking it to the rationalism that in their eyes led to fascism.28 Nor did they prefer its opposite, which artists like Norman Lewis and Francis Bacon

Introductory Essays

Fig. 4. Taro Okamoto. My Reality. 1950. Digital scan from silver gelatin print. Taro Okamoto Museum of Art, Kawasaki

Katy Siegel


Fig. 5. Mathias Goeritz. El animal del Pedregal. 1951. Reinforced concrete. Courtesy L.M. Daniel Goeritz & Galería La Caja Negra, Madrid


Introductory Essays

identified as “illustration,” seeking instead an impure and active relation between the artist and his or her materials and in the specificities of the paint’s speed and viscosity and color on canvas, whether it made a face or a squiggle (but, for these particular artists, no squares). Furthermore, artists were ambivalent not only about abstraction, which they linked to a discredited theoretical and ideological modernism, but also about the United States. Many of them were immigrants, Jews, gay, socialists, and African Americans, with cosmopolitan identities and experiences that put them at odds with any conservative posturing about the nation (making them suspicious of the Whitney Museum of American Art, for example), even as some found things to love in American culture: its informality, its music, its movies. Representation too could be an engaged and personal practice rather than a socially dictated one. While the Communist regimes had mandates for political representations and acceptable subject matter, those mandates fluctuated through the thaw after the death of Joseph Stalin and during Mao Zedong’s Hundred Flowers campaign.29 Soviet painting had a range of styles, including “severe” and romantic, reaching back to nineteenth-century Russia, and Chinese traditional ink-painting techniques were sometimes forbidden and sometimes allowed, depending on the content and the artist. There was art in the “popular democracies” of Eastern Europe—by Vladimir Boudnik, Ivo Gattin, and Tadeusz Kantor, for example—that engaged gestural abstraction or that continued earlier geometric styles. Art by Communist artists varied throughout the world, as manifested in the work of the many socialist and Communist artists in the West, such as André Fougeron, Renato Guttuso, and Charles White, and in the widespread influence of the Mexican artist David Siqueiros (despite his own Stalinism) on the work of artists as varied as Kawara and Inji Efflatoun. In the United States, popular paintings and illustrations by Norman Rockwell were more than a match for Soviet art as realist propaganda. Nonetheless, the tension between abstraction and figuration was real, and it is fascinating to see how it played out not only in the conflict between East and West, or between Communism and capitalism, but also as a way of figuring other frictions—most notably those aroused by decolonization, arguably the most significant political fact of the period. In this context it provided an artistic register for the revival of an earlier understanding of East-West conflict, that between Asian and Middle Eastern cultures on the one hand and Western on the other.30 Here Western abstraction was often positioned against non-Western representational content, from rural scenes of indigenous life to political, ethnic, or religious imagery. Succinctly describing this conceptual structure as one that “divides art into form, which is learned and borrowed from the West, and content, whose raw material is abstracted from national cultures,” art historian Shiva Balaghi finds this dilemma at the root of a forty-year-old question in her field: “Is this art modern and is it Iranian?” 31 The fact that a parallel question had been asked of American art in the early and mid-twentieth century, and in fact in many locations outside Europe, helps us

to understand the divide as less between East and West than between modernism, as a provincial (and exceptional) European conceit, and the art of every other place in the world, especially the former colonies.32 Even after World War II, the form of the modern, despite the putative triumph of American art, still primarily meant the modernism of the former colonial powers, whether known through the work of an early-twentieth-century artist such as Paul Klee (a sympa­t hetic figure for many artists in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East because of some common feeling for nature and/or Klee’s own reciprocal interest in arts of those regions) or through the academic, third-generation Cubism of colonial art education. What an art historian might understand as an (unanswerable) question about style was experienced by artists as an (impossible) demand that the artist choose between social and artistic identity, as when Iba N’Diaye spoke of the pressure on Senegalese artists to “be ‘Africans’ before being painters or sculptors.” 33 Referring to culture as broadly conceived, Aimé Césaire framed the dilemma neatly: “The problem is often summarized in the form of which option to take. A choice between autochthonous tradition and European civilization. Either to reject indigenous civilization as puerile, inadequate, bypassed by history, or else, in order to preserve the indigenous cultural heritage, to barricade oneself against European civilization and refuse it.” He put the poisoned choice thus: “In other terms, we are summoned: ‘Choose between fidelity and backwardness, or progress and rupture.’” 34 Looking at art through the lens of this opposition, “fidelity” could mean faith with the past, and with the legibility and familiarity of representation; “progress and rupture” would be the modern, and breaking with the familiar in favor of abstraction, the unknown. The polarity of this choice could be reversed so as to obviate the presumed hierarchy of social value. In terms of anticolonial politics, this could mean reversing the opposites of barbaric and civilized, as in León Ferrari’s 1965 condemnation of Western and Christian civilization: for Ferrari, the use of the atom bomb was not the necessary factor ending World War II but a prelude to the U.S. war in Vietnam, the latter event made still more malign by being broadcast to the world on television.35 Writers such as Césaire and Frantz Fanon pointed out how the promises of empire as a modernizing regime had been broken, and noted the truly democratic, educational developments achieved by colonized peoples in resistance to both their rulers and selected traditional practices. In some contexts abstraction could be found not as a rupture of local artistic practice but, in the guise of tradition, on its side. Contradicting the idea of abstraction as a fundamentally modern, Western phenomenon, spreading around the world like economic development, many Middle Eastern, South Asian, and North African artists, such as Mohammed Khadda, Anwar Jalal Shemza, and Jewad Selim, saw the historical arts of Islam as inherently nonrepresentational, abstract avant la lettre.36 (Some Western artists, such as Barnett Newman, promoted the idea of non-European indigenous or traditional art as abstract, but tended to cast the makers of this art as admirable but

Katy Siegel


naive.) When the reference was to the graphic arts and Arabic calligraphy, a pointed dialectic could develop between the universal and the particular, as in the work of artists such as Sadequain, Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, and Shakir Hassan Al Sa’id.37 For these artists abstraction functioned as a historical return, rather than a rupture; as Sylvia Naef frames it, whereas in Europe the modern meant breaking with the past, “In the Arab world (as in other non-European countries), modernity was, from the beginning, a way of reconquering the past.” 38 (Some Japanese artists worked similarly with traditional Japanese calligraphy.)39 Gestural marks and shapes drawing on Arabic or Urdu script could both be read with particular knowledge and appreciated broadly for their formal qualities. While respecting the differences between art that played with Arabic script and the concrete poetry widespread through South America, Japan, and Europe, we can nonetheless see a common wish to speak at once to the particular and to the universal. 40

and content, abstraction and figuration, and other terms on a list of dichotomies in active conflict; this meant, in his own early painting, the unreconciled coexistence of “a classical, static structure, and a romantic, dynamic structure. … The result is a painting that generates an extremely intense dissonance,” a dissonance capturing a conflicted social reality. Okamoto expressed the conflict most intensely in a performance of 1950, in which he slashed a photograph of his face into fragments (fig. 4). 41 That same year, in a conference in Darmstadt (at which artist Willi Baumeister and art historian Hans Sedlmayr represented the ideological extremes of abstraction and representation), Theodor Adorno similarly insisted that “harmony in a modern work of art rests in its uncompromised expression of the irreconcilable.” 42 A decade later, Gerhard Richter (like Baselitz, an emigrant from East to West) developed a practice that alternated between or forced together the materiality of paint and representational imagery, so as to preserve the clash between them. 43


Fig. 6. Lee Seung-taek. Hanging Oji. 1960s. Courtesy Gallery Hyundai, Seoul

Some artists of course did choose sides, whether owing to social pressure or to personal conviction, and hewed strictly to either programmatic abstraction or figuration. Others believed that highlighting the dichotomy would drive the conflict to a climax of contradiction. In a manifesto of 1949, Taro Okamoto explicitly sought to keep form


any rejected the opposition of abstraction and realism, condemning the terrible choices between East and West, academic convention and soulless modernism, local and modern, particular and universal, and often the very categories of the distinction. Their art represented less a moderate compromise than a refusal of the alternatives, a third way. For Ernest Mancoba, the distinction was symptomatic of all of the problems of modernity: “Our history has brought about, little by little, this dichotomy between abstraction and figuration which provokes, more and more, a terrible atomization in the very essence of life. In no domain more than in the arts has this systematic dichotomy caused such destruction of the very foundation to the human identity.” 44 Mancoba’s complaint was echoed by many others through the idea of a missing center, with humanity as something pushed aside or explicitly denied by the two modernist extremes of ideology. Among the many events inspired by this question were the 1950 Darmstadt conference featuring Baumeister, Sedlmayr, and Adorno (Das Menschenbild in unserer Zeit, “The Image of Man in our Time”), the Tokyo roundtable at which Kawara spoke in 1955, art-critical debates in London and Paris, the publication of essays in such cultural journals as Présence Africaine and Al-Adab (Syria), an exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (New Images of Man), and the formation of an artists’ group in Buenos Aires (Otra Figuración). Some of this discourse was based on a humanism flowing from the influence of Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist writing on art, which saw the individual pitted against faceless social forces. 45 But what could sometimes seem like a generic humanism was often a claim to something more legitimate, because more specific, as in discussions that asserted a specifically Syrian humanism embodied in a cultural tradition stretching back to ancient Sumeria. 46 Much of this writing critiqued the West as the agent of World War II and of colonialism, as in Fanon’s indictment of “this Europe, which never stopped talking of man, which never stopped proclaiming its sole

Introductory Essays

Fig. 7. Gazbia Sirry. Hopscotch. 1959. Oil on canvas, 100 × 150 cm. Courtesy Zamalek Art Gallery, Cairo

Katy Siegel


concern was man; we now know the price of suffering [that] humanity has paid for every one of its spiritual victories.” 47 Fanon might have been speaking for artists like Demas Nwoko, whose Colonial Officers (1960) condemns not humanity or “man” but European colonialism. In texts such as Fanon’s and the talks at the Tokyo roundtable, what was at stake was not a choice between humanist and antihumanist

Fig. 8. Theodoros Stamos. Sounds in the Rock. 1946. Oil on composition board, 122.2 × 72.1 cm. New York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Gift of Edward W. Root. Acc. n.: 27.1947

positions (itself a dichotomy grounded in a Western perspective) but the recognition of a “new human,” as both Fanon and Kawara put it. 48 Artists grasping to visualize this figure, including Baselitz, Mancoba, Fateh Al-Moudarres, Karel Appel, Magda Cordell, Antonio Berni, Ben Enwonwu, Alfonso Ossorio, Francis Newton Souza, and Jack Whitten, aggressively pushed abstraction and representation into each other, interrupting human images with lumps of oil paint, metal objects, charcoal, sand, detritus, and gestural marks. Though often seen as more battered and belated than avatars of the new, these figures arguably embodied the historical present as the result of war, anticolonial struggles, and fusions between humans and technology.


Artists weary of the fractures of modernity often looked back, whether to a moment before the disrupting of an earlier unity or to a space beyond the reach of culture, using a range of strategies art historians have commonly labeled “primitivism.” In 1945, Césaire pronounced Wifredo Lam’s totemic paintings free of the twin modern constraints—aesthetics and realism—and claimed that they called modern man back to the “first terror and passion” (fig. 3). 49 Many North American and European artists, including Baumeister, Jay DeFeo, Helen Frankenthaler, and Mathias Goeritz (one of a group of artists dubbed the “new prehistorics”), made pilgrimages to the prehistoric sites of Lascaux and Altamira and sought to emulate what they found there in their own work (fig. 5).50 While artists involved in such attempts were often trying to escape their own culture and history, they could also be trying to reclaim it. Amid China’s civil war of the 1940s, Dong Xiwen went to study the Buddhist murals in the caves of Dunhuang.51 In the early 1960s, Lee Seung-taek used stones and earthenware fermentation vessels to make sculpture, returning it to a time before the Japanese occupation of Korea, not to mention the Korean War (fig. 6).52 In the Zaria Art Society in Nigeria at the end of the 1950s, Uche Okeke and Demas Nwoko studied traditional practices such as Nok sculptures and Igbo drawing. For these artists, of course, primitivism is not the relevant category; the sources they sought were not outside history but explicitly inside their national history, even if the handmade aspect or spirituality of the works seemed to provide alternatives to faulty aspects of the modern.53 At the same time, paradoxically, the nationalist aspect of this work—the attempt to create a new Nigerian tradition—aligned it with modernity, once again overturning a dichotomy. The image of non-Western art as shaped by fixed and timeless traditions beyond historical change was a false one; as many artists, such as N’Diaye, pointed out, they and their peers largely hailed from cities, not from traditional agrarian settings. On the other hand, many cast the Western tradition—supposedly the progressive term of the contrast, having broken with the past and hurtled forward—as ironically itself suffering from rigor mortis. Both Mancoba and Newman decried the rigidity of rules put forth by the ancient Greeks: the canon of proportion, which rendered African art “ugly,” and the overrefined ideals of beauty and geometry.54 (Both also, like many other artists including Okamoto, complained about the Western philosophical tradition, with its tyranny of conceptual structures over experience.) Their complaints resonated with Fanon’s broad condemnation of Western civilization as inert, even dead: “All the Mediterranean values—the triumph of the individual, of enlightenment and Beauty—turn into pale, lifeless, trinkets.” 55 All tradition, in fact, had the potential to be dead weight. Fanon was ruthless, condemning Western traditional aesthetics and modern “nonrepresentational” modes alike as models for the colonized artist, and also decrying the postindependence turn of African nations to “a point by point representation of national reality which is flat, untroubled, motionless, reminiscent of death rather than life.” 56

Introductory Essays

Many artists, in “advanced” as well as “underdeveloped” nations, sought to create an active relation between tradition and the modern—to find a dynamism that kept both living. They also sought a profound engagement with the material world. The will to animate material fueled the postwar stress on touch and performance; in Japan, for example, it was central—more so than the influence of European or American gestural painting—to the Gutai artists and critics, who viewed matter through the lenses of nature, artistic experiment, and socialism.57 The widespread interest in chance and in the rule of natural physical laws downplayed human subjectivity (even among American painters, much criticized in later years for their supposed egotism). This desire for active involvement with the world also colored the seeming opposite of materialist, gestural art: realist, socialist painting; in Guttuso’s words, “This is the condition of the engagé artist. There is no other way for him to feel, to study, to imagine, to be affected than by seeing/finding himself permanently merged with life and engaged in the task of grasping the movement/vitality [before him].” 58 Gazbia Sirry wrote of her political and fantastic paintings, “I have had my own myths since my childhood. I feel I am fused into various elements of nature and life such as human beings, the desert, the sea, plants, and even manmade constructions. I strive to express the essence of humanity” (fig. 7).59 By treating human subjects as objects among other objects, such work cast humans as belonging to the natural world, rather than as knowing subjects observing and controlling from outside it. Sirry’s statement and work speak of an empathy with the material world, one that both dialed down her own subjecthood and recognized the value and perspective of things we normally think of as objects. As the artist Sadamasa Motonaga said, “There is limitless emotion in nature. [It is] in every object, every person, every creature, even in a blade of grass, but most people have difficulty seeing it.” 60 Everywhere, artists and writers—Wols in France, Theodoros Stamos in the United States, Léopold Sédar Senghor in Senegal—pointed to their connection to things like rocks or pebbles, mute, opaque, and ordinary (fig. 8). This active empathy could reflect an antimodernist return to nature, but did not by any means exclusively; as Sirry said, the connection could apply to manmade things as well. When Robert Rauschenberg told an interviewer, “I don’t like to take advantage of an object that can’t defend itself,” he was speaking of the man-made and often industrially produced objects in his “Combines”—a car door, a stuffed goat, a photograph, a commercial label. 61 This attitude of radical respect for things, a nonhierarchical attitude that could lend subjecthood to objects, verged on animism. Most common in materialist painting and sculpture, it appeared, surprisingly, in self-consciously transgressive art: David Medalla went so far as to call himself a hylozoist—a believer in the unity of life and matter—and the soapy forms of his “Cloud Canyons” visibly grow, bubbling over their frames and out into space. 62 Hans Haacke’s

early sculptures, while using a Minimalist/formalist vocabulary as containers, were also organic in the constantly changing condensation or growing grass contained within their Plexiglas cubes. What has been called vitalism (although that name ties it too firmly to Henri Bergson and specific philosophical traditions) could coexist with even the most apparently rationalist practice of the postwar period. Madí and Neoconcrete artists rendered geometry itself mobile and living, in paintings, books, and sculptures intended to be handled and activated by the spectator, who is in turn herself touched by them (fig. 9). 63 With their Bichos and Bólides respectively, Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica sought to enact a kind of healing, both psychological and social, by returning the participant to a holistic experience of body and soul. The aim of overcoming the subject/object divide becomes explicit: the subject must not just look at but work with the object to change it, and thus change her own experience.


ooking globally at postwar art thus helps us to go beyond adding names and works to canonical lists (although that is certainly important) to rethinking the category of art itself and reconsidering the criteria for understanding and evaluating it. Modernist art theory, its vision centered on the West, made abstraction the goal toward which the history of art seemed to move. Attending to the multiplicity of postwar art asks us to put aside the idea of a will to abstraction in favor of a more complex understanding of artists’ practices, one that no longer separates their relation to their materials, emphasized by theory under the name of “form,” from their relation to physical, social, and political realities. A blanket category like “representation,” for instance, fixes an image and obscures the interactive aspects of the artist’s relation to the physical world, whether scientific, natural, or animistic. Again and again, the artists included in Postwar insist on the inseparability of supposedly purely formal qualities of their work from the subject matters with which they are concerned. It was possible to experiment with painting, and abstraction, without isolating the means as a value above all others. While waiting for a critique in a Washington, D.C., newspaper—anticipating Western judgments of quality and fetishization of form—Enwonwu remarked that his painting technique “may be disappointing to very good painters but technique in painting is not the criterion for knowing what is good, bad or indifferent in art.” 64 The alternative was not to hew to either representational content or the informe but to undo the dominance and isolation of formalism, to revalue the political, the spiritual, the personal, the traditional, the popular, and the everyday, as dynamically manifested in material form. Anticolonial writings, particularly by African and Caribbean authors, theorized this relation between art and world in varying registers. For Senghor, the dynamism was both aesthetic/epistemological and social, demanding a way of knowing that would acknowledge the division between subject and object and work to overcome

Katy Siegel


it. The divide could be bridged with empathy, revealing the political potential in a commonplace artistic act. 65 Senghor’s criticism of the conventional Western individual subject—the European “first distinguishes the object from himself. … He destroys it by devouring it”— resonates strikingly with that of Adorno: “the subject swallows the object, forgetting how much it is an object itself.” 66 The hypersubject creates its counterpart, the pure object. This separation into extreme positions was something Césaire recognized in colonialism, calling it “chosification,” a kind of Midas touch that turned people into objects. 67 Undoing this separation, whether through theory, art, or politics,

participation and communion.70 Perhaps the most important thing was not the choice of strategy—communion or confrontation—but the fact of agency. Similarly, the most important facet of the animism that imbued certain artists’ work was not respect for objects, or even a connection to nature, but the perception that we are none of us either alone in or central to the universe. There is a negative aspect to dynamism, of course; despite the picture of stalemate and stasis implied by the idea of the Cold War, the social reality of the postwar period was one of constant intervention and change, as new political forces replaced the old empires.

Fig. 8. Lygia Pape. Book of Creation Walking (detail), 1959. Gouache on cardboard, 18 parts, 30 × 30 × 0.2 cm (each).

held the potential for the object to become a subject again, to be unfrozen. Taking this sense of agency and mobility still further, Fanon, an adamant advocate of national liberation, did not equate national identity with nationalism, seeing it not as an end in itself—a formal, fixed thing—but as liberating the living consciousness of a people. 68 Despite their differences, these thinkers all spoke against the split of subject and object and its attendant immobility. If claims for intuitive and embodied knowing have been criticized as clichéd, even as themselves the product of colonial binaries (and founded on opposition to Western rationalism), today, when the West seems moribund rather than rational, they appear prescient, desirable, radical. 69 Senghor’s endorsement of empathy was just one strategy for the subject’s engagement with its “other”; further possibilities included confrontation, related to the preservation of incommensurability and conflict so strongly advocated by Fanon (and Adorno), and also


If Césaire’s 1945 essay on Lam bemoaned the distance that money and machines had put between people, by 1965 a lack of distance was equally disturbing. Even the defenses once afforded by the Pacific and Atlantic oceans were disappearing. As Sukarno said, opening the Bandung Conference in 1955, [Man] has learned to consume distance. He has learned to project his voice and his picture across oceans and continents. … He has learned how to release the immense forces locked in the smallest particles of matter. … And do not think that the oceans and the seas will protect us. The food that we eat, the water that we drink, yes, even the very air that we breathe can be contaminated by poisons originating from thousands of miles away.71

Introductory Essays

We have seen these warnings—of the worldwide reach of atomic warfare, ideological broadcasting, and ecological disaster—all come true, even as the promise of nonalignment celebrated at Bandung has faded. But in trying to understand the art of a period that looked to the future at least as much as it reflected an experience of decline and aftermath, it is important to maintain its sense of possibility, to see the promise inherent in active engagement—in conflict as well as affinity. To look beyond the Cold War to the most pressing issues of the day: Kwame Nkrumah told the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City in 1958, “This attitude of nonalignment does not imply indifference to the great issues of our day. It does not imply isolationism. It is in no way anti-Western; nor is it anti-Eastern. The greatest issue of our day is surely to see that there is a tomorrow.” 72 For postwar artists too, the refusal to line up—with orthodoxies of abstraction or representation, with purely objective or subjective views of the world—could mean an attempt to see and shape a history no longer dominated by the ideological or material structures of the past.

Katy Siegel


I thank my assistant Megan Hines for her extensive and expert research for this essay, and

(London: Phaidon, 2003); Hans Belting, The End of Art History? (Chicago: University of

Hosam Aboul-Ela for his thoughts on broad theoretical readings.

Chicago Press, 1987).

1 Mohamed Khadda, “Élements pour un art nouveau,” Révolution Africaine no. 74 (June 27,

15 Even if we think of modernity as always having been a world system, as Mignolo and

1964): 22. To be repr. and trans. in Modern Art of the Modern World: Primary Documents, eds.

Immanuel Wallerstein claim, in the late twentieth century relations became directly, furiously

Anneka Lenssen, Sarah A. Rogers, and Nada Shabout (forthcoming from The Museum of

reciprocal, operating in all directions and all over the world. See Wallerstein, The Modern

Modern Art, New York). Thanks to Lenssen for so generously sharing this material and her

World-System (New York and London: Academic Press, 1974), and Mignolo, Local Histories/

own insights with me throughout the research for Postwar.

Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking (Princeton: Princeton

2 Hassan Jabareen directly compares the Middle East and the Europe of 1945 as Tony Judt

University Press, 2000).

describes it in Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (London: Penguin Books, 2005).

16 To name only a few, Hassan, Iftikhar Dadi, Nancy Jachec, Saloni Mathur, Ming Tiampo, and

See Jabareen, “Palestinians and Hobbesian Citizenship: How the Palestinians Became a Mi-

Bojana Piskur.

nority in Israel,” in Will Kymlicka, ed., Multiculturalism and Minority Rights in the Arab World

17 These are, respectively, the powerful and perspective-shifting insights of Connelly,

(New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), p. 198.

Chakrabarty, and Guha. See Connelly, “Taking Off the Cold War Lens”; Chakrabarty, Provin-

3 Many admirable and important exhibitions nonetheless attend solely to Europe as the

cializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton Univer-

locus of the postwar, sometimes including Russia or the United States as foils. See, e.g., Face

sity Press, 2000); and Guha, History at the Limit of World-History.

à l’histoire (1933–1996), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1997, and Be-Bomb: The Transat-

18 On Kawara, in Hamada Chimei, Kawara, Yamanaka Haruo, Ikeda Tatsuo, Kiuchi Misaki,

lantic War of Images and All That Jazz, 1946–1956, MACBA, Barcelona, 2007).

Yoshinaka Taizo¯, and Haryu¯ Ichiro¯ (roundtable moderator), “Atarashii ningen zo¯ ni mukatte,”

4 In English, see the broadly read John Gaddis, Now We Know: Rethinking Cold War History

Bijutsu hihyo¯, July 1955, p. 47. Thanks to Tomii for translating this discussion and helping me

(New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), and Vladislav Zubok and Constantine

to engage its nuances.

Pleshakov, Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996).

19 See, e.g., the 1945 exhibition A Problem for Critics, organized by Howard Putzel in his

5 Postwar is shaped by the work of scholars too numerous to reference here. I single out the

small New York City gallery, Gallery 67; reviewed, with a reprint of the press release, in

meta-historical writing of Dipesh Chakrabarty, Matthew Connelly, Paul Gilroy, Ranajit Guha,

Edward Allen Jewell, “Toward Abstract or Away,” New York Times, July 1, 1945, sec. 2, p. 2.

Heonik Kwon, Lydia Liu, Mark Mazower, Walter Mignolo, Vijay Prashad, Tuong Vu, and Odd

Many of these early shows and critical roundups were not exclusively American, including

Arne Westad.

Europeans such as André Masson and Mexican or Cuban artists such as Rufino Tamayo and

6 The term “Third World” was coined in 1952 by Alfred Sauvy, in “Trois mondes, une planeté,”

Wifredo Lam.

L’Observateur no. 118 (August 14, 1952): 5.

20 On U.S. art’s multiple postwar styles see Mary Caroline Simpson, “American Artists Paint

7 Even among those nations that did enter World War II as combatants, it was common to

the City: Katharine Kuh, the 1956 Biennale, and New York’s Place in the Cold War Art World,”

characterize the conflict primarily as a territorial/local war; see David Reynolds, “The Origins

American Studies 48, no. 4 (Winter 2007): 31–57.

of the Two ‘World Wars’: Historical Discourse and International Politics,” Journal of Contem-

21 The first textbook called Art since 1945 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1958) had one chap-

porary History 38, no. 1 (January 2003): 29–44. For an argument positing the imbrication of

ter on the United States and twelve on European nations; the 1959 Documenta II, subtitled

the Cold War and the Third World see Westad’s many publications, including The Global Cold

Kunst nach 1945, included only a few American artists and placed them at the exhibition’s end.

War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). For the argument that Asia has not

22 Lawrence Alloway, The Venice Biennale: 1895–1968 (Greenwich, Conn.: New York

only a different history but demands a different historical model see Kuan-Hsing Chen, Asia

Graphic Society, 1968), p. 144. Contemporary and subsequent accounts from both “sides”

as Method (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010). For the claim that “the vast epic” of

have emphasized the combative institutional and discursive aspects of the situation rather

Asia after 1945 is “ultimately the most significant of the postwar era” see Joyce and Gabriel

than the art and politics of the artists. See, e.g., Irving Sandler, The Triumph of American

Kolko, The Limits of Power: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1945–1954 (New

Painting (New York: Praeger, 1970); and Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of

York: Harper and Row, 1972), p. 246.

Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War (Chicago: University of

8 See Connelly, “Taking Off the Cold War Lens: Visions of North-South Conflict during the

Chicago Press, 1983).

Algerian War for Independence,” American Historical Review 105, no. 3 (June 2000): 739–

23 See Catherine Dossin, “To Drip or to Pop? The European Triumph of American Art,” [email protected]

69, and Prashad, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (New York: New

Bulletin 3, no. 1 (2014): 80–103. It is interesting that recent global survey exhibitions have

Press, 2007).

focused on Pop art as an international phenomenon vigorously contesting the dominance of

9 For the former see Connelly, “Taking Off the Cold War Lens”; for the latter see Vu, “Cold War

American culture. See The World Goes Pop! at Tate Modern, London, and International Pop at

Studies and the Cultural Cold War in Asia,” in Vu and Wasana Wongsurat, eds., Dynamics of the

the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, both in 2015.

Cold War in Asia: Ideology, Identity, and Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp. 1–16.

24 Georg Baselitz, in “Outcomes, Prospects, Bounces: Georg Baselitz talks to Rainer Michael

10 See Guha, History at the Limit of World-History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003).

Mason,” in Rainer Michael Mason, Georg Baselitz, exh. cat. (Lugano: Museo d’arte moderna,

11 Recent initiatives by Tate Modern and the Centre Pompidou are exceptions, with exhibitions

2007), p. 159. The East German/West German conflict is an exception and has been thor-

on artists such as Saloua Raouda Choucair (Tate Modern, 2013) and Wifredo Lam (Centre

oughly studied, recently, for example, in Eckhart Gillen, Feindliche Bruder? Der Kalte Frief und

Georges Pompidou, 2015). The museological history of Latin American art is quite different,

die deutsche Kund, 1945–1990 (Berlin: Nicolai, 2009), and Stephanie Barron and Sabine

with both The Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, undertaking major

Eckmann, eds., Art of Two Germanys: Cold War Cultures (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2009).

scholarly and monographic intiatives. Contemporary artists are also treated differently, with

25 For less doctrinaire accounts of the American promotion of art as politics see Jachec,

artists such as Walid Raad often featured in major monographic exhibitions.

“Transatlantic Cultural Politics in the Late 1950s: The Leaders and Specialists Grant

12 For particularly rounded discussions among the many possible examples, see Salah M.

Program,” Art History 26, no. 4 (September 2003): 533–55, and Dossin, The Rise and Fall

Hassan, “African Modernism: Beyond Alternative Modernities Discourse,” South Atlantic

of American Art, 1940s–1980s: A Geopolitics of Western Art Worlds (London: Ashgate,

Quarterly 109, no. 3 (Summer 2010): 451–74, and the rest of this special issue on “African

2015). On the mechanics of the Soviet blockade on artistic interaction with the West see

Modernism,” and Partha Mitter, “Interventions. Decentering Modernism: Art History and

Antoine Baudin, “‘Why Is Soviet Painting Hidden from Us?’: Zhdanov Art and Its Interna-

Avant-Garde Art from the Periphery,” Art Bulletin 90, no. 4 (2008): 531–74.

tional Relations and Fallout, 1947–53,” in Thomas Lahausen and Evgeny Dobrenko, eds.,

13 The most consistent writing here is Terry Smith’s, as in What Is Contemporary Art? (Chi-

Socialist Realism without Shores (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997), pp. 227–56.

cago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). One can see this supposed shift as a historical

Discussion of this subject has a long, contested, and often misleading history. Hilton Kram-

event or, thinking of the modern in its usual definition as a local (or, per Chakrabarty, pro-

er, who was to become a notably conservative critic, was one of the first to remark on the

vincial) European phenomenon, as a geographic one; this is explicitly true in the case of

use of American artists by the government, which he pointed out was done without their

the United States and Japan, both of which posited the modern as European in the 1940s.

agreement: Kramer, “The Coming Political Breakthrough,” Arts 34, no. 4 (1960): 12. Later

For the historical approach see Katy Siegel, Since ’45: America and the Making of Con-

accounts often elided the politics of the artists with those of officials, as in Eva Cockcroft,

temporary Art (London: Reaktion, 2011), and Richard Meyer, What Was Contemporary Art

“Abstract Expressionism: Weapon of the Cold War,” Artforum 12, no. 10 (June 1974):

(Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2013); for the geographic see Reiko Tomii, Radicalism in

39–41. For some of the documents surrounding this circulation—including the 1956

the Wilderness: International Contemporaneity and 1960s Art in Japan (Cambridge, Mass.:

exhibition Modern Art in the U.S.A., the first show sent not only to Western but to Eastern

The MIT Press, 2016).

Europe (notably Belgrade)—see Porter McCray, “American Tutti Frutti,” The Sweet Sixties:

14 David Summers, Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism

Specters and Spirits of A Parallel Avant-Garde (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014), pp. 121–35.


Introductory Essays

26 As others have noted with respect to East and West Europe. See for example Siegfried

46 See the poet Adonis’s 1953 essay “The Meaning of Painting,” as discussed in Lenssen,

Gohr, "Art in the Post-War Period", in Christos M. Joachimides et al., eds., German Art in

“The Shape of the Support,” pp. 208–11.

the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture, 1903–1983, exh. cat., London, Royal Academy

47 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Grove, 2004), p. 236.

of Arts (Munich: Prestel Verlag, 1985), p. 466; and Giles Scott-Smith and Joes Segal,

48 I am indebted to Reiko Tomii for translating the roundtable and discussing its nuances

“Divided Dreamworlds? The Cultural Cold War in East and West,” in Peter Romjin, Scott-

with me.

Smith, and Segal, eds., Divided Dreamworlds: The Cultural Cold War in East and West

49 Césaire, “Wifredo Lam,” Cahiers d’art 20–21 (1945–46): 357. Author’s translation from

(Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012), pp. 1–9.

the French.

27 Elaine de Kooning, “Pure Paints a Picture,” ARTnews 56, no. 4 (Summer 1957): 57, 86–87.

50 On Mathias Goeritz see Jennifer Josten, “Mathias Goeritz and International Modernism in

28 Willem de Kooning, “What Abstract Art Means to Me,” The Bulletin of The Museum of

Mexico, 1949–1962,” PhD diss., Yale University, 2012, p. 33.

Modern Art 18, no. 3 (Spring 1951): 7.

51 Thanks to Neil Huang for drawing this to my attention.

29 See, e.g., Susan E. Reid and David Crowley’s anthologies Socialism without Shores and

52 Joan Kee, “Use on Vacation: The Non-Sculptures of Lee Seung-taek,” Archives of Asian

Style and Socialism: Modernity and Material Culture in Post-War Eastern Europe (both Oxford:

Art 63, no. 1 (2013): 103–29.

Berg, 2000). On Mao’s Hundred Flowers campaign see Lu Peng, A History of Art in 20th-Cen-

53 See Chika Okeke-Agulu, “The Art Society and the Making of Postcolonial Modernism in

tury China, 2006 (rev. ed. Milan: Charta, 2010), pp. 465–69.

Nigeria,” South Atlantic Quarterly 109, no. 3 (Summer 2010): 505–27. See also Okeke-Agu-

30 The older, Orientalist divide between East and West somewhat parallels the fear of

lu’s essay in the present volume.

the colonized and colored masses discussed in Connelly, “Taking Off the Cold War Lens,” and Prashad, The Darker Nations. The Indonesian President Sukarno called it “the conflict

54 Mancoba, in Obrist, “An Interview with Ernest Mancoba,” p. 382; Newman, “The New Sense of Fate,” 1948, in Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews , ed. John O’Neill

between black and white, East and West, colonizer and colonized.” Quoted in Westad, The

(New York: Alfred Knopf, 1990), pp. 164–70. Here Newman constitutes “the West” as Europe,

Global Cold War, p. 83.

situating the United States instead within the Americas and its histories.

31 Shiva Balaghi, “Iranian Visual Arts in ‘The Century of Machinery Speed, and the Atom’: Re-

55 Fanon, Wretched of the Earth, p. 11.

thinking Modernity,” in Balaghi and Lynn Gumpert, Picturing Iran: Art, Society and Revolution

56 Ibid., p. 161.

(London: I.B. Tauris, 2002), p. 24.

57 See Natsu Oyobe, “Human Subjectivity and Confrontation with Materials in Japanese Art:

32 This intersection of the history and form of European modernism with American social

Yoshihara Jiro and Early Years of the Gutai Art Association, 1947–1958,” PhD diss., University

history are the subject of my book Since ’45, which deals not with the exceptionalism of

of Michigan, 2005, and Erber, Breaching the Frame: The Rise of Contemporary Art in Brazil

the United States but rather with its specificity and, equally and conversely, to borrow from

and Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), p. 62.

Chakrabarty, with the provincialism of Europe.

58 Renato Guttuso, “Del realismo del presente e altro,” Paragone 85 (1957): 53–74, Eng. trans.

33 Iba N’Diaye, quoted in Elizabeth Harney, “Densities of Modernity,” South Atlantic Quarterly

as “On Realism, the Present, and Other Things,” trans. Nan Hill and Marco Lobascio, in Kristine

109, no. 3 (Summer 2010): 495. Similar conflicting pressures existed for African American

Stiles and Peter Selz, eds., Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Art-

artists, including Romare Bearden, Beauford Delaney, and Jack Whitten, and also for women

ists’ Writings (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1996), p. 179.

artists around the world.

59 Gazbia Sirry, quoted in Mursi Saad El-Din, ed., Gazbia Sirry: Lust for Color (Cairo: Ameri-

34 Aimé Césaire, “Culture and Colonization,” 1956, repr. in Social Text 28, no. 2 (Summer

can University in Cairo Press, 1998), p. xv.

2010): 140–41.

60 Sadamasa Motonaga, “The Unknown,” 1955, quoted in Joan Kee, “Early Gutai Painting,

35 León Ferrari, “La respuesta de la artista,” Propositos, October 7, 1965, n.p. Thanks to

1954–1957,” Oxford Art Journal 25, no. 2 (2003): 126.

Megan Hines for her translation of this text.

61 Robert Rauschenberg, quoted in G. R. Swenson, “Rauschenberg Paints a Picture,” Art

36 See Anneka Lenssen, “The Shape of the Support: Painting and Politics in Syria’s Twenti-

News 62, no. 2 (April 1963): 46.

eth Century,” PhD diss., MIT, 2014, pp. 289–90.

62 See Jack Burnham, Beyond Modern Sculpture: The Effects of Science and Technology on

37 See Shabout, “The Arabic Letter in Art,” in Shabout, Modern Arab Art: Formation of Arab

the Sculpture of This Century (New York: George Braziller, 1968), p. 345.

Aesthetics (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007), pp. 61–144.

63 See Mari Carmen Ramírez, “Vital Structures: The Constructive Nexus in South America,”

38 Sylvia Naef, “Reexploring Islamic Art: Modern and Contemporary Creation in the Arab World

in Ramírez and Héctor Olea, Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America, exh. cat. (New

and Its Relation to the Artistic Past,” RES: Anthroplogy and Aesthetics no. 43 (Spring 2003): 167.

Haven and London: Yale University Press, and Houston: MFA Houston, 2004), pp. 191–201.

39 See, e.g., Takiguchi Shuzo, “Calligraphy East and West,” 1957, repr. in Doryun Chong,

64 Ben Enwonwu, quoted in Sylvester Okwunodo Ogebechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of

Michio Hayashi, Kenji Kaiya, and Fumihiko Sumitomo, eds., From Postwar to Postmodern: Art

an African Modernist (Rochester, N.Y.: Rochester University Press, 2008), p. 107.

in Japan 1945–1989 (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2012), 74–77.

65 On Léopold Sédar Senghor’s philosophical interests, particularly with regard to Ger-

40 There is a large and growing body of writing, addressing both art and literature, around

man ethnographic traditions, see Bennetta Jules-Rosette, Black Paris: The African Writers’

these experiments with the Arabic alphabet and calligraphy. See Naef, “Reexploring Islamic

Landscape (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1998), pp. 33–38, and Gabriele Genge,

Art”; Shabout, “The Arabic Letter in Art”; Dadi, “Ibrahim El Salahi and Calligraphic Modernism

“Survival of Images?,” in Genge and Angela Stercken, eds., Art History and Fetishism Abroad:

in a Comparative Perspective,” South Atlantic Quarterly 109, no. 3 (Summer 2010): 555–76;

Global Shiftings in Media and Methods (Bielefeld: [transcript] Verlag, 2014 ), pp. 43–45.

Hassan in the present volume; and Robyn Creswell, “Tradition and Translation: Poetic Modern-

66 Senghor, “On African Homelands and Nation-States, Negritude, Assimilation, and African

ism in Beirut,” PhD diss., New York University, 2012. Thanks to Lenssen for discussing this with

Socialism,” 1996, summarizing a lifetime’s view. Quoted in Frederick Ochieng’-Odhiambo,

me. On concrete poetry in Brazil and Japan see Pedro Erber’s essay in the present volume.

“Negritude: The Basic Principles and Appraisal,” in Isabelle Constant and Kahiudi C. Ma-

41 Taro Okamoto, “Avant-Garde Manifesto: A View of Art,” 1949, in Chong, Hayashi, Kaiya, and

bana, eds., Negritude: Legacy and Present Relevance (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge

Sumitomo, eds., From Postwar to Postmodern, p. 38. On Okamoto’s early paintings see Bert

Scholars Publishing, 2009), p. 71; Adorno, “Subject and Object,” 1969, in Andrew Arato and

Winther-Tamaki, “Oil Painting in Postsurrender Japan: Reconstructing Subjectivity through

Eike Gebhardt, eds., The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (New York: Continuum, 1985),

Deformation of the Body,” Monumenta Nipponica 58, no. 3 (Autumn 2003): 347–96. I thank

p. 499. Both Senghor and Adorno summarized their long-running concern with the topic in

Rika Hiro for discussing her research with me; see her forthcoming “Walking out of Ground

these essays.

Zero: Art and the Aftereffects of the Atomic Bombs in Postwar Japan,” PhD diss., University

67 Césaire, Discours sur le colonialisme, 1950 (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1955), p. 22.

of Southern California.

68 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 144. Fanon saw nationhood as a necessary step on

42 Theodor Adorno, 1950, quoted in John Paul Stonard, Fault Lines: Art in Germany, 1945–

the route to developing a still more radical liberation.

1955 (London: Ridinghouse, 2007), p. 258. On the Darmstadt conference see Hans Ger-

69 For the critique of Senghor within African intellectual circles of the late 1960s and ’70s

hard Evers, ed., Darmstädter Gespräch. Das Menschenbild in unserer Zeit (Darmstadt: Neue

see Bennetta Jules-Rosette, “Jean-Paul Sartre and the Philosophy of Negritude: Race, Self,

Darmstädter Verlagsanstalt, 1950).

and Society,” Theory and Society 36, no. 3 (June 2007): 274–76.

43 See Gerhard Richter, The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings and Interviews, 1962–1993

70 Senghor, Liberté I. Négritude et humanisme (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1964), p. 9.

(Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1995), p. 37.

71 Sukarno’s welcoming speech at Bandung, 1955, repr. in Jussi M. Hanhimåki and Westad,

44 Ernest Mancoba, quoted in Hans Ulrich Obrist, “An Interview with Ernest Mancoba,” Third

eds., The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts (Oxford: Oxford Univer-

Text 24, no. 3 (2010): 381.

sity Press, 2003), p. 351.

45 See Sarah Wilson’s essay in the present volume.

72 Kwame Nkrumah, quoted in ibid., p. 355.

Katy Siegel



Introductory Essays


he end of World War II and the collapse of the 1943 and of June 1943–February 1944—received nearly 850,000 and Third Reich left most of Germany’s large cities in 700,000 visitors respectively (846,674 and 694,680 to be exact) proves ruins. Given the numbing magnitude of the desthis point.1 Even so, in the end it was presumably pure chance that saved Haus der Kunst during the many airstrikes on the city. Aerial photogratruction, reconstruction within a foreseeable fuphs from the period show destruction in the immediate vicinity; nearly ture seemed inconceivable. The Allies had flown the entire row of buildings on the opposite side of Prinzregentenstrasse, more than seventy air attacks on Munich between for example, had been gutted (fig. 2). It was only thanks to good luck that 1940 and 1945, reducing large sections of the city exhibition activities could be resumed at Haus der Kunst quite promptly to rubble. The neighborhoods worst affected were after the war. the old districts of the city center. Altogether more than half of the buil The building ultimately owed its postwar preservation to a mixdings, including over 80,000 residential flats, had been damaged or desture of prudence and self-interest: the American commanders not only troyed. Before the war Munich had had a population of approximately saw a need to maintain it in its original function as an art space but also 830,000, making it the fourth-largest city of the Reich. By the end of the realized that its undamaged state made it an ideal setting for events and war that number had decreased to an estimated 550,000. activities of their own. In the entirely intact restaurant facilities and a Life in the urban stone desert made extreme demands on people’s number of the exhibition and adwill to survive, in comparison to ministration rooms, they set up which the restoration of cultural their Officers’ Club, the “Pee One,” life was secondary. Given the city’s the ancestor of the P1 Club that living conditions and more or less opened in Haus der Kunst in 1949 nonexistent infrastructure, the and still exists there today.2 And fact that cultural institutions of all shortly after the end of the war, the kinds resumed work right after the spacious halls of the eastern and war’s end seems quite remarkable. western wings were already being One of the few major buildings to used again for exhibitions. have survived the bombing intact The establishment of Nazi was Haus der Kunst, the “House rule and then the war had produced of Art,” formerly the Haus der a rupture between German culdeutschen Kunst, the “House of ture and the modern avant-gardes. German Art.” The city had baEfforts to reconnect with contemrely been liberated—by the U.S. porary developments had to be carSeventh Army, on April 30, 1945— ried out from an absolute zero point when the exhibition hall became a Fig. 1. US soldiers carrying a town sign that reads “München. Hauptstadt der Bewegung” (Munich. Capital of the [Nazi] Movement), April 30, 1945 on the economic and sociopolitical focus of the occupying power. The scales alike. Against the background initial intention was to demolish of this completely new beginning and the demands of large-scale reconthis ideologically contaminated building, which had stood since 1937 as struction, the declared aim and priority of the victorious powers was the a stronghold of “true German art,” a symbol of the prohibition on the elimination of every last trace of National Socialist ideology, a goal they international modern avant-gardes as “degenerate.” pursued through a strategy of denazification, reeducation, and social Haus der Kunst had taken elaborate measures to camouflage its restructuring. The requisites for this program were political differ­ facilities, and to some extent may have had these to thank for the fact entiation, cleansing, and the rehabilitation of persecuted groups.3 that it had withstood the war almost unscathed. Yet the concealment Five categories of guilt were established: major offenders, offenefforts are also a sign of the significance for the Nazis of the building ders (Activists, Militants, and Profiteers, or Incriminated Persons), leswhere eight editions of the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (Great ser offenders (placed on probation), followers, and exonerated persons German Art Exhibition) had taken place by 1944. The raison d’être of the (persons from the above groups who had succeeded in proving their exhibitions during the Nazi era was purely propagandistic: they served innocence before civilian tribunals). Although the occupying powers as the stage for an aesthetic ideology in keeping with the regime’s thefundamentally agreed on the general objectives of the denazification ories of race. Moreover, after the outbreak of the war, the art shown in measures, there were no standardized procedures for the practical imHaus der Kunst—landscapes, animal depictions, glorifications of the plementation of these aims in the occupation zones. 4 Cleansing opefamily, a corporeal ideal corresponding to Nazi race theory—served rations had already been carried out before the liberation by so-called as a distraction from reality. The fact that the most successful versions antifascist committees, mainly members of the labor movement, in the of the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung—those of July 1942–February

Ulrich Wilmes


spring of 1945, but had not met a positive response from the Allies and were prohibited in the early summer of that year. It was not until January 1946 that the Allied Control Council (the governing body of the Allied Occupation Zones) issued a joint directive of the occupying powers,

Fig. 2. Aerial photograph of Haus der Kunst by the U.S. Air Force, June 6, 1945

followed in October of that year by guidelines for dealing with active Nazis and their beneficiaries. By this point, however, the trials were already in full swing, and widely differing procedures were used to carry them out. Whereas the Americans distinguished themselves with a radical moral stance, and were intent on cleansing the “movement” to its depths, administrators in the British and French zones took a largely pragmatic approach focused on removing National Socialist elites from politics and government. It took the directive of the Control Council of October 1946 to define a common orientation, at least formally. Denazification was implemented most rigorously and briskly in the Soviet-­ occupied zone, where a catalogue of measures was enacted providing for the removal of former members of the Nazi party (the National­ sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or National Socialist German Workers’ Party [NSDAP]) from public administration and their debarment from all public functions. This included the withdrawal of all political rights. The American military government’s most important instrument, meanwhile, was a questionnaire with 131 questions demanding information on the respondent’s relationship to the Nazi regime (fig. 3). The cases were heard before civilian tribunals, lay courts with the authority to pass judgment.5 In all of the occupied zones, the cleansing process faced the problem that certain experts whose services were crucial to the reconstruction of a functional infrastructure were also ideologically unacceptable in the context of denazification. Lack of transparency made the procedures seem despotic, and public criticism of them emerged early on. Even the liberal center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung, in its issue of April 24, 1946, amended its basic approval of the process because “activists,” who had actually incurred guilt, were being neglected at the expense of the


less severely incriminated “followers.” This opinion was reinforced by the allowance of so-called “Persilscheine,” statements submitted by nonincriminated citizens confirming a person’s innocence in terms of the incrimination categories. The more this procedure took hold, the more it was seen as unjust. At the same time, however, it served as a pretext for the increasing repression of the guilt of the silent majority who had connived in or consented to the regime. The spread of the refusal to confront and reexamine the everyday reality of the Third Reich was mirrored in opinion polls conducted by the Americans: whereas in March 1946, 57 percent of the respondents expressed positive attitudes to the denazification process, by December the proportion had shrunk to 34 percent.6 Artists and culture workers were naturally subject to the same denazi­ fication procedures as the rest of the population. In this context it will hardly come as a surprise that they pursued the same strategies of casting a favorable light on their roles in the service of the regime. The famous cases of Leni Riefenstahl and Arno Breker, which have been comprehensively discussed in the literature, remain alarming today as examples of how cunningly people who had benefited from Hitler’s regime—even allowing for contrary evidence, still beyond all doubt—sought to clear themselves of the charge of having generated Nazi propaganda.7 Both artists used the same strategy and made the same arguments in their defense. To Riefenstahl, her film Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), on the NSDAP convention in Nuremberg on September 5–10, 1934, was a neutrally descriptive documentary that merely recorded events: “That has nothing to do with politics. … The images had to be able to say what otherwise would be spoken. But that doesn’t make it propaganda.” 8 As for her two-part film Olympia: Fest der Völker/Fest der Schönheit (1938), Riefenstahl claimed it had been made on behalf of the International Olympic Committee—even though Joseph Goebbels’s propaganda ministry had financed the film’s production company, Olympia-Film GmbH, in which she herself was a shareholder. Breker for his part lamented what he termed an ideologically misconceived classification and assessment of his work that had served to diminish his artistic importance: I’m an inflicted phenomenon, a victim of the times. I was robbed of the entire impact of my artistic œuvre. If someone stands in front of my figures in fifty years and views them without bias because the political points of contact no longer apply—the points that are still relevant today, as your presence shows—then he will see only how I depicted arms and legs, and in general the human being, and then I will meet with understanding. 9 The self-description as “victims” that both Riefenstahl and Breker would claim for the rest of their lives included adjustments to their personal relationships with Hitler. Breker maintained that “Hitler and I were not friends. Nor was I his favorite sculptor, as is always claimed. [Josef] Thorak ranked foremost.” 10 Meanwhile Riefenstahl went so far as to say, “I regret 100 percent having made Hitler’s acquaintance. That he

Introductory Essays

Fig. 3. Personnel questionnaire of the Military Government of Germany, 1946

Ulrich Wilmes


interfered with my fate. Everything I suffered after the war came about only because of that.” 11 The claim of ignorance of Nazi atrocities became a collective attitude, presenting an obstacle to the critical reassessment of each individual’s own past. Instead, the demand for a so-called Schlussstrich—that is here, a “bottom line,” a line at the bottom of the only very recent past— began to spread, and by the time of the campaign for the first Bundestag elections, in 1949, was being vehemently propagated by the Free Democratic Party (FDP) (fig. 6). From 1933 onward there had been substantial disruptions to the managements of the major museums. As was the case with all public institutions, many directors had been dismissed, to be replaced by successors the Nazis considered reliable. Remarkably, despite the increased government influence on collection and exhibition policies, a number of influential posts remained in the hands of independent art historians—who, however, could not of course prevent the substantial losses to their institutions’ holdings brought about by what, following the closure of the modern-art department of the Nationalgalerie Berlin in October 1936, was in effect a prohibition on modern art in public collections. Under the direction of Adolf Ziegler, a painter who had risen to the position of president of the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Visual Arts),

Fig. 4. Leni Riefenstahl looks on in horror as Wehrmacht soldiers massacre the Jewish population of Kon´skie, Poland, in the presence of Sonderfilmtrupp Riefenstahl (Special Film Troop Riefenstahl), September 12, 1939

over 20,000 artworks by about 1,400 artists were confiscated as part of a drive to purge museums of works classified as “degenerate.” As the director of Entartete Kunst, the “Degenerate Art” exhibition held in


Munich in 1937 and subsequently traveling throughout Germany, Ziegler spoke at its opening in the Hofgartenarkadengebäude:

Fig. 5. Leni Riefenstahl (center) and her lawyer Dr. Alfred von Seefeld (right) at the start of her denazification trial, West Berlin, April 21, 1952

You see around us monstrosities of madness, of impudence, of inability and degeneration. What this show has to offer causes shock and disgust in all of us. … Here I lack the time to present to you, my national comrades, all of the crimes these fellows have ventured to commit in German art on behalf, and as pacemakers, of international Jewry.12 Ziegler carried out his duties with a fervor rooted in the deepest conviction—but that did not protect him from being suspended from his office by Goebbels after privately expressing already in 1943 anti-administration views on the cessation of the bombing war . It was Hitler’s protection alone that saved him from lengthy concentration camp custody and allowed him to keep receiving his salary. After the war, he was categorized as a “follower”; thus denazified, he withdrew entirely from public life. The bloodletting inflicted on the Museum Folkwang, Essen, through the confiscation of “degenerate art” was severe, encompassing more than 1,400 works in all—150 paintings and a larger stock of watercolors and prints. The museum’s internationally outstanding holdings of modern art were thus eliminated at a single blow. The operation was managed by Klaus Graf von Baudissin, appointed as the museum’s director by the Na­t ional Socialists in 1934, after the resignation of Ernst Gosebruch. The Museumsverein (museum society), which oversaw the museum’s operations along with the city of Essen, had resolutely resisted this decision, leading to Baudissin’s suspension in 1938 by Mayor Just Dillgardt. Heinz Köhn took his place and, during the war and postwar years, succeeded in controlling the museum’s fate in such a way as to prevent even greater damage from being done. “His career can be considered exemplary of the continuity in personnel that determined cultural life in the newly founded Federal Republic.” 13

Introductory Essays

In 1933, Otto H. Förster rose to the position of director of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, a post he held until 1945. In 1934 he joined the NSDAP. Under his directorship, some 500 works branded as “degenerate” were confiscated, and about 600 further works were sold to obtain funds for for new acquisitions, not only on the domestic market but in areas the Germans had occupied, the Netherlands and the northern part of France. After the war, Förster defended these proceedings as legally and morally sound. On the basis of that argument, he continued to protest his dismissal until 1957, when he once again re­ceived an appointment, now as director general of the museums of Cologne, an office he kept for three years. In their striving for “reeducation,” the occupying powers attached crucial importance to creating an entirely new and (even if initially subject to their control) independent press. After the American military government’s information control division granted the Frankfurter Rundschau an initial group license for the establishment of a daily newspaper, on August 1, 1945, Colonel Bernard B. McMahon, who ran that division in Bavaria, awarded license no. 1 to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the first newspaper founded in Munich, Bavaria. The first issue, published on October 6, 1945, the same day the license was granted, contained an article by Alfred Dahlmann, “Moderne Kunst als Hoffnung” (Modern art as hope). The text is noteworthy in two respects. On the one hand, it emphasized the “key function” of modern art in the restoration of a liberal society. On the other, it demanded that art not limit itself merely to picking up where it had left off in 1933—when some modernist art had had a pessimistic undertone, a prophetic sense of the coming disaster—but should express “a positivism of the calamity overcome, a positivism that bestows the mercy of the chance to make a common fresh start.” In lofty language, Dahlmann called attention to the responsibility of the arts immediately after the war, but also to the accompanying opportunity: Modern art in Germany has thus indeed been given a new beginning. If we understand it, make practical use of it, and realize it—and let us call this to mind very fundamentally again and again—it will grant or deny us the opportunity to join in shaping the cultural future of the world as creatively mature members of a family of nations in the process of reuniting. German contemporary art faces its hour of destiny.14 After the war, the controversies over the direction art might take were increasingly eclipsed by the political confrontation between the power blocs. The international coalition against the Nazi regime had already begun to disintegrate before the end of World War II. The doctrine proclaimed by Harry S. Truman on March 12, 1947, and the failure of the foreign ministers’ conference of December of that year in London, where the break between the two United States and the Soviet Union became clearly evident, significantly aggravated the tension. The founding of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) on May 23, 1949, and of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) on October 7 of the same year,

on the territories of the former occupied zones, cemented Germany’s political division. From that time on, the boundary between the two German states was tantamount to a demarcation line between the Soviet Union, as one sphere of influence, and the United States of America, with its allies France and Britain, as the other. The division of Germany affected the biographies of many artists in West and East Germany alike, if in very different ways. The propa­ gandistic form of art that had been practiced by the National Socialists was rightly branded a reprehensible abuse. One of the main concerns of artists after the war, then, was to regain the liberties they had lost, and above all the freedom to develop without ideological constraints. At the same time, art was now instrumentalized yet again to buttress the respective social systems’ claims to ideological superiority. Whereas the idea of the autonomy of art illustrated the liberal orientation of the cap­ italist West, in the East the focus was on art’s political function in the construction of a socialist society.

Fig. 6. “Schlußstrich drunter!” (“Bottom line!”), election poster of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) for the first Bundestag elections on August 14, 1949

Under the influence of the United States, the development of European art of the postwar period was distinguished by a radicalized conception of the artwork. American artists in turn took their cue from a victors’ mentality that strove for complete dissociation from the European tradition of art history. At the same time, Central European art strove to pick up the thread of modernism where it had broken during the Nazi era. In 1958, an exhibition entitled The New American Painting had a four-week run at the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste (the present-day

Ulrich Wilmes


Universität der Künste) in Berlin. Organized by The Museum of Modern Art in New York, this propagandistic survey of the emerging dominant artistic movement, which also traveled to several other European cities, showed eighty-one works by seventeen painters, including all of the chief Abstract Expressionists. The driving force behind the project was the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which in turn was financed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA, through foundations closely affiliated with that organization.15 For young German artists who had grown up under the Nazi regime, the exhibition was both a shock and a revelation. It confronted the young Georg Baselitz, for example, with the abrupt experience of an attitude wholly unfamiliar to him and based on a seemingly unbounded conception of freedom:

never really able to free himself of it. On the contrary, he consistently professed to it as a formative influence: I lived through seven years of war. After 1945, the part of Germany I grew up in was occupied by the Russians; then I was sent to the part that was occupied by the Americans. It was as though the children were being punished for the stupidities of the fathers.17 Gerhard Richter had a similar experience a year later when he visited Documenta II, which acquainted him with the same American painters. As had been the case with Baselitz, it was above all Jackson Pollock who made the most powerful impression on Richter:

Fig. 7. Adolf Hitler (center) with, to his right, Gerdy Troost, Adolf Ziegler, and Joseph Goebbels at the opening of the Haus der deutschen Kunst, Munich, May 5, 1937

I found those pictures so overwhelming, so totally unexpected, so different from the experience of my own world at the time that I felt totally desperate, because I thought I’d never stand a chance of doing well compared to those painters.16

The sheer brazenness of it! That really fascinated me and impressed me. I might almost say that those paintings were the real reason why I left the GDR. I realized that there was something wrong with my whole way of thinking.18

In Berlin, the show’s propagandistic function was manifest in the choice of an art school as the venue for its presentation. It participated in the confrontation between two social systems, based on contrary ideologies, that were contending with one another over which could lay claim to being the legitimate countermodel for overcoming the fascist past on German soil. The contest was fought in all areas of society: the economy, science, culture. Baselitz, who had been born in the Germany of the Nazi regime and had grown up in the socialist “workers’ and peasants’ state” (the GDR), was so put off by this ideological confrontation between the German past and his own postwar present that he was

Hardly had Germany been liberated, hardly had the hostilities ceased at the beginning of May 1945 and the country proclaimed its unconditional surrender on the 8th of that month, than cultural life was revived in all of the country’s major cities. Museums and art associations resumed their activities, orchestras performed concerts in what auditoriums were intact. The decade 1945–55 was a period of the recovery and citation of modernism. It began with the reconstruction of the infrastructure and the reeducation of the population, a task in which cultural institutions and programs played a key role. A very few examples will have to suffice here to illustrate the tremendous will that motivated these efforts.


Introductory Essays

On June 18, 1945, the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Berlin reopened, and with it the school’s first postwar exhibition, with works by the German Expressionists as well as artists such as Hans Uhlmann, Renée Sintenis, Oskar Nerlinger, and others. This was followed by the first exhibition of the Kammer der Kunstschaffenden in Berlin, with works by artists such as Erich Heckel, Max Pechstein, Ney Gerhard Marcks, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff.19 In Dresden, the Erste Allgemeine Deutsche Kunstausstellung (First General German Art Exhibition) took place from August 25 to October 31, 1946. Such prominent figures as the artists Karl Hofer, Hans Grundig,

collection of Expressionist art to the city of Cologne, his native town, on May 2, 1946. Toward the end of that year the works were exhibited in the city’s Alte Universität, and subsequently also in Hamburg, Oldenburg, and Stuttgart. Haubrich had been collecting since the 1920s with a focus on German Expressionism and Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) work. In that context he had worked with Förster, director of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum beginning on April 1, 1933. It was under Förster’s directorship that some 500 works had been eliminated from the museum’s holdings in 1937 and about the same number of purchases made, many of them in occupied territories. Haubrich had acquired

Fig. 8. Installation view of Adolf Ziegler's painting Die vier Elemente (The Four Elements, 1937) at the exhibition Histories in Conflict: Haus der Kunst and the Ideological Uses of Art, 1937-1955, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 2012

Max Pechstein, and Herbert Volwahsen, but also the art critic Will Grohmann, made up the jury and were moreover responsible for the exhibition concept, which provided for the presentation of 594 works by 250 artists. The project stood out not only in its magnitude but— more important still—because it was a genuinely pan-German exhibition, intended to give contemporary artists an international orientation and affiliation. At the same time, it was the only opportunity to unite two cultural spheres that were already beginning to drift apart: all subsequent Allgemeine Kunstausstellungen took place after the founding of the FRG and the GDR. One of the most remarkable gestures of these years was the endowment made by the lawyer Josef Haubrich, who gave his outstanding

a number of the “degenerate” works from the museum; after the war, his endowment returned them to the collection.20 A course was set in cultural politics when Josef Haubrich decided to donate his collection to the city of Cologne in 1946, after his house was confiscated by the British. … Haubrich’s collection became a symbol of resistance, but also of the so-called Wiedergutmachung [reparation]. It was to symbolize the credible will to democracy.21 In Munich, the former Haus der Deutschen Kunst had been closed for only a short phase of the denazification trials. The building resumed its activities in January 1946, now under the name “Haus der Kunst,”

Ulrich Wilmes


with a presentation of works from the collections of the Bavarian state, formerly housed in the Alte Pinakothek, which had been destroyed. The Bavarian state collections would remain in Haus der Kunst until 2001, when the modern department of the collections that were presented there since 1946 moved into the Pinakothek der Moderne in Barerstrasse. In July 1946, Haus der Kunst staged the Internationale Jugendbuchausstellung (International Children’s and Young Adult Book Exhibition), designed by Jella Lepman. Presenting more than 4,000 books from fourteen countries, it was the first international event to take place in postwar Germany. For Lepman, a journalist, Haus der Kunst was an ideal venue for her project—not despite its past but precisely because of it. In the memoirs she wrote nearly twenty years later, she recalled her thoughts and feelings: “I began critically inspecting the exhibition rooms and strode through the halls as if they already belonged to us. In my thoughts I swept away the boxes and crates; the international children’s books would move into this heathen temple and their good spirits would chase away the evil ones.”22 The program of Haus der Kunst in the first postwar decade was largely devoted to rehabilitating modernism in Germany. In September 1949, the exhibition Der Blaue Reiter. München und die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (The Blaue Reiter: Munich and the Art of the Twentieth Century), organized by Ludwig Grote, formed the prelude to a series of presentations on artists who had been banned from the museums and condemned as “degenerate” under the Nazi regime. In a speech at the opening, the responsible undersecretary of the Bayerischen Staatsministerium für Unterricht und Kultus (Bavarian State Ministry of Education and Culture), Dieter Sattler, remarked that Haus der Kunst had thus been “denazified.” 23 That show was followed by Maler am Bauhaus (Painters at the Bauhaus) and by monogra-

Fig. 9. Editorial staff of the Süddeutsche Zeitung in their war-damaged office, 1946

phic exhibitions on Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in 1952, Adolf Hölzel and Oskar Schlemmer in 1953, and Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Edvard Munch in 1954. The series culminated with a Pablo Picasso retrospective in 1955 (fig. 10), the founding year of the


Documenta series of quinquennial exhibitions, whose future as the most important exhibition institution for contemporary art was not foreseeable at the time. The Picasso show featured over 250 paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures, and aroused as much curiosity as it did protest. Virtually casting its subject as the embodiment of the contemporary artist personality, and his work as a synonym for

Fig. 10. Visitors admire Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica (1937) at the exhibition Picasso 1900–1955, Haus der Kunst, Munich, 1955

avant-gardist thought, the exhibition was broadcast to the public from a vantage point removed from political retrospect. Even so, it brought one of art’s most famous and most gripping testimonies to the barbarity of war—Guernica (1937), which was shown alongside many other opera magna—into the former sanctuary of National Socialist aesthetic ideology. There was also a work referring to the continuing topicality of war, which had by no means disappeared from the face of the earth: Massacre in Korea of 1951 (plate 117). In December 1937, Picasso had expressed himself unambiguously on the stance he associated with Guernica: “It is my wish at this time to remind you that I have always believed, and still believe, that artists who live and work with spiritual values cannot and should not remain indifferent to a conflict in which the highest values of humanity are at stake.”24 In his discerning positive review of Haus der Kunst exhibition for Die Zeit, Carl Georg Heise pointed to the work’s political perspective by empha­ sizing the liberty with which Picasso had guided art from its rich past into the present and beyond, and came to the conclusion that society was obligated not only to acquaint itself with Picasso’s art, “but to ‘accept’ it as a decisive contribution to the shaping of our image of the world—and, what is more, to the recognition of the self.”25 In view of the webs of global, political, and cultural relationships that have their origins in the decades after World War II, Heise’s postulate is as relevant today as ever. Translated from German by Judith Rosenthal

Introductory Essays

and the German Democratic Republic in the east in 1949. Only the city of Berlin, the former capital of Nazi Germany, was jointly administered by the Allied powers and divided into four sectors. 5 “The discrepancy between expectation and reality that ensued in the American zone in the course of denazification was prodigious. Thirteen million persons of the age of eighteen and over had filled out their questionnaires; the liberation law applied to nearly one-third of the population. Some 10 percent were ultimately sentenced. And actual punishment or lasting disadvantages were suffered by fewer than 1 percent of those designated for denazification.” Wolfgang Benz, Demokratisierung durch Entnazifizierung und Erziehung. Quoted in Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Bonn, Informationen zur politischen Bildung, Heft 259: Deutschland 1945–1949,. Quoted in (accessed August 8, 2016). 6 See Paul Hoser, “Entnazifizierung, Reaktionen in der Gesellschaft,” available online at Gesellschaft (accessed July 22, 2016). 7 See, e.g., Steven Bach, Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl (New York: Knopf, 2007); Jürgen Trimborn, Riefenstahl: Eine deutsche Karriere (Berlin: Aufbau, 2002); and André Müller, “Interview mit Arno Breker, 1979,” in Müller, Entblößungen (Munich: Goldmann, 1979). 8 Leni Riefenstahl, quoted in Spiegel Online, September 9, 2003: de/kultur/kino/zitate-von-leni-riefenstahl-ich-bedaure-zu-100-prozent-hitler-kennengelernt-zu-haben-a-264954.html (accessed July 21, 2016). 9 Arno Breker, in Müller, “Interview mit Arno Breker, 1979.” Available online at (accessed July 20, 2016). 10 Ibid. 11 Riefenstahl, quoted in Spiegel Online, September 9, 2003. 12 Adolf Ziegler, quoted in Klaus-Peter Schuster, Nationalsozialismus und “Entartete Kunst.” Die Kunststadt München 1937, 1988 (5th rev. ed. Munich: Prestel, 1998), p. 217. 13 Hans-Jürgen Lechtreck, “‘Ein stetiges, der Stadt Essen würdiges Ausstellungsleben’— Das Museum Folkwang 1945–1955,” in Julia Friedrich and Andreas Prinzing, eds., “So fing man einfach an, ohne viele Worte.” Ausstellungswesen und Sammlungspolitik in den ersten Jahren nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg (Berlin: Akademie, 2013), p. 64. 14 Alfred Dahlmann, “Moderne Kunst als Hoffnung,” Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich) no. 1 (October 6, 1945): 4. 15 “When the Tate Gallery in London showed interest in the exhibition The New American Painting in 1958 (it was on view in Paris at the time) but couldn’t bear the transport costs, the American ‘millionaire and art lover’ Julius Fleischmann stepped up and brought the de Koonings and Pollocks to London. The money came from the Farfield Foundation, of which Fleischmann was president. The foundation was nothing other than a secret channel for CIA funds. Fleischmann was also a member of the board of directors of the International Program of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.” See Armin Wertz, “Kunst als Propaganda im Kalten Krieg,” Journal 21, July 25, 2014, available online at kunst-als-propaganda-im-kalten-krieg (accessed July 22, 2016). 16 Georg Baselitz, quoted in Farah Nayeri, “Georg Baselitz: Raw Views of a Painful Past,” 1 See Sabine Brantl, Haus der Kunst, München—Ein Ort und seine Geschichte im National-

New York Times, February 26, 2014, available online at

sozialismus (Munich: Allitera Verlag, 2007), p. 86.


2 Since Haus der Kunst was the only major undamaged building in central Munich, in the

(accessed August 9, 2014).

early postwar years it was used to house American officers and their social events. The pre-

17 Baselitz, “A Conversation with Donald Kuspit at the Guggenheim Museum,” in David

sence of the Officers’ Club turned the building into an entertainment hotspot, but its exotic

Craven and Brian Winkenweder, eds., Dialectical Conversions: Donald Kuspit’s Art Criticism

address—Prinzregentenstrasse 1—was difficult for the Americans to pronounce, so they

(Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2011), p. 74.

called the club the “Pee One.” The birth of an institution! From then on, jazz concerts and

18 Gerhard Richter, in “Interview with Benjamin H. D. Buchloh,” in Richter, Gerhard Richter,

dances were the order of the day. As the rooms used for cultural purposes developed into a

Writings, 1961–2007 (New York: D.A.P., 2009), p. 163.

global contemporary-art center, one section of the building was reserved for gastronomical

19 See Kunst in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1945–1985, exh. cat. (Berlin: Nationalga-

and entertainment highlights. When the Greek Alecco took over the restaurant, in 1968, he

lerie, Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, 1985), p. 454.

impressed his guests with a motto that still characterizes the P1 Club today: “To be in is a pas-

20 See Friedrich and Dorothee Grafahrend-Gomert, “Josef Haubrich. Ein Sammler und seine

sing phenomenon; to be the best is an art.” See (accessed August 5, 2016)

Sammlung,” in Friedrich, ed., Meisterwerke der Moderne. Die Sammlung Haubrich im Museum

3 According to the Munich city records for 1946: “March 5, 1946: in a meeting chaired by

Ludwig (Cologne: Walther König, 2011), pp. 13–41.

Minister President Dr. Wilhelm Högner, the minister presidents of the three Länder of the Ame-

21 Grafahrend-Gohmert, “Die Sammlung Haubrich und der Wiedeaufbau des Wall-

rican zone signed the ‘Law on Liberation from National Socialism and Militarism’ in the council

raf-Richartz-Museums ab 1945,” in Friedrich and Prinzing, eds., “So fing man einfach an, ohne

chamber of the Munich city hall. ‘On behalf of General [Joseph] McNarney, General [Lucius]

viele Worte, p. 92 (see note 13).

Clay pronounces the consent of the American military government.’ On May 13, with the con-

22 Jella Lepman, quoted in Brantl, Haus der Kunst, München, p. 115.

sent of the American military government, the first civilian tribunals for the enforcement of the

23 Ibid.

cleansing law began their work.” Quoted in

24 Pablo Picasso, “Message to Artists’ Congress,” sent by telephone to the American Artists’

Stadtverwaltung/Direktorium/Stadtarchiv/Chronik/1946.html (accessed July 18, 2016).

Congress, New York, December 1937, in Dore Ashton, ed., Picasso on Art: A Selection of

4 At the Yalta Conference of February 4 to 11, 1945 the Allied Powers decided to separate

Views (New York: Da Capo, 1972), p. 145.

Germany into four occupation zones adminstered by the United States, the Soviet Union,

25 Carl Georg Heise, “Picasso und kein Ende,” in Die Zeit, December 1, 1955, available online

Great Britain, and France until the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in the west

at (accessed August 5, 2016).

Ulrich Wilmes



Introductory Essays


ore than any war before it or since, World War II was an exercise in world-making, an expansion of the imagination that ran in parallel with the struggle on the battlefield. Dominated by dreams of the future and human improvement, and by radically divergent views of what that might mean, it was a struggle in which virtually none of the participants thought or wished that things should go back to how they had been before the fighting began. “How New Will the Better World Be?” cautioned the American historian Carl Becker in 1944 in response, but amidst the war he went unheeded.1 The Germans had begun with their talk of a “Neuordnung” or New Order, but their opponents quickly realized that they had no choice but to follow and offer alternatives. When H. G. Wells penned his polemic The New World Order in early 1940, it was to excoriate those members of the British ruling class who thought, just as they had in 1914, that there was nothing much wrong with how things were, and that once the Germans had been taught how to behave like gentlemen, everyone could settle down again and things could go back to being run in the old way.2 That summer, as if to signal the death of liberal internationalism, Germany, Italy, and Japan signed a pact that proposed carving the world up into separate spheres of influence. The following year came the Allied response in the form of the Atlantic Charter and the detailed planning that eventually led to the formation of the United Nations. Wells was right that old blinkers were not so easily cast aside. The war was a global one—far more than its predecessor in 1914–18—and its effects were felt across continents: a huge civilian death toll in East Asia, devastating famine in India. It accelerated urbanization and economic development in Africa and the Middle East and fanned dreams of the end of colonialism everywhere. Yet in the minds of Europe’s leaders— and not only Europe’s but Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin as well, men educated in the old truths of the nineteenth century—peace and security were still primarily issues that revolved around the future of Europe. When Gilbert Murray, a prominent internationalist, wrote in 1946 about the shift from the League of Nations to the new United Nations, he noted that “some great movement for unity and constructive reconciliation in Europe is an absolute necessity for civilization.” Then he added, almost as an afterthought: “Of course Europe is not everything. There are other continents.” 3 “Europe is not everything.” That insight was a start but it was one acquired painfully and often reluctantly and its full implications took time to emerge. For the end of the war seemed to mark two quite distinct processes, and while one went deep into Europe’s heart, the other led far afield. The first was the effort to reconstruct a decimated continent, to stabilize the nation-state system that had emerged after 1918, and to restore democracy to peoples who had abandoned it. The second was to determine the fate of Europe’s overseas empires and to bring democracy and independence to those demanding it there. The disjuncture between

the two had been striking during the war, when many ardent anti-Nazis had seemed happy to defend the need for colonial rule indefinitely into the future. It was as though for them the war were about establishing the difference between good and bad ways of running empires, not about the evil of empire tout court. Putting these two stories together raises the question of Europe’s changing place in the world after 1945, in an era in which the long centuries of European global ascendancy suddenly and, to many people, unpredictably, came to an end. Postwar, the title of this sweeping exhibition, seems as good a word as any to encompass this period of rupture and reinvention. But it is a word that like all such terms has its own secret history and carries its own

Fig. 1. John Vachon. Wrocław 1946 (Marketplace at Grunwald Square). 1946. Photography

hidden and not-so-hidden implications. For to call these years the “postwar” years is not to lay bare something in nature. Time does not present itself in epochs; it is we who see it that way, and the way we carve periods out of time, fix their origins and endpoints, and label them is itself a revelation of perspective and its contingencies. For one thing, no previous war in history had ever been regarded by those who lived through it as leading in its aftermath to some postwar era. The term was not unknown before 1939 but it was extremely rare, and even after 1918 it was not used except by a few economists and technical experts. Deployed shortly after World War II erupted in 1939, the term has enjoyed its own fitful history. Once it entered common

Mark Mazower


Fig. 2. A photographer in Warsaw uses his own backdrop to mask war-damaged buildings, November 1946.


Introductory Essays

parlance, very rapidly, in the early 1940s, it was never abandoned, but its peak usage occurred in two distinct phases: one during the 1940s themselves, as a term to describe a wished-for future, and the other after the end of the Cold War, to take a new look at a now-distant past. “Postwar”: it is a crisp term, pragmatic yet imbued with hope. It posits the audacious possibility of a break with violence, the dawning of a new era in which war itself is finally banished from human affairs. Friedrich von Gentz, secretary to Klemens von Metternich, had hoped that the 1815 Congress of Vienna might win Europe a breathing space of one or two generations; neither he nor any other respectable statesman seriously believed that war could be eradicated for ever. That was, in the nineteenth century, the millennial dream of radical evangelical fanatics, not sober diplomats, not even the most mystically inclined. Yet this was the hope in and after World War II, a hope of course given extra urgency after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over a century the dreams of nineteenth-century American and British peace activists had been passed on to those most practical of dreamers, the mid-twentieth-century planners. It was American planners who drove the thinking among the Allies about a new era of global peace and prosperity. They were men like State Department officials Sumner Welles and Leo Pasvolsky, the one, in the early years of the war, the most important figure in Washington driving thinking about international governance; the other a brilliant foreign-policy expert, a keen student of Soviet communism and a man aware of the importance of dreams in international politics and of the pitfalls that lay in wait for them. They wanted to avoid the mistakes of the past, and in particular the mistakes of their American predecessor Woodrow Wilson. The British followed reluctantly, fearful that “postwar” was a cover term for anti-imperialism or else, more cynically, for an American takeover of their possessions. But they too understood that you could not fight a modern war with a conscript army without a clear sense of what you were fighting for, and that an integral part of that sense was the capacity to “win the peace,” or at least to think during the war about how to prevail once the fighting had stopped. If the golden age of the postwar was the last two years of the war itself, the term remained useful long after 1945 because the world was now living in an atomic age. The millennial dream of universal peace acquired new meaning once war had suddenly become more terrifying than ever. Within days of the bombing of Nagasaki, Bertrand Russell warned that “the prospect for the human race is sombre beyond all precedent.” 4 Even before this, seventy scientists working on the Manhattan Project, led by physicist Leo Szilard, had petitioned President Harry S. Truman to think carefully before resorting to the military use of the bomb against the Japanese. Concerned scientists presented world peace as a goal above politics—but scientists, like businessmen, tend to imagine a world above politics as the place they live in. In fact, not only did political tensions get in the way of the dream of international control of atomic energy, they broke apart the alliance of the Big Three that had defeated the Nazis and the Japanese. One way or another, the alliance against Napoleon had held for generations; the alliance against Germany scarcely outlived

Adolf Hitler himself. Or, to be more precise, it held—just—but frayed badly in the 1940s to the point of invisibility. The Cold War—another new term that betrayed the preposterous ambition, the unfulfilled longing, embodied in the term “postwar”—was now underway, and the long shadow of the atom bomb, as this exhibition testifies, overhung it. Did the Cold War mean that the promise of a “postwar” time had been falsified? Certainly there were indications of this, as civil war in Greece erupted in a series of campaigns that swept the mountains of the mainland, left hundreds of thousands dead or displaced, and saw napalm used on the European continent for the first time before the 1940s were out. Yet Greece aside, war did not return to Europe: so much was gained. And arguably the principal goal of the postwar planning effort was attained: to keep the general peace in Europe once Nazism was defeated. From this perspective, “postwar” embodied the deeply Eurocentric view of what mattered that we started out highlighting, a view in which the war that counted was the war within Europe, or over Europe’s future. Other wars, in this way of looking at things, could be discounted as “small wars,” or better still omitted from the collective memory and conscience of the world. One could thus overlook, as much of the European and American media did, the stirrings of colonial revolt in Algeria beginning in May 1945; Damascus, where the war against Hitler morphed seamlessly into the war for Syrian independence against France; and insurgencies in Indochina, the Dutch East Indies, and Madagascar in 1945–47, bitter and bloody conflicts that marked, in retrospect, the endgame of empire. The trouble was that “postwar” was an argument not only about peace but about stability. What counted internationally, and counted more and more in the atomic age, were not the rights of colonial peoples, still less the universal march of democracy, but the stabilization of power around the world to prevent conflict between the Soviet Union and its enemies spilling out of control. This usually, especially early on, meant American support for at least some of the tottering European empires—French and British in particular—even if in the 1950s and early ’60s the United States in particular was often working quietly behind the scenes trying to get its allies in Europe to liberalize colonial rule. The odds were stacked against those fighting for liberation from the colonial regimes, and from their perspective the “postwar” era could only be regarded as one in which the legitimacy of their struggle was questioned and opposed. Europe mourned its dead, lamented its past, and simultaneously celebrated its continued role in civilizing the backward peoples of the world. So talk about the postwar was obviously a matter of perspective and for many outside Europe, the wars to think about were those to come, not those behind them. Other wars remained to be fought, other peaces to be challenged. One reason surely for the declining use of the term “postwar” in the 1960s was the growing awareness everywhere that the age of wars had not ceased, that national liberation—often attainable only through war—was the cause of the age, and, increasingly, that beyond the achievement of national self-determination and colonial independence, a new era of wars lay in wait: of civil wars, such as those in

Mark Mazower


Pakistan and Nigeria, or of Third World powers, like that between China and India. The omnipresence of war stretched into the future. The postwar era, in short, was nothing if not an era of new wars. Which begs the question: why then the revival of interest in the postwar after 1989? There can be no question about this refocusing: in the 1990s, the number of books with the word in their title suddenly trebled compared with the previous decade; in the first fifteen years of this century, the number more than doubled again. books like Tony Judt’s

“Postwar” also signaled a specific psychological situation: coping with the past in all its dimensions, embarking on the work of mourning, the estimating of material and psychic losses, and above all—a theme that came naturally to our increasingly psychologizing era—the reckoning with trauma. How did we get over it? Did we? Can we put it behind us? And now, in 2016, the more Europe descends into infighting and the more the far right returns from the ashes, the more we are drawn back to those questions, and the more we talk about “we” and forget to ask

Fig. 3. Floris Jespers. The United States Saved Belgium from Starvation during the War and When Peace Came They Helped to Rebuild the Country and Its Scientific Institutions. 1939. Tapestry, 502.9 × 563.9 cm.

Postwar, conceived and written in the aftermath of Europe’s reunification, articulated a new concern, and help us understand the reasons for it too.5 This time round “postwar” was primarily not a policy matter but an academic one—the concern of historians, and of historians of Europe in particular, and beyond that, of all those seeking to understand the promise of the future of a newly unified continent by returning to the last moment before its division. In this context “postwar” mean everything that the term “Cold War” had denied: the autonomy of Europe in relation to the superpowers, the possibilities for continental and national revolutionary reconstruction, movement as opposed to stasis.


who “we” really are. It is all too easy even for historians to forget that the postwar was also the last phase of the “scramble for Africa,” and that the imperial land grab that began in the Maghreb in the mid-nineteenth century ended in the desperate jockeying over the fate of the Italian colonies in north and east Africa, the same territories—Libya, Eritrea, Somalia—whose plight today reminds us how little was actually settled in that postwar moment. Can art encourage us to reflect on the limits and bounds of our perspective? Can the notion of “postwar” be expanded to include those only peripherally drawn into World War II and those whose real wars lay

Introductory Essays

years, sometimes decades in the future, and may be continuing at the time of this writing? The challenge of this exhibition is to target that older Eurocentric conception and to amplify its meaning. The art itself shows a commonality of visual languages that transcends the specificity of historical experiences and hopes. It also suggests an underlying commonality of hopes characteristic of that moment in world history—the emergence of rural populations everywhere into dignity, the appeal of formalism, the embrace of the technical as an engine of social transformation. If the threat of the bomb was one force bringing people together, these were others. Older, identifiably European languages of painting were quietly jettisoned: the pastoral—rarely encountered in the works shown here—and above all the neoclassicism that had offered the principal challenge to modernism across the ideological spectrum in the 1920s, and that survived after 1945 only momentarily in pockets of Socialist Realism. Into the vacuum came a diversity of aesthetics that mediated the violence of the war years and tried to find ways to contain it. There is an unprecedented sense of the fragility of the human body in a physical landscape now detonated by bombs or churned by rebuilding. The utopianism that survived into the postwar era, and indeed that underpinned a new era of ambitious social planning, coexisted with a deep sense of psychic unease. “Postwar” as a moment of hope, an era of achievement; “postwar” as a sense of promise that was not to be fulfilled because it could never have been. All of that and more is visible here.

1 Carl Becker, How New Will the Better World Be? (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1944). 2 H. G. Wells, The New World Order (London: Secker & Warburg, 1940, repr. ed. Minneapolis: Filiquarian Publishing, 2007). 3 Gilbert Murray, “Retrospect and Prospect,” From the League to the U.N. (London, New York, and Toronto: Geoffrey Cumberlege, Oxford University Press, 1946), pp. 191, 197. 4 Bertrand Russell, “The Bomb and Civilization,” Glasgow Forward, August 18, 1945. 5 Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (New York: Penguin Press, 2005).

Mark Mazower



Introductory Essays


he urge to decolonize, to be rid of the colonizer in every possible way, was internal to all anticolonial criticism after the end of World War I. Postcolonial critics of our times, on the other hand, have emphasized how the colonial situation produced forms of hybridity or mimicry that necessarily escaped the Manichaean logic of the colonial encounter.1 It is not only this intellectual shift that separates anticolonial and postcolonial criticism. The two genres have also been separated by the political geographies and histories of their origins. After all, the demand for political and intellectual decolonization arose mainly in the colonized countries among the intellectuals of anticolonial movements. Postcolonial writing and criticism, on the other hand, was born in the West. They were influenced by anticolonial criticism but their audiences were at the beginning in the West itself, for these writings have been an essential part of the struggle to make the liberal-capitalist (and, initially, mainly Anglo-American) Western democracies more democratic with respect to their immigrant, minority, and indigenous—though there have been tensions between these—groups and populations. Race has thus figured as a category central to postcolonial criticism while its position in anticolonial discourse varies. The question of race is crucial to the formulations of Frantz Fanon, Aimé Césaire, or C. L. R. James, for example, but it is not as central to how a Mahatma Gandhi or a Rabindranath Tagore thought about colonial domination. If historically, then, anticolonialism has been on the wane since the 1960s and displaced by postcolonial discourse in the closing decades of the twentieth century, it has been further pointed out by more recent critics of postcolonialism that even the postcolonial moment is now behind us, its critical clamor having been drowned in turn by the mighty tide of globalization.2 This seemingly easy periodization of the twentieth century—anticolonialism giving way to postcolonialism giving way to globalization— is unsettled if we look closely at the discussions about decolonization that marked the 1950s and ’60s of the last century. Ideas regarding decolonization were dominated by two concerns. One was development. The other I will call “dialogue.“ Many anticolonial thinkers thought of colonialism as something of a broken promise. European rule, it was said, promised modernization but did not deliver on it. As Césaire said in his Discourse on Colonialism: It is the indigenous peoples of Africa and Asia who are demanding schools, and colonialist Europe which refuses them; … it is the African who is asking for ports and roads, and colonialist Europe which is niggardly on this score; … it is the colonized man who wants to move forward, and the colonizer who holds things back. 3 This was the developmentalist side of decolonization whereby anticolonial thinkers came to accept different versions of modernization theory that in turn made the West into a model for everyone to follow.

This today may very well seem dated but it has not lost its relevance. What I will focus on here is a cultural style of politics that the talk about development fostered. I will call it the “pedagogical style of politics.” In the pedagogical mode, the very performance of politics reenacted civilizational or cultural hierarchies: between nations, between classes, or between the leaders and the masses. Those lower down in the hierarchy were meant to learn from those higher up. Leaders were like teachers. But there was also another side to decolonization that has received less scholarly attention. Anticolonial thinkers often devoted a great deal of time to the question of whether or how a global conversation of humanity could genuinely acknowledge cultural diversity without arranging them on a hierarchical scale of civilization—that is to say, an urge toward cross-cultural dialogue without the baggage of imperialism. Let me call it the dialogical side of decolonization. Here, unlike on the pedagogical side, there was no one model to follow. Different thinkers took different positions, and it is the richness of their contradictions that speaks directly to the fundamental concerns of both postcolonial criticism and globalization theory. That indeed may be where the global movement toward decolonization left us a heritage useful for the world even today. In what follows, I track these two aspects of the language of decolonization, starting with the historic conference in Bandung, Indonesia, where some 600 leaders and delegates of twenty-nine newly independent countries from Asia and Africa met on April 18–24, 1955, to exchange views of the world at a time when the Cold War and a new United Nations regime were already important factors in international relations.4 […]

DATELINE: BANDUNG, APRIL 1955 In 1955, when Richard Wright, the noted African American writer then resident in Paris, decided to attend the Bandung Conference, many of his European friends thought that this would be an occasion simply for criticizing the West. Even Gunnar Myrdal, in writing the foreword to the book that Wright wrote as a result of his experience at Bandung, ended up penning an indictment of what happened in Bandung: “[Wright’s] interest was focused on the two powerful urges far beyond Left and Right which he found at work there: Religion and Race. … Asia and Africa thus carry the irrationalism of both East and West.”5 Both Myrdal’s and Wright’s Parisian friends appear to have misjudged what decolonization was all about. It was not a simple project of cultivating a sense of disengagement with the West. There was no reverse racism at work in Bandung. If anything, the aspiration for political and economic freedom that the conference stood for entailed a long and troubled conversation with an imagined Europe or the West. “I was discovering,” wrote Wright, “that this Asian elite was, in many ways, more Western than the West, their Westernness consisting in their having been made to break with the

Dipesh Chakrabarty


past in a manner that but few Westerners could possibly do.”6 It was in fact the newsmen from his own country who attended the conference who, Wright felt, “had no philosophy of history with which to understand Bandung.” 7 I will shortly come to this question of the philosophy of history that marked the discourse of decolonization. For now let me simply note the historical moment when the conference met. The Bandung Conference was held at a time when currents of deep and widespread sympathy with the newly independent nations—or with those struggling to be independent (such as Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, central Africa, etc.)—met those of the Cold War. Treaties unsatisfactory to the United States had been signed in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The French had lost in Dien Bien Phu and the Korean War had ended. Some of the Asian nations had joined defense pacts with the United States: Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines. Some others belonged to the Socialist bloc. Bandung was attempting to sustain a sense of Asian-African affinity in the face of such disagreements. This was not

Apart from the lack of mutual trust and respect, the conference, so opposed to imperialism, had no operative definition of the term. This was so mainly because there were deep and irreconcilable differences among the nations represented. The prime minister of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Sir John Kotelawala, caused some tension in the political committee of the conference—and shocked Nehru—when on the afternoon of Thursday, April 21, 1955, he referred to the Eastern European countries and asked, “Are not these colonies as much as any of the colonial territories in Africa or Asia? … should it not be our duty openly to declare opposition to Soviet colonialism as much as Western imperialism?”9 The compromise prose drafted by the conference in trying to accommodate the spirit of Sir John’s question clearly reveals the shallow intellectual unity on which the conference was based. Rather than refer directly to “the form of the colonialism of the Soviet Union,” the founding committee eventually agreed on a statement that called for an end to “colonialism in all its manifestation[s].” 10 […]


Fig. 1. Indonesian president Sukarno, Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and other delegates at the Bandung Conference, 1955

easy, as there was pressure from the Western countries to influence the course of the conversation at Bandung by excluding China, for example. Jawaharlal Nehru’s correspondence with the United Nations makes it obvious that sometimes he had to stand his ground on the question of neutrality in the Cold War. A letter he wrote to the Secretary General of the United Nations dated December 18, 1954, on the subject of Bandung, reads: We have no desire to create a bad impression about anything in the US and the UK. But the world is somewhat larger than the US and the UK and we have to take into account what impressions we create in the rest of the world. … For us to be told, therefore, that the US and the UK will not like the inclusion of China in the Afro-Asian Conference is not very helpful. In fact, it is somewhat irritating. There are many things that the US and the UK have done which we do not like at all.8 […]


The discourse and politics of decolonization in the nations that met in Bandung often displayed an uncritical emphasis on modernization. Sustaining this attitude was a clear and conscious desire to “catch up” with the West. As Nehru would often say in the 1950s, “What Europe did in a hundred or a hundred and fifty years, we must do in ten or fifteen years,” or as is reflected in the very title of a 1971 biography of the Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere: We Must Run While They Walk.11 The accent on modernization made the figure of the engineer one of the most eroticized figures of the postcolonial developmentalist imagination. Even the cursory prose of a stray remark by Wright to a friend in Indonesia catches this precedence of the engineer over the poet or the prophet in the very imagination of decolonization. “Indonesia has taken power away from the Dutch,” Wright said, “but she does not know how to use it.” This, he thought, “need not be a Right or Left issue,” but he wondered, “Where is the engineer who can build a project out of eighty million human lives, a project that can nourish them, sustain them, and yet have their voluntary loyalty?”12 This emphasis on development as catching-up-with-the-West produced a particular split that marked both the relationship between elite nations and their subaltern counterparts and that between elites and subalterns within national boundaries. Just as the emergent nations demanded political equality with the Euro-American nations while wanting to catch up with them on the economic front, similarly their leaders thought of their peasants and workers simultaneously as people who were already full citizens—in that they had the associated rights—

Introductory Essays

but also as people who were not quite full citizens in that they needed to be educated in the habits and manners of citizens. This produced a

Fig. 2. President Gamal Abdel Nasser speaks in Damascus at ceremonies to mark the second anniversary of the United Arab Republic, 1960

style of politics on the part of the leaders that could only be called pedagogical. From Nasser and Julius Nyerere to Sukarno and Nehru, decolonization produced a crop of leaders who saw themselves, fundamentally, as teachers to their nations. […]

DIALOGICAL SIDE OF DECOLONIZATION It is our contemporary interest in the circulation of humans, objects, and practices across and beyond the boundaries of the nation state that makes the other side of decolonization—representing the thoughts of the colonized on conversation across differences—relevant to the concerns of both globalization and postcolonial theory. However, what was said by theorists of decolonization about “dialogue across difference” was often contradictory. But precisely because their debate was of necessity unfinished, it leaves us a rich body of ideas that speaks to the concept of cosmopolitanism without seeking any overall mastery over the untamable diversity of human culture. Long before academics began to talk about “global English,” Bandung brought Wright a premonition of the global future of this language that was once, as Gauri Viswanathan and others have shown, very much a part of the colonizing mission. “I felt while at Bandung,” wrote Wright, that the English language was about to undergo one of the most severe tests in its long and glorious history. Not only was English becoming

the common dominant tongue of the globe, but it was evident that soon there would be more people speaking English than there were people whose native tongue was English. … H. L. Mencken has traced the origins of many of our American words and phrases that went to modify English to an extent that we now regard our English tongue in America as the American language. What will happen when millions upon millions of new people in the tropics begin to speak English? Alien pressures and structures of thought and feeling will be brought to bear upon this mother tongue and we shall be hearing some strange and twisted expressions. … But this is all to the good; a language is useless unless it can be used for the vital purposes of life, and to use a language in new situations is, inevitably, to change it.13 Clearly ahead of his time, Wright glimpsed a future that would be visible much later only to the generations that would come after Salman Rushdie. Wright’s was a vision of anticolonial cosmopolitanism. English would cease to be the master’s language. Learning it would no longer be a matter of the colonized Caliban talking back to Prospero, the master. Instead, the vision was that as other languages gradually died into it, English would become plural from within so that it could become the new Babel of the world. The Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe would echo this vision ten years after Wright articulated it: Is it right that a man should abandon his mother tongue for someone else’s? It looks like a dreadful betrayal and produces a guilty feeling. But for me there is no other choice. I have been given the [English] language and I intend to use it. … I felt that the English language will be able to carry the weight of my African experience. But it will have to be a new English, still in full communication with its ancestral home but altered to suit new African surroundings.14 Yet, delivering the Robb lectures—later published as Decolonizing the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature—at the University of Auckland in New Zealand some twenty years after these words were spoken, Ngugi wa Thiongo, the Kenyan writer, adopted a position exactly the opposite of that spelt out by Wright and Achebe. An essay by the Nigerian writer Gabriel Okara in the Africanist journal Transition illustrated for Ngugi the “lengths to which we were prepared to go in our mission of enriching foreign languages by injecting Senghorian ‘black blood’ into their rusty joints.” Okara had written, In order to capture the vivid images of African speech, I had to eschew the habit of expressing my thoughts first in English. It was difficult at first, but I had to learn. I had to study each jaw expression I used and to discover the probable situation in which it was used in order to bring out their nearest meaning in English. I found it a fascinating exercise. Ngugi disagreed. “Why”, he asks, “should an African writer, or any writer, become so obsessed with taking from his mother-tongue to enrich

Dipesh Chakrabarty


other tongues? … What seemed to worry us more was this: after all this literary gymnastics of preying on our languages to add life and vigor to English and other foreign languages, would the result still be accepted as good English or good French?” 15 He for one experienced this as a “neo-colonial situation” and went on to describe the book resulting from his lectures as his “farewell to English as a vehicle for any of [his] writing”: “From now on it is Gikuyu and Kiswahili all the way.” 16 It is not my purpose to use the positions of Wright and Ngugi to cancel each other out. I think they anticipate two familiar and

It would be good in African secondary schools to make it compulsory to study a vernacular language along with French. We have heard for decades about the “modern humanities.” Why should there not be “African humanities”? Every language, which means every civilization, can provide material for the humanities, because every civilization is the expression, with its own peculiar emphasis, of certain characteristics of humanity. … This then is where the real aim of colonization lies. A moral and intellectual cross-fertilization, a spiritual graft.17 In other words, there is no cross-fertilization without an engagement with difference. Senghor’s thoughts received an even sharper focus when, writing in 1961 on the question of Marxism, he made a passionate plea against overlooking the always situated human being— man in his concrete affiliations to the past—in favor of the figure of the abstract human, so favorite of the modernizers—or some globalizers of today—from both the Left and the Right. “Man is not without a homeland,” wrote Senghor. He is not a man without color or history or country or civilization. He is West African man, our neighbor, precisely determined by his time and his place: the Malian, the Mauritian, the Ivory Coaster; the Wolof, the Tuareg, the Hausa, the Fon, the Mossi, a man of fish and bone and blood, who feeds on milk and millet and rice and yam, a man humiliated for centuries less perhaps in his hunger and nakedness than in his color and civilization, in his dignity as incarnate man.18

Fig. 3. Senegalese president Léopold Sédar Senghor and French president Charles de Gaulle at the Élysée Palace, Paris, July 1965

legitimate responses to possibilities inherent in global conversation: globalization as liberation and globalization as subjugation. Globalization is no one homogeneous thing. It could indeed be both. Léopold Senghor, on the other hand—of whose love of French Ngugi was no fan—points us in directions that remind us that the ambiguities and the richness of the moment of decolonization were never exhausted by the antinomies set up here by what we have excerpted from Wright and Ngugi. Senghor’s thoughts—even in what he wrote on the (somewhat unpopular) topic of “assimilation” to French culture in 1945—have much to say to us about what it might mean to inflect our global conversation by a genuine appreciation of human diversity. Clearly, Senghor was not for nativist isolation. He wrote, for instance, “mathematics and the exact sciences … by definition have no frontiers and appeal to a faculty of reason which is found in all peoples.” This, he thought, was true for even “history and geography,” which had “attained a universal value.” But what about languages like “Greek, Latin and French?” He wrote: “I know the advantages of these languages because I was brought up on them … ” but “the teaching of the classical languages is not an end in itself. It is a tool for discovering human truths in oneself and for expressing them under their various aspects.” And then followed Senghor’s argument for diversity in the humanities:


“Incarnate man”—or man as always already incarnate—was how Senghor imagined the world’s heritage of historical and cultural diversity. It was not a diversity that got in the way of cross-cultural communication nor was it a diversity that did not matter. For Senghor, one way that diversity could be harnessed in the cause of development was by deliberately creating a plural and yet thriving tradition of humanities in the teaching institutions of the world. The vision was different from those of Wright or Ngugi. Neither “global” English (or French) nor a return to one’s native language was the option Senghor outlined. The way forward was a world of multilingual individuals who would appreciate language both as means of communication and as repositories of difference. A philologist’s utopia, perhaps, but how far from the vision of anticolonial modernizers who, in their single-minded pursuit of science and technology in order to catch up with the West, ended up leaving to the West itself the task of preserving the world’s humanities. The humanities have generally suffered in the newly emergent nations—my generation of Indians could testify to the cult of engineering and management that went hand-in-hand with discussions of development—while it at least survived in some of the elite universities of the West in the form of “area studies.” This is not an argument against “area studies” in the West. For it may very well be a sad fact today that it is only in the West that modern, non-Western humanities are pursued with some seriousness.19

Introductory Essays

But there is a risk here. As the late Edward Said demonstrated it for our generation, the West has seldom performed this task in a manner that transcends its own geopolitical interests. And that is where Senghor’s call for a plural tradition of the humanities remains a living legacy for all postcolonial intellectuals both inside and outside the West.

A longer version of this essay was published in Economic and Political Weekly 40, no. 46 (November 2005): 4812-4818. It was presented initially as a keynote lecture at a conference entitled “Bandung and Beyond: Rethinking Afro-Asian Connections in the Twentieth Century,” held at Stanford University on May 14–15, 2005. I am grateful to the participants at the conference and to Rochona Majumdar for comments. Thanks to Arvind Elangovan and Sunit Singh for assistance with research. 1 The classic statement of this is Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1994). 2 See, for instance, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000), pp. 143–59. 3 Aime Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), p. 25. 4 The countries that sponsored the conference were Burma, India, Ceylon, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. In addition, twenty-four other countries joined the conference. They were: Afghanistan, Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gold Coast, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Nepal, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Democratic Republic of [North] Vietnam, State of Vietnam, and Yemen. See Selected Documents of the Bandung Conference (New York: Institute of Pacific Relations, 1955), p. 29. It should be noted that Israel was invited to participate in the Asian Relations Conference of 1947 but the delegation was called the “Jewish Delegation from Palestine.” See Asian Relations: Report of the Proceedings and Documentation of the First Asian Relations Conference, New Delhi, March–April 1947, introduced by D. Gopal (Delhi: Authorspress, 2003). Bandung, however, excluded Israel, mainly because of “strong opposition” from Arab countries. See Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (hereafter SWJN), second series, ed. Ravinder Kumar and H. Y. Sharada Prasad (Delhi: JN Memorial Fund, 2000), 27: 109, 566. 5 Gunnar Myrdal, “Foreword,” in Richard Wright, The Colour Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference (Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company, 1956), p. 7. 6 Ibid., p. 71. This point is underlined in a review of the book by Merze Tate of Howard University in The Journal of Negro History 41, no. 3 (July 1956): 263–65. Tate quotes the following lines from Wright: “Bandung was the last call of Westernised Asians to the moral conscience of the West.” P. 265. 7 Wright, The Colour Curtain, p. 82. 8 SWJN, second series, 27: 106. 9 Sir John Kotelawala, quoted in Roeslan Abdulgani, The Bandung Connection: The Asia-Africa Connection in Bandung in 1955 (Jakarta: Gunung Agung, 1981), pp. 115, 117. See also Kotelawala, An Asian Prime Minister’s Story (London: George G. Harrap and Co., 1956). 10 Abdulgani, The Bandung Connection, p. 119. It should be noted that the Bandung conference was not to make any “majority” decisions or raise divisive, controversial issues. See SWJN, second series, 28: 97–98. 11 Nehru, “Speech inaugurating the new building of the Punjab High Court, Chandigarh, March 19, 1955,” SWJN, second series, 28: 30; William Edgett Smith, We Must Run While They Walk: A Portrait of Africa’s Julius Nyerere (New York: Random House, 1971). 12 Wright, The Colour Curtain, p. 132. Emphasis added. Christopher Lee tells me of a fictionalized film about Gamal Abdel Nasser, Nasser 56, in which Nasser, trying to gather support and expertise for nationalizing the Suez, exhorts two engineers who question his judgment, saying “You are engineers, not poets.” Personal communication from Lee, May 20, 2005. 13 Wright, The Colour Curtain, p. 200. 14 Chinua Achebe, “The African Writer and the English Language,” 1964, quoted in Ngugi wa Thiongo, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (London: James Curry, 1986), p. 7. 15 bid., pp. 7–8. 16 Ibid., pp. xii, xiv. 17 Léopold Sédar Senghor, Prose and Poetry, selected and trans. by John Reed and Clive Wake (London: Oxford University Press, 1965), pp. 53–55: 1945 essay on "assimilation" excerpted from Vues sur L’Afrique noire, ou Assimiler, non être assimilés. 18 Ibid., p. 59. 19 In saying this I exclude the field of postcolonial studies, for that field, as I have already said, had its origins in the West. Postcolonial writers from outside the West are absorbed in that global field, which still tilts toward the West. Nor do I mean to denigrate or deny the value of the work in modern, non-Western humanities that emanates from countries like India, for instance, for a wider audience. But voices from the world of non-Western scholarship in the humanities command much less global presence than voices from the social sciences in India and elsewhere. The humanities one comes across in global forums today are much more parochially Western than the social sciences: that is my point. And that, I think, was the gap Senghor also was pointing to.

Dipesh Chakrabarty


VISUAL ESSAYS AND CHRONOLOGIES Compiled by Damian Lentini and Daniel Milnes


2 Tank and troops of the Allied 5th Army pass cheering civilians by the Colosseum in Rome, June 3, 1944.

1 Winston Churchill and General Charles de Gaulle walk down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées during the French Armistice Day parade in Paris, November 11, 1944.

4 Japanese representatives including Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro¯ Umezu on board the USS Missouri during the surrender ceremonies, Tokyo Bay, September 2, 1945. 3 Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel signs the ratified surrender terms for the German Army at Russian Headquarters in Berlin, May 7, 1945.

6 Atomic cloud over Hiroshima, taken from the Enola Gay while flying over Matsuyama, Shikoku, August 6, 1945. 5 Little Boy, the bomb that was dropped in Hiroshima, on trailer cradle ready to be loaded, Tinian, August 1945.

8 Civilians and service personnel in Picadilly Circus celebrate the news of Allied victory over Japan, London, 1945.

7 Ruins of the Reichstag in Berlin after the allied bombing, Berlin, June 3, 1945.

10 The crew of the Enola Gay before the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Tinian, August 1945. 9 Starved prisoners after the liberation of the concentration camp at Ebensee, May 7, 1945.

12 Polar cap of the Fat Man weapon is prepared for the bombing of Nagasaki, Tinian, August 1945.

11 Remains of the Industry Promotional Hall amongst the ruins following the dropping of the atomic bomb, Hiroshima, August 1945. 83

13 Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin convene at the Yalta Conference, Yalta, February 1945.

15 German citizens read a special edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung announcing the result of the Nuremberg trials, October 1, 1946.

14 American servicemen and women gather in front of “Rainbow Corner” Red Cross club to celebrate the unconditional surrender of Japan, Paris, August 15, 1945.

16 Corporal Irwin Goldstein sets the switches on one of the function tables of the ENIAC, the first electronic, general-purpose computer, Moore School of Electrical Engineering, Philadelphia, 1946.

17 Delegates of the Fifth Pan-African Congress, Manchester, October 1945. 18 U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt meets with King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia on board the USS Quincy in the Great Bitter Lake, Egypt, February 14, 1945.

19 Prime Minister Clement Attlee celebrates a Labour Party election victory over Winston Churchill, London, July 26, 1945. 20 Sukarno declares the independence of Indonesia, Jakarta, August 17, 1945.

21 Hundreds of Muslim refugees crowd atop a train leaving for Pakistan, New Delhi, September 1947. 22 Residents of Athens protest the fatal shooting of 28 unarmed civilians during a peaceful demonstration, a precursor to the Greek Civil War of 1946-1949, Athens, December 8, 1944.

23 The proclamation of the Italian Republic is announced in newspapers, Milan, June 1946.

24 The Exodus, a crowded ship carrying illegal Jewish refugees from Europe, arrives in Haifa, July 18, 1947.


26 Hundreds of thousands of Koreans flee south after the North Korean army strikes across the border, 1950.

25 A so-called Raisin Bomber lands at Tempelhof Airport to deliver supplies to Berlin after the Soviets cut off access to the city from the west, Berlin, June 1948.

27 Three hundred portraits of Dutch governors are removed from the Governor’s residence, later known as the Palace of Freedom, after the official recognition of Indonesian independence, Jakarta, December 1949.

28 Founder of the state of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, reads the proclamation that establishes the country as an independent nation, Tel Aviv, May 14, 1948.

29 Mao Zedong declares the founding of the People’s Republic of China at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, October 1, 1949.

30 President Truman signs the document implementing the North Atlantic Treaty at his desk in the Oval Office, as a number of foreign dignitaries look on, Washington, DC, August 24, 1949.

32 Ten people are crushed to death in the rush to receive the 40 grams of gold allotted to each citizen after the value of paper money drastically sinks in China, Shanghai, December 1948.

31 Posters for the London Peace Congress on display on the wall of the Military School, Paris, 1950.

33 Refugees board boats headed for Lebanon and Egypt during the Palestinian Exodus, Al-Shati Camp, 1949.

34 The Free German Youth organizes a parade to mark the election of State President Wilhelm Pieck and the founding of the German Democratic Republic, Berlin, October 1949.

35 The Olympic Torch is presented at the Summer Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium, July 1948, London. 87

37 Demonstrators with flags march through the Brandenburg Gate during the People’s Uprising in East Germany, Berlin, June 17, 1953.

36 Viewers in 3-D glasses enjoy the screening of the Bwana Devil, the first full-length, color 3-D motion picture at the Paramount Theater, Hollywood, November 26, 1952.

38 Revelers party on the street during the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, February 1953.

39 Thousands of Vietnamese refugees move from a French landing ship to the USS Montague as part of the Operation “Passage to Freedom” that helped citizens flee to the south of the country, Haiphong, August 1954.

40 Delegates arrive for the Asian-African Conference in Indonesia, Bandung, April 1955. 41 The Russell–Einstein Manifesto issued by Bertrand Russell at Caxton Hall, London, July 9, 1955.

42 Prime Minister Gamal Abdel Nasser is welcomed by cheering crowds after the signing of the British withdrawal order and one day after a failed attempt to assassinate him, Alexandria, October 27, 1954.

43 Original model for the double helix structure of DNA as discovered by James Watson and Francis Crick, 1953.

44 A resident washes graffiti from a wall during the clean-up after a coup d’etat which restored power to the Shah of Iran, Tehran, August 1953.

46 Citizens storm the Soviet Cultural shop and set fire to Communist propaganda during the Hungarian Revolution, Budapest, October 1956.

45 Roger Bannister runs the first sub-four minute mile, Oxford, May 6, 1954.

47 Crowds gather at Drill Hall during the Treason Trial, Johannesburg, December 1956. 89

48 Leaders convene at the Palazzo dei Conservatori to sign the Treaty of Rome, Rome, March 1957.

49 A replica of an atomic mushroom cloud is carried through the streets in protest against the upcoming British nuclear tests at Christmas Islands, Tokyo, May 1, 1957.

51 Ravi Shankar and members of his group practise in New York, 1957.

50 Elizabeth Eckford, one of nine students of color whose integration into Little Rock’s Central High School was ordered by Federal Court, is heckled by a mob on her first day, Little Rock, September 1957.

52 Fidel Castro delivers a speech after ousting President Fulgencio Batista, Santa Clara, January 1959. 53 Soviet citizens look at television sets and radios at the USSR Exhibition in Sokolniki Park, which took place parallel to the American National Exhibition, Moscow, August 1959.

54 Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco descend the steps of Saint Nicholas Cathedral on their wedding day, Monaco, April 19, 1956.

55 The Soviet Union launches the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, into orbit, Baikonur, October 4, 1957.

56 More than two dozen indigenous Australian men come to Perth to fight a defamation case against Stanley Guide Middleton, Commisioner for Native Affairs, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Perth, 1958.

57 A public demonstration of the new Fiat Nuova 500 takes place at the Piazza San Carlo, Turin, July 4, 1957

58 The Explorer VI Earth satellite takes the first photograph of the Earth from space, South Point, Hawaii, August 14, 1959.

59 Crowds cheer and rejoice after the formation of the United Arab Republic between Egypt and Syria, Arbin, February 1958.


61 An aerial photograph shows the site of the first French nuclear test, entitled “Gerboise Bleue,” in the Tanezrouft area of the Sahara Desert, south-west of Reggane, February 1960.

60 The Enovid birth control pill becomes widely available in the USA, June 1960.

62 Anti-nuclear weapons protests take place in Ghana after proposals for further French nuclear testing in the Sahara, Accra, September 1960. 63 A family explores the planned city of Brasilia after its inauguration as the country’s new capital, Brasilia, April 1960.

64 French security forces try to stop young demonstrators in the Rue Michelet opposing the peace plan with France, Algiers, December 1960.

65 Workers at the Tryokhgornaya Manafaktura textile factory perform early-morning exercises, Moscow, 1960.

67 Sony begins mass production of its new all-transistor, portable television set, Tokyo, January 1960.

66 Residents of West Berlin look over toward the eastern part of the city at Bernauer Street as construction work begins on the Berlin Wall, West-Berlin, August 13, 1961.

68 Soviet women view a poster celebrating cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin after he became the first man to travel into space aboard Vostok on April 12, Moscow, May 1961.

69 After being captured in Buenos Aires fugitive Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann is taken to Israel where he stands trial, Jerusalem, April 1961.

70 Former Congolese Premier Patrice Lumumba is brought back to Leopoldville under armed guard after his capture and is secretly executed one month later, Leopoldville, December 1960.


72 Martin Luther King, Jr. waves to supporters during the March on Washington, the occasion on which he delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, Washington, DC, August 28, 1963.

71 Protesters from the group Women Strike for Peace hold placards urging for caution in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, New York, October 1962.

73 Citizens react to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, New York, November 22, 1963.

74 Students at the Al Aqida High School, Baghdad, 1961.

75 On the day after French National Police attack a demonstration of around 30,000 pro-FLN Algerians in Paris, a graffiti inscription on the left bank of the Seine reads 'We drown Algerians here', Paris, October 18, 1961.

77 President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others look on, Washington, DC, July 2, 1964. 76 Demonstrators at Tiananmen Square protest America’s military intervention in Vietnam, Beijing, February 1965.

78 Muhammad Ali stands over Sonny Liston during their controversial title fight after knocking out his opponent after just one minute of the first round, Lewiston, May 25, 1965. 79 A group of Beatlemaniacs wave and scream across from the Plaza Hotel where the Beatles are staying, New York, August 28, 1964.

80 A group of civil rights demonstrators march from Selma to Montgomery to fight for voting rights for racial minorities, Alabama, March 1965. 81 U.S. helicopters pour machine gun fire into the tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp near the Cambodian border, Tây Ninh, March 1965.



1944 June 4 Rome is liberated from Fascist rule by Allied forces. Mussolini flees June 6 D-Day landings by Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy June 15 US Army Air Forces begin bombing the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata, in northern Japan, the first direct attack on the Japanese home islands July 1 – July 22 The Bretton Woods Conference takes place in New Hampshire, paving the way for the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund July 3 Japanese forces are defeated at the battles of Imphal and Kohima. August 1 The Warsaw Uprising, orchestrated by the Polish Home Army, is crushed by Nazi forces August 21 – October 7 The Washington Conversations on International Peace and Security Organization (also known as the Dumbarton Oaks Conference) takes place in Washington, D.C., paving the way for the establishment of the United Nations August 25 Paris is liberated from Nazi rule by the Free French Forces. Charles de Gaulle is declared chairman of the Provisional Government of the French Republic the following day

1945 January 27 The Auschwitz/Birkenau concentration camps are liberated by the Soviet Red Army February 4 – February 11 Following the Tehran Conference in 1943, US president Roosevelt, British prime minister Churchill, and Soviet premier Stalin meet again at the Yalta Conference to discuss Europe’s postwar reorganization March 22 The Arab League is founded in Cairo April 4 – April 29 The Ohrdruf, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen, and Dachau concentration camps are liberated by Allied forces April 12 US president Roosevelt dies. He is succeeded by Vice president Harry S. Truman April 28 Benito Mussolini and his mistress Claretta Petacci are executed by Italian partisans and hung upside down in the Piazzale Loreto in Milan April 30 Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide in the Führerbunker in Berlin April 30 Munich, once called the “Capital of the [Nazi] Movement,” is liberated by the US Army May 7 The first German Instrument of Surrender is signed in Reims in the presence of representatives of the Free French Forces and the US Army May 8 VE Day. The German Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, the Allied Expeditionary Force, and the Supreme High Command

June 26 The United Nations Charter is signed in San Francisco by fifty member states July 16 The United States successfully detonates the first nuclear bomb near Alamogordo, New Mexico July 17 – August 2 The Potsdam Conference on the eventual denazification of Germany takes place July 26 In British elections Labour leader Clement Attlee defeats Winston Churchill, resulting in the implementation of socialist reforms throughout the United Kingdom August 6 The nuclear bomb “Little Boy” is dropped on Hiroshima by the US B-29 bomber Enola Gay. Three days later, the plutonium bomb “Fat Man” is dropped on Nagasaki by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Bockscar August 15 Japanese Emperor Hirohito announces the unconditional surrender of the Japanese military in a radio broadcast to the Japanese people August 17 Indonesian nationalists Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta declare the independence of Indonesia, igniting a revolution against the Dutch Empire September 2 The Japanese foreign minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay

September 9 Japanese forces surrender to the chairman of the Nationalist Government of China, Chiang Kai-shek, in Nanking, officially ending World War II in the Pacific

September 4 Brussels is liberated by the Second Canadian Division and the Welsh Guards

October 7 Concentration camp inmates forced to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims revolt at Auschwitz

June 21 200,000 public servants participate in the Nigerian General Strike, the largest anticolonial workers’ strike in Africa

September 6 – September 8 The Soviet Red Army occupies the northern part of Korea along the 38th parallel to dismantle Japanese forces after their capitulation, while the southern part of the peninsula is occupied by the US Army

August 26 The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, an anticolonial political party, is formed by Nigerian nationalists Nnamdi Azikiwe and Herbert Macaulay in Lagos

September 19 The Moscow Armistice marks the end of the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union

the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union

1 French civilians celebrate the Liberation of Paris, August 1944. of the Soviet Red Army sign the second Instrument of Surrender in Berlin, marking the end of World War II in Europe May 8 103 Algerian demonstrators are killed by French police forces in the Sétif and Guelma massacre June 5 Germany is divided into four occupation zones, administered by the United States,

2 Defendants, including Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Wilhelm Keitel, sit in the dock at the Nuremberg Trials, Nuremberg, c. 1945-46. October 20 A Mongolian independence referendum takes place, with officials reporting 100 percent of the electorate voting for independence October 24 Syria gains independence after the joint UN/French Mandate ends November 1 – November 16 UNESCO is founded November 20 The Nuremberg trials against former leaders of the Nazi regime begin November 29 The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is founded, with Marshall Tito as president December 27 Following the Bretton Woods conference, twenty-eight nations meet in New York and agree to establish the World Bank and International Monetary Fund

1946 January 4 The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry meets in Washington, D.C., to discuss Jewish immigration and settlement in Mandatory Palestine. Subsequent meetings eventually result in the UN Partition Plan. January 10 Project Diana bounces radar waves off the moon and proves that communication is possible between Earth and outer space, thereby initiating the Space Age

September 20 – October 20 Tallinn, Riga, and Belgrade annexed by the Soviet Red Army

February 15 The creation of Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, the first electronic general-purpose computer, is officially announced

October 6 The first issue of the Süddeutsche Zeitung is published in Munich; it is the first newspaper in southern Germany to receive a license from the US military administration

February 24 Juan Perón wins the Argentinian presidential elections, initiating the age of Peronism

October 15 – October 21 The Fifth Pan-African Congress takes place in Manchester, resulting in a unanimous demand for an independent Africa

March 22 The Treaty of London is signed by the government of the United Kingdom and the Emir of Transjordan. Three days later, Transjordan becomes the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan

March 31 The Greek Civil War breaks out between the Greek government army and the Communist Democratic Army of Greece March 31 The Chinese Civil War breaks out between the Kuomintang-led government of the Republic of China and the Communist Party of China, headed by Mao Zedong April 17 The last French troops stationed in Syria during the Vichy regime leave, handing control of the country to the republican government of Shukri al-Quwatli June 2 After a second constitutional referendum, Italy votes to abolish the House of Savoy and become a republic

March 23 – April 2 The Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi lays the groundwork for cooperation among Third World nations and the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement June 5 The European Recovery Program (also known as the Marshall Plan) is launched by the United States, contributing $13 billion to the economic reconstruction of Western Europe June 17 – August 15 The end of the British Raj leads to the partition of the British Indian Empire into the new nations of Pakistan and India. The resulting mass migration of Hindus and Muslims results in up to 400,000 deaths July 11 The ship Exodus 1947 leaves the port of Sète in France carrying 4,515 Jewish pas-

June 30 US Presidential Executive Order 9102, which ordered the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, officially expires

July 4 The Philippines attain independence from the United States

July 29 The Paris Peace Conference results in numerous peace treaties between the former Allied and Axis powers August 16 The Direct Action Day (also known as the Great Calcutta Killings) takes place amid widespread rioting and killing between Hindus and Muslims in Calcutta, resulting in between 200 and 300 deaths October 7 The new Constitution of Japan is ratified by the Japanese House of Representatives, marking the country’s transition from a monarchy to a democracy, based on the British model of parliamentary government December 19 First Indochina War breaks out between the French Army and the Viêt Minh, extending into the neighboring protectorates of Laos and Cambodia

1947 March 12 President Truman urges the US Congress and the public to support the “endangered” peoples of communist Europe, thereby announcing the United States’ claim of being the leader of the Western world

February 4 Ceylon is granted its independence from Great Britain February 21 The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia stages a coup d’état, assuming control of the government and marking the start of four decades of Communist rule April 1 The publication of the “Alpher–Bethe–Gamow paper” (or “αβγ paper”) in the journal Physical Review leads to the development of the Big Bang theory May 14 The State of Israel is officially declared on the day that the British Mandate of Palestine expires. 700,000 Palestinian Arabs flee or are expelled from the Israeli territories May 26 D. F. Malan is elected prime minister as the Afrikaner National Party wins South Africa’s general elections, ushering in Apartheid as official state policy

July 1 The United States begins the controversial testing of atomic bombs on Bikini Atoll

July 4 An outbreak of violence against a gathering of Jewish refugees in the Polish city of Kielce results in a pogrom that leaves forty-two Jews dead

sulting in the amalgamation of the Malayan Union, Penang, and Malacca

3 Citizens queue to vote on Mongolian independence, Mongolia, October 20, 1945.

sengers on their way to Palestine. After being intercepted in Haifa, the passengers are returned to Europe, being forcefully removed by British forces in Hamburg September 2 The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (also known as the Rio Pact) is signed in Rio de Janeiro. The treaty’s principle claim is that an attack against one signatory is to be considered an attack against all signatories October 22 The Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 breaks out over India and Pakistan’s joint claim to the princely states of Kashmir and Jammu November 30 The Civil War in Mandatory Palestine breaks out between Jewish and Arab communities, resulting in the Palestinian exodus from Mandatory Palestine and the concurrent Jewish exodus from Muslim states

1948 January 4 The Union of Burma is founded after the country breaks away from British rule January 30 Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated by a Hindu fanatic in New Delhi February 1 The Federation of Malaya is proclaimed, re-

June 22 The ship MV Empire Windrush arrives in England with 492 Jamaican immigrants on board, signaling the beginning of the migration of almost 172,000 workers from the Caribbean and Asia to the United Kingdom June 24 The Berlin Blockade commences after the Soviet Union blocks rail, road, and canal access to the Allied sectors of the city, marking the first concrete confrontation of the Cold War. Western Allies respond by delivering goods via an airlift, which lasts for almost a year

December 16 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is ratified by the United Nations General Assembly

1949 January 8 The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) is founded in Moscow as a response to the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) January 26 The Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, which grants citizenship to all Australians (including Aboriginal people), comes into effect. February 24 The Israel-Egypt Armistice Agreement is signed on the island of Rhodes, signaling the beginning of the end of the 1948 Arab– Israeli War April 4 The signing of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, D.C., paves the way for the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on August 24, 1949 April 20 – April 23 The first International Peace Conference is held in Paris, with Picasso designing its dove emblem

June 28 Yugoslavia is expelled from the Communist Information Bureau, leading the country to develop its own method of socialism July 29 – August 14 The first Olympics since World War II take place in London. Germany and Japan are not allowed to participate August 15 Korea is officially partitioned after the establishment of the First Republic of South Korea followed by the declaration of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north on September 9, 1948 September 9 The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is formally established in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula, with Kim Il-sung as prime minister October 29 A military coup in Peru sees General Manuel Apolinario Odriá declared president October 30 The Nationalist Army of Chiang Kai-Shek is defeated at Mukden in Manchuria November 26 Edwin Herbert Land invents instant photography

4 Visit of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia on board the USS Quincy at the Great Bitter Lake, Egypt, February 13, 1945.

May 11 Siam officially changes its French name to Thaïlande (Thailand), in accordance with the change of its Thai name to Prated Thai (“the Thai nation”) in 1939 May 23 The Federal Republic of Germany is declared, with Bonn as its capital July 1 The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act No. 55 is passed in South Africa August 12 The Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone, is agreed upon



October 1 The People’s Republic of China is declared by Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square, Beijing October 7 The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) is established, resulting in the official partitioning of Germany December 7 The government of the Republic of China under Chiang Kai-Shek finishes its evacuation to Taiwan, declaring Taipei its temporary capital December 27 The Republic of the United States of Indonesia is declared, with Sukarno as president

1950 May 9 French foreign minister Schuman presents his proposal for the creation of a pan-European organization, signaling the beginnings of the creation of the European Economic Community June 24 – July 16 The 1950 FIFA World Cup takes place in Brazil, the first to be contested after World War II June 25 The Korean War begins when the North Korean Army crosses the 38th parallel and attacks South Korea July 15 – July 17 The first Darmstadt Talks, dedicated to the theme of “The Image of Man in Our Time,” take place in West Germany October 6 At the Battle of Chamdo, the People’s Liberation Army troops enter Tibet, which ends with the signing of the 17 Point Agreement in Lhasa in May the following year November 28 The Colombo Plan for Co-operative Economic Development in South and SouthEast Asia is launched with the aim of strengthening the economic and social development of member states

1951 April Iranian prime minister Mossadegh nationalizes the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company April 11 President Truman relieves General Douglas MacArthur of duties in Korea April 18 Foreign ministers of the Benelux States, France, Italy, and West Germany sign the treaty that founds the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), a precursor to the European Union

January 13 Pravda, the state newspaper of the USSR, publishes an article falsely accusing a number of prestigious Jewish physicians of plotting to poison the country's senior political leaders, the so-called “Doctor’s Plot” 5 Juan Perón wins the Argentinian presidential elections, Buenos Aires, February 27, 1946.

February 28 James Watson and Francis Crick publish their theory of the double-helix model of DNA

October 14 The Organization of Central American States is formed, a precursor to the creation of the Central American Common Market

March 5 Joseph Stalin dies of a stroke at his Kuntsevo residence near Moscow. He is succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev

December 20, 1951 The Breeder Reactor, which begins operation in Arco, Idaho, is the first to success­ fully produce energy from nuclear fusion

May 29 Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay are the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest

December 24 The United Kingdom of Libya officially comes into being, with King Idris I as chief of state

1952 April 9 The Bolivian National Revolution results in the overthrowing of Hugo Ballivián’s government and the beginning of a period of agrarian reform, universal suffrage, and the nationalization of tin mines June 27 The Native Laws Amendment Act No. 54 is passed in South Africa, ordering all black people over the age of sixteen to carry pass books, as well as prohibiting them from remaining in urban areas longer than seventy-two hours without permission July 23 The Egyptian Revolution breaks out when an attempt to overthrow King Farouk escalates, resulting in the establishment of an Egyptian republic August 12 The “Night of the Murdered Poets,” the execution of thirteen imprisoned Soviet Jewish poets, takes place in a Moscow jail October 20 The Land and Freedom Army (also known as Mau Mau) begins an insurgency against British rule in Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta is taken into custody November 1 The United States successfully detonates a hydrogen bomb, the world’s first thermonuclear weapon, on Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific November 4 In the US presidential elections the former Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower, defeats Adlai Stevenson in a landslide

July 27 An armistice between North and South Korea brings an end to the Korean War July 28 The Republic of Egypt is declared, with General Muhammad Naguib the first president August 12 In response to the United States’ successful detonation a year earlier, the Soviet Union announces the first successful detonation of a hydrogen bomb August 19 A group of Iranian military leaders successfully overthrows Prime Minister Mossadegh and replace him with General Fazlollah Zahedi, who is loyal to the Shah

September 8 The Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) is founded in Manila, comprising Thailand, the Philippines, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France, the United States, and Pakistan November 14 Egyptian president Muhammad Naguib is deposed by Gamal Abdel Nasser

1955 February 24 The Bagdad Pact, a pro-Western defense alliance that aims to restrict the spread of Communism in the Middle East, is signed between Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom April 18 – April 24 The Asian-African or Afro-Asian Conference (also known as the Bandung Conference) takes place in Indonesia. Organized by representatives from Indonesia, Burma, Pakistan, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and India, the conference is a forerunner to the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement May 14 The Warsaw Pact is formed between Eastern European states keen to restore the balance of power between East and West June 26 The Congress of the People in Kliptown, Soweto, adopts the Freedom Charter, the

September 7 Ilya Ehrenburg publishes The Thaw. The novel’s title would later be used to describe the period of relaxation of official cultural politics in the Soviet Union under the rule of Nikita Khrushchev November 9 The Laotian Civil War breaks out between communists and royalists

1954 March 13 – May 7 The Battle of Điên Biên Phu signals the end of French colonial rule in Indochina May 14 The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict is adopted May 17 In the Brown v. Board of Education case, the US Supreme Court rules that the segregation of schools along racial lines is “inherently unequal” and therefore illegal June 27 The world’s first nuclear power station opens at Obninsk, near Moscow

6 Shukri al-Quwatli, the first President of Syria after the country gained independence from France in 1946.

manifesto of the African National Congress and the South African liberation struggle against Apartheid September 16 Argentinian generals overthrow President Juan Perón, bringing an end to the age of Peronism November 1 The Vietnam War officially begins when the US Military Assistance Advisory Group recognizes the conflict in Vietnam as a civil war December 1 The Montgomery bus boycott begins after Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger

December 22 Cytogeneticist Joe Hin Tjio discovers the correct number of human chromosomes, forty-six

1956 January 1 The Republic of Sudan is declared after a referendum calls for a split from Egyptian and British control January 15 Oil is first discovered at the Oloibiri Oilfield in Nigeria February 25 Khrushchev delivers his report “On the Cult

December 19 The five-year Treason Trial commences in Johannesburg, South Africa, in which Nelson Mandela and 156 other defendants are accused of treason. The trial concludes in 1961 with the acquittal of all the accused

1957 January 5 US president Eisenhower delivers his “Special Message to the Congress on the Situation in the Middle East” (also known as the “Eisenhower Doctrine”), which states that a Middle Eastern country can request American economic or military assistance if it is being threatened by armed aggression from another state March 6 Gold Coast and British Togoland merge to form the State of Ghana after attaining independence from the United Kingdom March 25 The Treaty of Rome results in the creation of the European Common Market and the founding of the European Economic Community

7 Mourners at Birla House sit beside the body of Mahatma Gandhi who was assassinated the day before, January 31, 1948. of Personality and its Consequences” to the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, in which he formally denounces the glorification of one person (Stalin) April 28 Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party of China, launches his guiding principle: “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend,” encouraging citizens to openly express their opinions of the Communist regime May 22 French minister of state Pierre Mendès resigns due to his government’s policy on Algeria July 26 The Suez Crisis erupts after President Nasser of Egypt nationalizes the Suez Canal, which leads to an unsuccessful invasion of the country by the armies of the United Kingdom, France, and Israel September 25 The first transatlantic telephone cable begins operating. In the first twenty-four hours of public service, there are 588 calls from London to the United States and 119 from London to Canada October 23 The Hungarian Revolution breaks out when a student protest in Budapest develops into a nationwide revolt against the government and its Soviet-imposed politics

July 25 Tunisia becomes a republic, with Habib Bourguiba its first president July 29 The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is established in Vienna August 31 Malaysia gains independence from the United Kingdom October 4 The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1 into orbit, further integrating the Space Race into the Cold War October 22 François “Papa Doc” Duvalier seizes control of Haiti, declaring himself “president for life”

1958 January 1958 – 1961 The Great Leap Forward, an attempt to instigate the rapid development of China’s agricultural and industrial sectors, entails the mobilization of the country’s enormous labor forces and the abolition of private plots. The results are dramatic: the endeavors lead to economic regression and contribute to the Great Famine, which claims between 15 and 45 million lives January 1 The Treaty of Rome comes into effect, with the aim of bringing about economic integration among its members January 3 The West Indies Federation is formed in the

Caribbean by various former colonies of the United Kingdom February 1 Egypt and Syria merge to form the United Arab Republic, which is intended as a first step to a larger united Arab state. Gamal Abdel Nasser is nominated as the first president April 4 Several thousand people march for four days from Trafalgar Square in London to the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons May 25 The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is launched in London by Bertrand Russell. On this occasion Gerald Holtom designs the peace symbol July 14 The Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan, which was formed on February 14, 1958, is abruptly disbanded by the July 14 Revolution in Iraq. The Republic of Iraq is formed August 30 – September 5 West Indian residents of the London suburb of Notting Hill are the victims of racially motivated violence during race riots September 28 The constitution of the Fifth French Republic, initiated by Charles de Gaulle, is ac­ cepted in a referendum December 5 – December 13 The First All-African Peoples’ Conference in Accra is attended by more than 300 delegates from twenty-eight African states

August 15 Cyprus attains independence after Cypriot community leaders reach an agreement with representatives of Turkey, Greece, and the United Kingdom September 26 Ceylon’s prime minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike is assassinated in Colombo. He is succeeded the following year by his wife, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who becomes the world’s first elected female head of state October 30 Anti-colonial riots in Stanleyville (today Kisangani) in the Belgian Congo, result in the death of thirty protesters October 31 The Western Nigerian Government Broadcasting Corporation transmits the first television broadcast in Africa

1960 January 1 Cameroon is the first of seventeen African nations to gain independence in 1960, the others being Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Belgian Congo, French Congo, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta (Burkina Faso), Somalia, Dahomey (Benin), Mauritania, Madagascar, Niger, Chad, Togo, Gabon, and the Central African Republic. The United Nations declares 1960 as the Year of Africa

December 18 The United States launches SCORE, the world’s first communications satellite, which broadcasts a Christmas message from US president Eisenhower via an onboard tape recorder December 31 Rebel troops under the command of Ernesto “Che” Guevara force the resignation of the Cuban dictator Batista. Fidel Castro is installed as the new Cuban prime minister on February 16, 1959

1959 March 10 An uprising in Tibet results in the People’s Liberation Army taking control of the entire country and the Dalai Lama permanently fleeing July 24 The “Kitchen Debate” between US vicepresident Nixon and Soviet premier Khrushchev takes place at the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow August 14 The US Explorer 6 satellite transmits the first pictures of Earth from orbit. Almost two months later, on October 7, 1959, the Soviet probe Luna 3 takes the first photographs of the dark side of the moon

8 News of the overwhelming majority vote in favor of independence spreads throughout Algeria, Algiers, July 5, 1962.

February 3 British prime minister Macmillan delivers his “Wind of Change” speech to the South African parliament, in which he announces that the British Government intends to grant independence to its African colonies March 21 South African police kill sixty-seven demonstrators of the Pan-African Congress during the Sharpeville Massacre April 21 Brasília is inaugurated as the new federal capital of Brazil May 11 Fugitive Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann is abducted by Mossad agents in Buenos Aires and taken to Israel to stand trial. On December 15, 1961, he is sentenced to death by the Jerusalem District Court


August 19 The satellite Sputnik 5 is launched, with the dogs Belka and Strelka (Russian for “Squirrel” and “Little Arrow,” respectively), forty mice, two rats, and a variety of plants on board September 14 The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is formed in Baghdad October 12 Inejir�o Asanuma, chairman of the Japan Socialist Party, is assassinated during a taped political debate in Tokyo by Otoya Yamaguchi wielding a wakizashi (samurai sword) October 30 The first successful kidney transplant is performed by Dr. Michael Woodruff at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary December 9 A state visit by French president Charles de Gaulle to the city of Aïn Témouchent in Algeria results in rioting, resulting in the death of 127 people

9 Members of the Delegation of Cameroon in the United Nations Assembly Hall, New York.

1961 January 17 During his final State of the Union address, US president Eisenhower warns of a “military-industrial complex” in which the vested interests of the defense industry could come to influence US public policy

May 1 The Freedom Riders begin their interstate bus rides in the American South to protest against the non-enforcement of US Supreme Court decisions ruling that segregated public buses are unconstitutional

June 16, 1961 Soviet ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defects to France while on tour in Paris with the Kirov Ballet August 13 The German Democratic Republic begins the construction of the Berlin Wall

10 National Guard soldiers escort Freedom Riders on their journey from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi, Montgomery, May 1961.

October 11 The Second Vatican Council is opened by Pope John XXIII. The council results in increased efforts by the Vatican toward dialogue with other religions

November 1 The “Hungry Generation” movement is launched in Calcutta. Comprising a range of avant-garde writers, many of the movement’s leaders would lose their jobs or be imprisoned by the incumbent government

October 16 – October 28 The Cuban Missile Crisis breaks out after the Soviet Union stations nuclear missiles in Cuba. The conflict is eventually resolved with both countries agreeing to remove missiles from bases close to the other’s territory

December 11 US involvement in the Vietnam War officially begins when 400 US Army Special Forces personnel arrive in Saigon to train South Vietnamese soldiers

December 9 Tanganyika (part of modern-day Tanzania) becomes a republic

1962 January 1 Western Samoa gains independence from New Zealand January 24 The Organisation de l’armée secrète (Organisation of the Secret Army)—a far-right nationalist group opposed to Algerian independence—bombs the French Foreign Ministry in Paris

April 12 The Vostok spacecraft, piloted by Yuro Gargarian, completes a full orbit of Earth, making the Soviet cosmonaut the first human to journey into outer space

February 7 The US embargo against Cuba begins, prohibiting all US-related Cuban imports and exports

April 27 Sierra Leone gains independence from the United Kingdom

August 27 W. E. B. Du Bois dies in Accra, Ghana

September 1 The Conference of Heads of State in Belgrade results in the formation of the NonAligned Movement, which advocates a more prominent role for small and newly independent nations in the United Nations

December 19 An armed action by the Indian Armed Forces ends 451 years of Portuguese occupation in Goa

March 18 France and Algeria sign the Évian Accords in Évian-les-Bains, ending the Algerian War and paving the way for Algeria’s independence on July 3, 1962 July 1 Rwanda gains independence from Belgium July 23 The world’s first transatlantic television signal is transmitted between New York and Brussels

June 26 US president Kennedy delivers his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech to an estimated audience of 450,000 in West Berlin August 27 Thousands of Americans converge upon Washington, D.C., for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his “I Have A Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, calling for an end to racism

May 16 A military coup in South Korea renders the democratically elected government of President Yun powerless and brings about the end of the country’s Second Republic

January 17 The former prime minister of the Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, is secretly executed. The announcement of his death sparks off protests across Europe and Africa

April 17 – April 19 Counter-revolutionary forces, with support from the US Central Intelligence Agency, unsuccessfully invade the Bay of Pigs in Cuba

October 20 The Sino-Indian War breaks out over the Himalayan border dispute

1963 January 26 Iranian Shah Pahlavi introduces a series of reforms known as the White Revolution, which include major land reform, granting suffrage to women, the creation of a national literacy program, and the privatization of nationalized manufacturing industries April 7 Yugoslavia is proclaimed a socialist republic, with Tito named “President for Life” April 20 Members of the terrorist group Front de libération du Québec bomb the city’s Canadian Army Recruitment Centre June 11 Vietnamese monk Thích Quång Đúc burns himself to death on the streets of Saigon to protest the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam’s Ngô Đình Diê.m administration. June 20 The Washington-Moscow Direct Communications Link (also known in popular culture as the “red telephone”), a Moscow-Washington hotline that was to facilitate quick diplomatic contact, is established as a direct result of the Cuban Missile Crisis

November 22 US president Kennedy is assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas December 12 The formation of the Republic of Kenya marks the end of over seventy years of colonial rule

1964 January Mao Zedong publishes Máo Zhuˇxí Yuˇlù (Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, to also known as “The Little Red Book”) February 25 Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) beats Sonny Liston in Miami Beach, Florida, and is crowned the heavyweight champion of the world March 20 Cosmic background radiation caused by the Big Bang is discovered by astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson April 26 Tanganyika and Zanzibar merge to form Tanzania after the Arab dynasty in Zanzibar is overthrown May 27 Indian prime minister Nehru dies. He is succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri May 28 The Palestinian National Council adopts the Palestinian National Covenant, which results in the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) June 12 Nelson Mandela and seven other members of the African National Congress are sentenced to life imprisonment for incitement to rebellion at the Rivonia Trial July 2 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is signed into law by US president Johnson. It outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in facilities that serve the general public and at the workplaces August 1 Barbados, Bermuda, Guyana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Jamaica all

celebrate of the end of slavery in these former and continuing British colonies September 25 The Mozambican War of Independence commences between the guerrilla forces of the Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (Mozambique Liberation Front) and Portugal October 14 Soviet premier Khrushchev is forced into

August 5 The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 breaks out after escalating tensions between the two countries over the disputed provinces of Jammu and Kashmir August 6 US president Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act into law, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting August 9 Singapore is expelled from the Federation of Malaysia and becomes an independent city-state October 18 The Communist Party of Indonesia, the largest non-ruling communist party in the world, is officially banned on March 12, 1966

11 South Vietnamese government troops sleep in a U.S. Navy troop carrier on their way back to the Ca Mau, August 1962.

November 6 Cuba and the United States formally agree to start “Freedom Flights,” an airlift for Cubans who want to go to the United States

“voluntary” retirement by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He is succeeded by Leonid Brezhnev October 16 China successfully detonates its first nuclear bomb, becoming the world’s fifth nuclear power October 24 Northern Rhodesia attains independence and becomes the Republic of Zambia

1965 January 4 During his State of the Union address, US president Johnson proclaims his “Great Society,” a set of domestic programs that seek to eliminate poverty and racial injustice in the United States January 24 Former British prime minister Winston Churchill dies February 12 A group of students from the University of Sydney commence a “Freedom Ride” from Sydney to various segregated New South Wales towns. Inspired by the US Freedom Riders, the group protested, picketed, and advocated for civil rights for aboriginal Australians February 21 Malcolm X is assassinated by two Nation of Islam members in New York March 18 Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov becomes the first person to walk in space July 14 US spacecraft Mariner 4 takes the first close-up photographs of Mars



2 The Mona Lisa returns to The Louvre after the war, Paris, 1945.

1 Josef Albers and students of his photography class in the cabbage patch near the Studies Building of Black Mountain College, 1944.

3 Two school children view Sidney Noland's painting Ned Kelly at Stringy Bark Creek at the South Melbourne Arts Festival, Melbourne, 1946.

4 Willem de Kooning sitting next to one of his Woman paintings in his studio, New York, 1946. Photograph: Harry Bowden.

5 Group photograph of the participants of the Høst exhibition of Dutch artists, Copenhagen, 1948. Back row f.l.t.r: Sixten Wiklund, Ernest Mancoba, Carl-Henning Pedersen, Erik Ortvad, Ejler Bille, Knud Nielsen, Tage Mellerup, Aage Vogel-Jørgensen and Erik Thommesen. Middle row: Karel Appel, Tony Appel, Christian Dotremont, Sonja Ferlov with her son Wonga, and Else Alfelt. Front row: Asger Jorn, Corneille, Constant and Henry Heerup.

6 Members of the artists' group Gelanggang Seniman Merdeka including Mochtar Apin, Baharudin en Asrul Sani and Chairil Anwar, Jakarta, 1948.

7 A Piet Mondrian's studio at 15 East 59th Street after his death, with Victory Boogie Woogie (unfinished; 1942-4), February 1944, Photograph: Harry Holtzman

8 Israeli sculptor Zeev Ben Zvi working on the Holocaust memorial at Mishmar HaEmek, 1945.

9 The All-Union Exhibition takes place at the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, 1946.

10 Lucio Fontana visits the ruins of his studio which was destroyed by bombs during the Second World War, Milan, 1946. 11 Participants from Israel and Palestine at the 24th edition of the Venice Biennale, Venice, 1948. 103

12 The Third General Exhibition of Plastic Arts takes place at the Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes, Lisbon, 1948.

13 All six founding members of the Progressive Artists’ Group photographed during their exhibition, Bombay, 1949. f.l.t.r. (back row): M. F. Husain, S. K. Bakre, S. H. Raza. (Front row): F. N. Souza, K. H. Ara, H. A. Gade.

14 Whilst visiting from Paris, Shafic Abboud and a companion named Jacqueline partake in a field trip organized by the Académie libanaise des Beaux-Arts, Choueifat, 1950.

15 Aldo Turchario, Raffaele Leonporri, Antonello Trombadori and Renato Guttuso pose in front of the painting La Battaglia di Ponte dell'Ammiraglio in Guttuso's studio at the Villa Massimo, Rome, 1951.

16 Isamu Noguchi visits buildings, ruins and construction works in Hiroshima, 1951 [f.l.t.r.: Isamu Noguchi, Kenzo Tange, Tsutomu Hiroi, Michio Noguchi.]

17 The members of the Brazilian Grupo Ruptura, 1952. [f.l.t.r: Lothar Charoux, Anatol Wladislaw, Kasmir Fejer and Waldemar Cordeiro.]

18 An exhibition of works by Rafael Soriano opens at the Caseta del Parque Central, Havana, October 1950 [Group photograph with Loló Soldevilla (fourth from left), Rafael Soriano (sixth from left), Wifredo Lam (fourth from right), and others.]

19 Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner in the studio, 1950 [Long Island, New York, 1950]. Photograph by Hans Namuth.

20 A view of the studio of Seniman Indonesia Muda (SIM) during a visit by President Sukarno, Yogyakarta, 1955.

21 Group photograph of participants of an exhibition of the Movimento per l'Arte Concreta at the Libreria Salto, Milan, 1951 [F.l.t.r: Giulia Mazzon Sala, Regina Bracchi, Salto Jr., Gianni Bertini, Luigi Veronesi, Bruno Munari, Giuseppe Salto, Nino di Salvatore, Galliano Mazzon, Gillo Dorfles, and Gianni Monnet.]

22 Installation of works by Alexander Calder at the second edition of the São Paulo Biennial, 1953.


24 Artist Dong Xiwen and Mao Zedong view works together with academy administrators during a visit to the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, 1953. 23 Reg Butler in his studio, sculpting Working Model for the Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner, Berkhamsted, c.1955.

25 Mahmoud Hammad, Adham Ismail, Fathi Muhammad and other students from the Middle East pose for a photograph with the Director at the Scuola dell'arte della medaglia, Rome, 1954.

26 The Surrealist Group including Man Ray, André Breton, Alberto Giacometti and Wifredo Lam reconvene at the Café de la Place Blanche three decades after their first activities together, Paris, 1953

27 Installation view of Sandú Darié and Luis Martínez Pedro’s two-person exhibition at the Pavilion of Social Sciences, University of Havana, Havana, 1955. 28 Anwar Jalal Shemza and Safdar Ali (right) attend the opening of an exhibition of the Lahore Arts Group, Murree, 1954

30 Pablo Picasso’s Massacre in Korea is displayed on the streets of Warsaw, 1956.

29 Alberto Giacometti in his studio, Paris, 1954.

31 The Fifth Exhibition of the New Horizons Group opens at the Tel Aviv Museum, 1953.

32 Ben Enwonwu works on a sculpture in the studio he shared with William Reid Dick, London, mid 1950s.

33 The Jikken Ko�bo� group perform the ballet Eve Future in collaboration with the Matsuo –za Theater, Tokyo, 1955. Akemi Ballet Company at the Haiyu 107

35 Pinot Gallizio, Asger Jorn, Piero Simondo, and friends at work at the Experimental Laboratory, Alba, September 1956. 34 Vladimír Boudník during one of his actions on the streets of Prague, 1959.

36 Members of the Seniman Indonesia Muda (SIM) group work on the relief Flora and Fauna of Indonesia at the Kemayoran International Airport, Jakarta, 1957.

37 The Group 2 show, created by Richard Hamilton, John McHale and John Voelcker, is installed at the exhibition This is Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1956.

39 Teachers and students work on a mural at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, 1958. 38 Rauschenberg in his Front Street Studio with Interview (1955), Untitled (c. 1954), the second state of Monogram (1955–59; second state 1956–58), Bed (1955), and Odalisk (1955/1958), New York, 1958.

40 Gutai members at the Outdoor Gutai Art Exhibition, Ashiya Park, Ashiya, 1956. [Top row: Tanaka Atsuko, Murakami Saburo¯ , Yamazaki Tsuruko; middle row: Mizuguchi Kyo¯ ichi, Kanayama Akira, Shimamoto Sho¯ zo¯ ; bottom row, f.l.t.r.: Yoshihara Jiro¯ , Sadamasa Motonaga and Horii Nichiei.] 41 David Smith and Helen Frankenthaler embrace in Frankenthaler's studio, New York, 1957.

42 K.O. Götz uses a rake to create one of his paintings at his studio, Düsseldorf, 1959.

44 Kazuo Shiraga painting with his feet at the 2nd Gutai Art Exhibition, Tokyo, 1956.

43 Yayoi Kusama in her New York studio, 1958-59. 109

46 Gustav Metzger publicly displays his auto-destructive art by spraying hydrochloric acid on colored nylon sheets at his South Bank Demonstration, London, 1961.

45 Victor Musgrave, Anwar Jalal Shemza and the art critic George Butcher at Gallery One, London, 1960.

47 Willem de Kooning speaks at a symposium held at the Judson Center, New York, alongside Isamu Noguchi (seated second right) and Clement Greenberg (seated right), New York, 1961.

48 Malangatana (seated on the right on the shelf in the background) relaxes with Pancho Guedes and his family and colleagues at Guedes’ studio in Lourenço Marques, 1960. .

50 Niki de Saint Phalle creating one of her shooting (Tir) paintings at Galerie Impasse Ronsin, Paris, 1961

49 A group of young artists stage The Wall Exhibition of informel painting as a protest against the more conservative art on display at the Kukjeon (National Art Exhibition) inside the Duksoogung Palace, Seoul, 1960.

52 Patty Mucha and Claes Oldenburg performing in Snapshots for the City at Judson Memorial Church, New York, 1960.

51 Installation view of the Second Neoconcrete Exhibition at MEC, Rio de Janeiro, 1960.

53 The members of the Gorgona group at the first New Tendencies exhibition, Zagreb, 1961. [f.l.t.r.: unidentified friend, Josip Vaništa, Radoslav Putar, Ivo Štajner, Matko Meštrovic´, Slobodan Vulicˇevic´, Julije Knifer, Đuro Seder.]

54 Jacques Villeglé tears posters from a wall in Montparnasse, Paris, 1961.

55 Jeram Patel at work in his studio in the Department of Painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, c. 1961. 111

57 Allan Kaprow creates his environment Stockroom for the exhibition Art in Motion at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 1961.

56 The American delegation including Nina Simone (third from left) and Hale Woodruff (second from right) arrive for the cultural festival in Lagos, 1961.

58 Marta Minujin destroys all of the works she has created during her time in Paris in La Destruccion (The Destruction) at Impasse Ronsin, Paris, 1961.

59 K.G. Subramanyan working on his large-scale mural, the King of the Dark Chamber, later installed at the cultural centre Rabindralaya in Lucknow, 1963.

60 Gulammohammed Sheikh, Himmat Shah and F.N. Souza converse at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, c. 1962.

61 Testumi Kudo performs Happenings: Philosophy of Impotence at the Cinéma-Studio de Boulogne, Paris, 1963.

62 George Maciunas, Dick Higgins, Wolf Vostell, Benjamin Patterson and Emmet Williams perform Philip Corner’s Piano Activities during the FLUXUS: Internationale Festspiele Neuester Musik at the Städtisches Museum, Wiesbaden, 1962.

63 The exhibition Entartete Kunst. Bildersturm vor 25 Jahren (Degenerate Art: The Iconoclasm 25 Years Ago) takes place at Haus der Kunst, Munich, 1962.

64 Nam June Paik’s Exposition of Music – Electronic Television opens at the Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal, 1963.

65 Dr. Saburi Oladeni Biobaku holds his opening speech at the inauguration of the First International Congress of African Culture held at the National Gallery, Salisbury, 1962.

66 A meeting of the “Nouvelle Tendance” group at the GRAV [Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel] studio at rue Beautreillis, Paris, 1962. [From left to right: Dieter Hacker; Angel Duarte (Equipo 57); Uli Pohl; François Morellet (GRAV); Carlos Cruz-Diez; Ivan Picelj; Bernard Aubertin; Luis Tomasello; Henk Peeters; Horacio García- Rossi (GRAV); Julio Le Parc (GRAV); Gregorio Vardanega; Jesús Soto; Michelle Yvaral; Martha Le Parc; Jean-Pierre Yvaral (GRAV); Dada Maino; Martha Boto; Mme. Morellet; Francisco Sobrino (GRAV); Joël Stein (GRAV).] 113

67 The Third Annual Festival of the Mbari Mbayo club takes place, Osogbo, 1965. 68 David Siqueiros delivers a lecture to fine art students in front of his mural Del Porfirismo a la Revolución three days after being released from Lecumberri prison, Mexico City, July, 1964.

69 Artists and tutors including Elias Zaiat, Mahmoud Hammad, Nassir Chora and Fateh Moudarres judge students works at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Damascus, 1965.

70 Ernst Wilhelm Nay’s installation of three Augenbilder (Eye paintings) suspended from the ceiling garners attention at the third edition of the Documenta, Kassel, 1964. 71 Hi Red Center’s Cleaning Event (officially known as Be Clean! and Campaign to Promote Cleanliness and Order in the Metropolitan Area) takes place in Tokyo, 1964

73 Shigeko Kubota performs Vagina Painting as part of the Perpetual Fluxfest event held at the Cinematheque in New York, July 1965.

72 Celebrated passista Miro with Hélio Oiticica’s Parangolé P02 Flag 01 at the exhibition Opinião 65, Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, 1965.

74 Marta Minujin performs Leyendo las noticias en el Río de la Plata (Reading the News in the Río de la Plata), Buenos Aires, 1965

76 Revellers enjoy a party at Andy Warhol’s studio, the Factory at 231 East 47th Street, New York, August 1965. 75 Tadeusz Kantor’s Cricotage takes place at the TPSP cafe, Warsaw, 1965 [F.l.t.r.: Zbigniew Gostomski, Wiesław Borowski, Edward Krasin�ski.] 115


1944 February Piet Mondrian dies in New York, leaving his painting Victory Boogie Woogie (1942–43) unfinished March Max Bill organizes the exhibition Konkrete Kunst (Concrete Art), the first international exhibition of concrete art, at the Kunsthalle Basel. The show subsequently travels around Europe, inspiring the founding of art groups May Eugene W. Smith exhibits photographs of the Pacific war zones at the Museum of Modern Art in New York Halim el-Dabh premiers his experimental manipulated recording Ta’abir al Zaar (The Expression of Zaar) at the Expositions de l’art indépendant (Exhibition of the Art and

1 Works by Pablo Picasso installed at the Salon d’Automne, 1944, the artist’s first exhibition in Paris after the end of German occupation

Liberty Group) held at the Lycée Français in Cairo, constituting one of the earliest examples of electronic music June The first and only issue of the journal Arturo: Revista de artes abstractas is published in Buenos Aires, and includes Gyula Kósice’s essay “La aclimatación artística gratuita a las llamadas escuelas” (The Free Acclimatization to the So-Called Schools) and Rhod Rothfuss’s “El Marco: Un Problema de la plástica actual” (The Frame: A Problem in Contemporary Art) September The exhibition La prima mostra d’arte Italia libera (The First Art Exhibition of a Free Italy) takes place in Rome October The Salon d’automne (Salon of Independents), also known as the Salon de la Libération (Salon of Liberty) takes place in the Grand Palais in Paris, with a focus exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s work Jacob Lawrence exhibits his “Migration of the Negro” series at the Museum of Modern Art, New York

Jean Dubuffet holds his first solo exhibition at Galerie René Drouin in Paris

Kirchner, Paul Klee, and other Brücke artists

Charlie Parker records his landmark bebop album Ko-Ko at WOR studios in New York City

December Wassily Kandinsky dies in Neuilly-sur-Seine

Georges Henein publishes the pamphlet “Prestige de la terreur” (The Prestige of Terror) a couple of days after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima

December Francis Newton Souza’s exhibition opens at the Bombay Art Society

1945 January Richard Wright publishes his memoir Black Boy Chester Himes publishes If He Hollers Let Him Go, detailing the life of an African American shipyard worker in Los Angeles during World War II The exhibition The Negro Artist Comes of Age: A National Survey of Contemporary American Artists takes place at the Albany Institute of History and Art in New York, featuring the work of artists such as Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, and Charles White

Albert Camus publishes his reaction to the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in the French Resistance newspaper, Combat George Orwell publishes his dystopian novel Animal Farm September Jorge Luis Borges publishes his short story “El Aleph” in the Argentinian literary magazine Sur Roberto Rossellini releases his film Roma città aperta (Rome, Open City) Karl Jaspers delivers a series of lectures exploring the collective guilt of the German people at Heidelberg University, which are subsequently published as Die Schuldfrage (The Question of German Guilt)

April Francis Bacon exhibits his Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion at the Lefevre Gallery in London to much controversy

October The Commemorative Exhibition of the Liberation takes places at the National Museum of Contemporary Art at Deoksugung Palace in Seoul

May Howard Putzel organizes the exhibition A Problem for Critics at 67 Gallery in New York as a challenge for someone to come up with a name to define recent tendencies in US painting

The first issue of the Süddeutsche Zeitung is published in Munich, the first newspaper to receive a license from the US military administration of Bavaria The inaugural exhibition of Arte Concreto-­ Invención opens at the house of Dr. Enrique Pichon Rivière in Buenos Aires. Featuring the works of Ramón Melgar, Juan Carlos Paz, Rhod Rothfuss, Estéban Eitler, Gyula Kosice, Valdo Wellington, and Carmelo Arden Quin, the exhibition is considered the first example of concrete art shown in South America

The Expositions de l’art indépendant (Exhibition of Independent Art), the first postwar exhibition of Egypt’s surrealist Art and Liberty Group, takes place at the Lycée Français in Cairo, including the work of Ramsès Younan June The first postwar exhibition of modern art in Germany takes place at a private house belonging to the artist Hans Uhlmann. Exhibited are classical expressionist works by Jeanne Mammen, Oskar Nerlinger, Hans Uhlmann, Renée Sintenis, and Georg Tappert Crimes hitlériens (Hitler's Crimes) opens at the Grand Palais in Paris, an exhibition exploring the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis during the war Germany’s first postwar art school, the Hochschule für bildende Künste, re-opens in Berlin July The first exhibition of the Kammer der Kunstschaffenden takes place in Berlin, featuring works by Erich Heckel, Karl Hofer, Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Max Pechstein, Karl Schmitt-Rottluff, Gerhard Marcks, and other formerly “degenerate” artists August The first postwar commercial art gallery, the Galerie Gerd Rosen, opens in a former textile and military supplies shop in Berlin, exhibiting works by Ernst Barlach, Marc Chagall, Lyonel Feininger, Ernst Ludwig

1946 January The exhibition Bayerischer Gemälde des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts (Bavarian Paintings of the 15th and 16th Centuries) opens at Munich’s former Haus der deutschen Kunst, which has been now officially renamed “Haus der Kunst” The All-Union Exhibition takes place at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, showing 1,459 works by 555 artists February John Cage begins composing his Sixteen Sonatas and Four Preludes for Prepared Piano Picasso unveils The Charnel House (1944– 45) at the Art et Résistance (Art and Resistance) exhibition in Paris. May The first edition of the magazine Plastic Arts is published in Seoul The first Salon des réalités nouvelles (Salon of New Realities) takes place at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Paris June Boris Taslitzky exhibits his “Buchenwald”

Jean Fautrier exhibits for the first time the series “Otages” (Hostages) he created during the Paris occupation at the Galerie René Drouin Jean-Paul Sartre delivers his lecture “L’Existentialisme est-il un humanisme?” (“Existentialism is a Humanism”) at Club Maintenant in Paris, which would be published the following year. Alfred Hitchcock releases the film Spellbound, which contains a dream sequence designed by Salvador Dalí November Tomás Maldonado and others found the Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención (Concrete-Invention Art Association) in Buenos Aires The first postwar German art group, Der Ruf, is exhibited for the first time at the Grünen Haus in Dresden Léopold Sédar Senghor publishes his collection of poems Chants d’Ombre (Shadow Songs) in Paris. Predominantly written prior to the outbreak of the War, many of the poems reflect upon the conflict between French and African culture.

2 Visitors admire Albrecht Dürer's self-portrait at the exhibition Bavarian Paintings of the 15th and 16th Centuries at Haus der Kunst, Munich, 1946. series of paintings at the Galerie La Gentilhommière in Paris Ad Reinhardt publishes his visual essay “How to Look at Modern Art in America” in PM magazine

July The Salon des Réalités Nouvelles is founded in Paris by art lover Fredo Sidès. August Tomás Maldonado and other artists publish the “Manifesto invencionista” (Inventionist Manifesto) in the magazine Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención. The first Madí exhibition takes place at Galería van Riel in the French Institute for

Gallery in New York and includes works by himself, Pietro Lazzari, Boris Margo, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Theodoros Stamos, and Clyfford Still February Lee Kwae-dae writes a detailed report on the North Korean art scene in the journal New Paradise Alberto Burri is repatriated to Italy from the United States after spending almost four years in a prisoner-of-war camp in Hereford, Texas The Group of Seven exhibit for the first time at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art Primo Levi publishes Se questo è un uomo (If This Is A Man, also known as Survival in Auschwitz), describing his incarceration in the Auschwitz concentration camp

3 The First Exhibition of the Asociación Arte concreto-invención (AACI) opens at the Salón Peuser, Buenos Aires, March 1946

Superior Studies in Buenos Aires, officially launching the movement. Gyula Kosice concurrently publishes the “Madí Manifesto” The first Ferienkurse für internationale Neue Musik (International Summer School for New Music) is held in Darmstadt The Erste Allgemeine Deutsche Kunstausstellung (First General German Art Exhibition) opens in Dresden, exhibiting many works by artists previously declared “degenerate” November Romare Bearden publishes his essay “The Negro Artist’s Dilemma” in the journal Critique: A Review of Contemporary Art Lucio Fontana and his students at the Altamira academy publish “Manifesto Blanco” (White Manifesto) pamphlet in Buenos Aires, announcing his aim for a “Spatialist” art László Moholy-Nagy dies of leukemia at the age of fifty-one in Chicago December Dylan Thomas publishes his collection of poems Deaths and Entrances, many of which deal with the effects of World War II

1947 January Robert Antelme publishes L’Espèce humaine (The Human Race) concerning his experiences in the concentration camps The group Pelukis Rakyat (People’s Painters) is founded in Jogjakarta by the artists Affandi and Hendra Gunawan Barnett Newman organizes the exhibition The Ideographic Picture at Betty Parsons

March Samuel Kootz organizes the first exhibition of US abstract expressionist art in Europe at the Galerie Maeght in Paris June Otto Frank publishes his daughter Anne’s diary as Het Achterhuis (The Diary of a Young Girl) May Willi Baumeister publishes his book Das Unbekannte in der Kunst (The Unknown in Art), championing an art that is universally relevant and an artistic freedom that embodies a responsibility toward humanity Albert Camus publishes La Peste (The Plague) June The first exhibition of the group Fronte Nuovo delle Arti takes place at the Galleria della Spiga in Milan, featuring work by Renato Guttuso, Renato Birolli, Emilio Vedova, and others The Musée National d’Art Moderne opens in Paris

December Kwame Nkrumah publishes Towards Colonial Freedom, a manifesto that called for the introduction of a Marxist-Leninist ideology in African politics The New Realists exhibition takes place at the Hwa-shin Gallery in Seoul

1948 January Léopold Sédar Senghor publishes Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française (Anthology of New Negro and Malagasy Poetry in the French Language), which contains the introduction “Orphée Noir” (“Black Orpheus”) by JeanPaul Sartre Working under the pseudonym André Tamm, K. O. Götz publishes the first edition of the journal Metamorphose, dedicated to “experimental contemporary art and poetry” Jackson Pollock holds his first solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York, where he exhibits his famous “drip” paintings Fei Mu releases the film Spring in a Small Town Alberto Giacometti exhibits new works at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York; Jean-Paul Sartre writes the preface for the catalogue February The definitive version of Yasunari Kawabata’s Yukiguni (Snow Country) is published. An integration of nine separately published works, the book is a classic of modern Japanese literature March New York’s Museum of Non-Objective Painting organizes the exhibition Gegenstandslose Malerei in Amerika (Abstract Art

September Henri Matisse publishes his artist book Jazz

Ben Enwonwu holds his first solo exhibition at London’s Berkeley Galleries November The first issue of the quarterly journal Présence Africaine is published by Alioune Diop in Paris Lucio Fontana publishes his “Primo Manifesto dello Spazialismo” (First Manifesto of Spatialism) in Buenos Aires

Vladimír Boudník conducts his first “Events in the Street” in Prague at the end of April as part of the “Art-Explosionalism” manifesto­­ that he had just published May Alberto Burri holds his first solo exhibition at the Galleria La Margherita in Rome The 24th Venice Biennale opens, the first to be staged after World War II Norman Mailer’s first novel The Naked and the Dead is published, based on his experiences during the Philippines Campaign in World War II June The First International Congress of Art Critics is held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris July Ezra Pound publishes The Pisan Cantos August Paul Celan publishes “Todesfuge” (“Death Fugue”), which addresses the horrors of the concentration camps September Constant publishes “CoBrA Manifesto” in the journal Reflex #1 Harold Rosenberg publishes his famous essay “The Herd of Independent Minds: Has the Avant-Garde Its Own Mass Culture?” in the journal Commentary Luchino Visconti releases the film La Terra Trema (The Earth Trembles) The survey show Overseas Exhibition of South African Art opens at the Tate Gallery in London. It includes the work of fifty-three white South Africans, as well as that of Gerard Sekoto, which garners widespread praise October The first performance of Pierre Schaeffer’s Cinq études de bruits (Five Studies of Noises) takes place on French National Radio, one of the first public broadcasts of concrete music

August Arnold Schoenberg completes his composition A Survivor from Warsaw Op. 46, paying tribute to Holocaust victims.

October Cai Chusheng and  Zheng Junli release the film The Spring River Flows East. Now considered a classic of Hong Kong cinema, the film details the trials and tribulations of a family during the Second Sino-Japanese War

Willem de Kooning has his first solo exhibition at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York, where he exhibits his black-and-white abstract paintings

November The Korean Ministry of Education launches the first Kukjeon (National Art Exhibition) as a platform for Korean culture

4 Madí Exhibition at the 3éme Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, Paris, 1948. in America), which opens at the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe, before later traveling to Düsseldorf, Mannheim, Munich, and Stuttgart Ismael Rodríguez releases the film Nosotros los pobres (We the Poor) Sidney Nolan first exhibits his famous “Kelly” series of paintings at the Velasquez Gallery in Melbourne

The first exhibition of the Ofakim Hadashim (New Horizons) group takes place at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art Alexander Dymschitz, head of the Cultural Division of the Soviet Military Government in Berlin, publishes his two-part essay “Über die formalistische Richtung in der deutschen Malerei” (On Formalist Tendencies Within German Painting) in the newspaper Tägliche Rundschau, providing the first high-profile Soviet assessment of German art and condemning the domination of formalist tendencies within painting Vittorio De Sica releases the film Ladri di biciclette (The Bicycle Thief)


December The first exhibition of Movimento per l’arte concreta (Concrete Art Movement) is held

May Heinrich Böll publishes his first novella Der Zug war pünktlich (The Train Was on Time), focusing on the experience of German soldiers fighting on the Eastern Front The Ausstellung sowjetischer Malerei (Exhibition of Soviet Painting), a major exhibition of socialist realist painting, takes place at the Haus der Kultur der Sowjetunion in East Berlin

Adolph Gottlieb, Morris Graves, Hans Hofmann, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Mark Tobey, and Bradley Walker Tomlin

May Eugène Ionesco’s first play La Cantatrice chauve (The Bald Soprano) premieres at the Théâtre des Noctambules in Paris

October Curzio Malaparte publishes his book La Pelle (The Skin), detailing the myriad social

June Aimé Césaire’s essay Discours sur le colonialisme (Discourse on Colonialism) is published in Paris Alejandro Otero, Jesús Rafael Soto, Rafael Zapata, Bernardo Chataing, Régulo Pérez, Genaro Moreno, Omar Carreño, and others found the group Los Disidentes (The Dissenters) in Paris, concurrently publishing their “Manifesto No”

June Simone de Beauvoir publishes Le Deuxième sexe (The Second Sex) George Orwell publishes 1984 5 Participants of the 1st Exhibition of Modern Art, Krakow, 1948 at the Libreria Salto in Milan. The group is comprised of Bruno Munari, Gillo Dorfles, Gianni Monnet, and Atanasio Soldati Alan Paton publishes Cry, The Beloved Country Roberto Rossellini releases the film Germania anno zero (Germany, Year Zero) Barnett Newman publishes his essay “The Sublime is Now” in the journal Tiger’s Eye Tadeusz Kantor organizes the First Exhibition of Modern Art at the Pałac Sztuki w Krakowie, featuring works by a young Andrzej Wróblewski, as well as Henryk Staz˙ewski and Alfred Lenica The nascent Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) holds its second major exhibition, 40,000 Years of Modern Art, at the Academy Cinema in London


July Yukio Mishima publishes his autobiographical novel Kamen no Kokuhaku (Confessions of a Mask) The All-China Art Workers Association organize the First National Art Exhibition at the Beijing School of Arts; it is the first major exhibition to take place after the end of the war with Japan and the only one held prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China The first Exhibition of the Progressive Artists’ Group at the Bombay Art Society represents the first major showing of the group’s work August Claude Lévi-Strauss publishes Structures élémentaires de la parenté (The Elementary Structures of Kinship) The influential Uruguayan artist and teacher Joaquín Torres García dies September The exhibition Der Blaue Reiter München und die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (The Blue Rider Munich and the Art of the 20th

January Max Bill publishes his influential essay “Die mathematische Denkweise in der Kunst unserer Zeit” (The Mathematical Approach in Contemporary Art) in the Swiss journal Werk, in which he argues for an art free from any reference to the existing world March Isamu Noguchi holds his first postwar solo exhibition at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York Vladimír Boudník publishes his program of “explosionalism” at the State School of Graphic Art summer school at Nový Falkenburk. He expands upon this program a couple of weeks later, producing the “Explosionalism Manifesto No. 2” April The first volume of Louis Aragon’s Les Communistes (The Communists) is published Hkielmar Lers releases the film Adamah, which was shot in Palestine just prior to the establishment of the State of Israel

July The exhibition Das Menschenbild in unserer Zeit (The Image of Man in our Time) takes place at the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt concurrent with the Darmstadt Talks at the Kunsthalle 7 Artists Sessions take place at Studio 35, April 1950, New York [Left to right: James Brooks, Ad Reinhardt, Richard Pousette-Dart, Louise Bourgeois, Herbert Ferber, Bradley Walker Tomlin, Janice Biala, Robert Goodnough, Hedda Sterne, David Hare, Barnett Newman, Seymour Lipton, Norman Lewis, Jimmy Ernst.] Photograph by Max Yavno. transformations that took place in Italy immediately following the Armitace

November CoBrA artists first show together as a group at the Exposition Internationale d’Art Expérimental (International Exhibition of Experimental Art), which is held at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

January Maruki Iri and Maruki Toshi tour five of the “Hiroshima Panels” to fifty Japanese cities

Century) at Munich’s Haus der Kunst represents the first time that artists labeled as “degenerate” before the war are exhibited in the city The Mexican mural painter José Clemente Orozco dies in Mexico City Harold Rosenberg and Samuel Kootz organize the influential exhibition The Intra­ subjectives at the Kootz Gallery in New York, where they show work by William Baziotes, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky,

August Billy Wilder releases the film Sunset Boulevard The social and literary group Lembaga Kebudajaan Rakjat (LEKRA) is founded in Jakarta, issuing its first declaration on culture (“Mukadimah”) and establishing close links to Indonesia’s Communist Party Akira Kurosawa releases the film Rasho¯mon

Raúl Lozza organizes the Primera Exposición de Pintura Perceptista (First Exhibition of Perceptivist Painting) at the Van Riel Galería de Arte in Buenos Aires; he also publishes the manifesto “Ante la decadencia y espíritu negativo ...” (Faced with the decline and negative spirit ...) in the catalogue

1950 6 CoBrA members bring their works to First International Exhibition of Experimental Artists at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, November 1949.

UNESCO publishes The Race Question

March Alina Szapocznikow exhibits her sculptures for the first time at the VI Exposition des Artistes Juifs (Fourth Exhibition of Jewish Artists) in Paris April The so-called “Artist's Sessions” take place at Studio 35 in New York, attended by two dozen artists who later came to be known as the Abstract Expressionists Pablo Neruda publishes his collection of 340 poems Canto General (General Song) in Mexico City The group Zen 49 hold their premiere exhibition at Munich’s Galerie des Central Collecting Point

October Nemai Ghosh releases Chinnamul, the first Indian film to confront the partition of India. Sandú Darié holds his exhibition Estructuras Pictóricas (Pictorial Structures) at the Havana Lyceum in Cuba A group of writers and artists publish the “Surat Kepertjajaan Gelanggang” (The Gelanggang testimonial of beliefs) in postindependence Jakarta, beginning with the words “We are the legitimate heirs to world culture, and we are furthering this culture in our own way.” December Luis Buñuel releases his social realist film Los Olvidados (the forgotten ones)

1951 January Kofi Abrefa Busia publishes Self-Government for the Gold Coast February The work of Jackson Pollock is first exhibited in Japan as part of the First International Art Exhibition that takes place at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. The exhibition will prove to be highly influential to artists such as Takamatsu Jiro¯ Hannah Arendt publishes Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft (The Origins of Totalitarianism) The exhibition Arte astratta e concreta in Italia, 1951: Opere di artisti di Roma, Milano,

Torino, Napoli, La Spezia, Livorno, Firenze, Venezia (Abstract and Concrete Art in Italy, 1951: Works by Artists of Rome, Milan, Turin, Naples, La Spezia, Livorno, Florence, Venice) is held at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome, featuring the work of Alberto Burri, Piero Dorazio, Mimmo Rotella, Emilio Vedova, and others A conference on abstract art takes place at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and includes contributions from Alexander Calder, Fritz Glarner, Robert Motherwell, Stuart

June Saloua Raouda Choucair publishes her essay  “Kayfa Fahima al-‘Arabi Fanna at-Tasweer” (How the Arab Understood Visual Art) in the journal al-Abhaath September Helen Frankenthaler’s first solo exhibition takes place at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York October Ben Enwonwu holds his first US exhibition at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The Studio für elektronische Musik begins broadcasting on Cologne’s Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk. Over the years, it would attract to the city the likes of Karlheinz Stockhausen, Nam June Paik, Cornelius Cardew, David Tudor, Mauricio Kagel, and John Cage The first São Paulo Biennial takes place at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo

8 Installation view of the exhibition by Max Bill at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, 1951

Davis, George L. K. Morris, and Willem de Kooning, who reads his famous essay “What Abstract Art Means to Me” Le Corbusier commences work on his master plan for the Indian city of Chandigarh March Theodor W. Adorno publishes Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft (Cultural Criticism and Society), in which he famously notes that “Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch” (“To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”)

November Michel Tapié organizes the exhibition Signifiants de l’informel (Signifiers of “Informel”) at the Studio Paul Facchetti in Paris. Showing the work of Jean Dubuffet, Jean Fautrier, Georges Mathieu, Henri Michaux, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and Jaroslav Serpan, he coins the term “informel” to group all of these works together Jikken Ko¯bo¯ (Experimental Workshop) present their first collective work, a ballet entitled The Joy of Life, created to mark the first Pablo Picasso retrospective in Tokyo. The work functions as a performative manifesto of the group’s ideas and provides an

Georges Mathieu and Michel Tapié organize the exhibition Véhémences confrontées (Opposing Forces) at the Galerie Nina Dausset in Paris, where they juxtapose the work of US and European abstract artists April Gholam Hossein Gharib, Hassan Shirvani, and Hooshang Irani publish “The Nightingale’s Butcher Manifesto” on the back cover of the magazine Fighting Cock. The newly formed Baghdad Group for Modern Art exhibit for the first time at the Museum of Ancient Costumes in Baghdad May Leo Castelli organizes the iconic 9th Street Show exhibition in an empty store at 60 East 9th Street, introducing the work of sixty-one, mainly young New York artists and propagating the idea of a “New York School” of painting

January The Lahore Art Circle is founded by Ahmed Parvez, S. Safdar, Anwar Jelal Shemza, Moyene Najmi, and Ali Imam in Pakistan Frantz Fanon publishes his book Peau noire, masques blancs (Black Skin, White Masks) The Independent Group is founded in London as a collection of young artists circulating around the ICA. At the group’s first meeting, Eduardo Paolozzi passes around his “Bunk!” collages Isidore Isou’s experimental film Traité de bave et d’éternité  (Treatise on Venom And Eternity) is released February Gil J Wolman’s lettrist film L’Anticoncept (The Anticoncept) opens in Paris March Ralph Ellison publishes Invisible Man, about an African-American man whose color renders him invisible

9 The first Sao Paulo Biennial takes place at the Museu de Arte Moderna de Sao Paulo, October 1951 early indication of postwar Japanese interest in multimedia and performance art December The German artist Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) dies of food poisoning in Paris The group EXAT 51 (an abbreviation of “Eksperimentalni atelje” / “Experimental atelier”) officially form at a plenary meeting of the Association of Applied Artists of Croatia and publish their manifesto in protest against the dominance of officially sanctioned socialist realist art and the condemnation of all forms of abstraction and unacceptable motifs

September Yo�suke Yamahata publishes Kiroku-shashin: Genbaku no Nagasaki (Atomized Nagasaki: The Bombing of Nagasaki: A Photographic Record) Sandú Darié, Luis Martínez Pedro, and Mario Carreño launch the magazine Noticias de Arte (Art News) in Havana December The Grupo Ruptura exhibition at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, along with the “Manifesto Ruptura,” which was also signed in 1952, represented a debut for the group, which comprised Waldemar Cordeiro, Geraldo de Barros, Lothar Charoux, Leopold Haar, Kazimir Fejer, Anatol Wladyslaw, and Luis Sacilotto Harold Rosenberg publishes his essay “American Action Painters” in ARTnews Michel Tapié organizes the exhibition Un art autre (An Other Art) at Studio Paul Facchetti in Paris, suggesting a new terminology that encompasses both the abstract and figurative works of the likes of Jean Dubuffet, Jean Fautrier, Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, Alfonso Ossorio, Jackson Pollock,

The Soviet Fine Arts Exhibition opens in New Delhi before touring to Calcutta and Bombay April The Prima esposizione del Movimento Nucleare (First Exhibition of Nuclear Art) at the spaces of the Amici della Francia in Milan signals the formation of the group, who publish their first manifesto as part of the exhibition May Lucio Fontana and a group of sixteen other artists publish the “Manifesto del Movimento Spaziale per la televisione” (Television Manifesto of the Spatial Movement), which was simultaneously distributed during a television broadcast by Fontana

Max Bill’s first exhibition in Brazil, at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, inspires numerous Brazilian concrete artists The Exhibition of the National New Nianhua takes place at the Reading Room of the Russian Foreign Affairs Association in Beijing. Organized by the Chinese Artists Association, the exhibition demonstrates the government’s support for artists working in print media


June Amos Tutuola publishes The Palm-Wine Drinkard The Peace Bridge, designed by Isamu Noguchi, opens in Hiroshima The exhibition Mensch und Form unserer Zeit (Man and Form of Our Time) takes place at the Städtische Kunsthalle in Recklinghausen July Karlheinz Stockhausen premieres his first composition, Kreuzspiel, at the International Summer School for New Music in Darmstadt August As part of his exhibition Antonio Berni expone 22 obras (Antonio Berni Exhibits 22 Works) at the Galería Viau in Buenos Aires, the artist publishes an essay about “Nuevo Realismo” David Tudor first performs John Cage’s 4’33’’ at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, New York

10 Walter Nicks’ experimental dance group perform in front of Mathias Goeritz’s The Serpent in the courtyard of the Museo Experimental El Eco, Mexico City, 1953. Mark Tobey, Sam Francis, Pierre Soulages, Georges Mathieu, Graham Sutherland, Karel Appel, Germaine Richier, Eduardo Paolozzi, and others The Ruptura exhibition opens at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, widely considered to mark the official beginning of concrete art in Brazil

1953 January The controversial International Sculpture Competition: The Unknown Political Prisoner is held at the ICA in London, later traveling to the Museum of Modern Art, New York Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot premieres in Paris


February The first Exposição Nacional de Arte Abstrata (National Exhibition of Abstract Art) takes place at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, featuring work by Lygia Pape, Lygia Clark, and Ivan Serpa March In New York, Willem de Kooning first exhibits his “Woman” series at the Sidney Janis Gallery, while Robert Rauschenberg shows the “White Paintings” that he created in 1951 at the Stable Gallery April Alain Resnais, Chris Marker, and Ghislain

Ray Bradbury publishes Fahrenheit 451 Ray Ashley’s (also known as Raymond Abrashkin) Little Fugitive premieres in New York. The film’s naturalistic style and use of nonprofessional actors would prove to be profoundly influential to the subsequent New Wave cinema November William Burroughs publishes Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict and Queer under the pseudonym William Lee

Yale University, laying the foundations to his theory of formalism within modern art June The first Grupo Frente exhibition takes place at the Galeria Ibeu in Rio de Janeiro, exhibiting the work of Lygia Clark along with that of Hélio Oiticica, Aluísio Carvão, and Lygia Pape July Frida Kahlo dies at her home in Mexico City.

Yasujiro� Ozu’s film To¯kyo¯ Monogatari (Tokyo Story) is released

August The Lalit Kala Akademi (the National Academy of Art) inaugurated in New Delhi

December The Aula Magna building opens at La Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, with acoustic clouds designed by Alexander Calder

Luigi Nono's cantata La victoire de Guernica (The Victory of Guernica) premieres at the International Summer School for New Music in Darmstadt

The influential Chinese painter Xu Beihong dies of a stroke. As a mark of respect, the Chinese Communist Party orders the creation of the Xu Beihong Museum at his home in Beijing

September Federico Fellini’s film La Strada (The Street) premieres at the Venice International Film Festival William Golding publishes Lord of the Flies

1954 11 Following its inauguration in December 1953, Alexander Calder's Acoustic Ceiling decorates the Aula Magna of the Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, 1954. Cloquet’s film Les statues meurent aussi (Statues Also Die) premieres at the Cannes Film Festival. The anti-colonial message of the film was so confrontational, that it was promptly censored by the French state and was not screened again until 1968 Roland Barthes publishes Le Degré zéro de l’écriture (Writing Degree Zero) Luis García Berlanga’s comedy film ¡Bienvenido, Mister Marshall! (Welcome Mr. Marshall!) is released in cinemas in Spain June Camara Laye publishes his autobiographical novel L’Enfant noir (The African Child) August Mulk Raj Anand publishes The Private Life of an Indian Prince, detailing the social and political reform that was brought about by the abolition of the princely states system in India The Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm (Ulm School of Design) begins operations, under the supervision of Max Bill September Dong Xiwen’s monumental painting The Founding of the Nation is first exhibited to great acclaim in Beijing The exhibition Parallel of Life and Art takes place at the ICA in London October James Baldwin publishes his semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It On the Mountain

January The China Artists Association publishes the essay “New Chinese Painting Movement” in the first edition of the relaunched journal Meishu, outlining the precepts for the sort of socialist realist art that was to be promoted in the country February Cyprian Ekwensi publishes People of the City March Renato Guttuso is given a solo exhibition at the Central Office of Art Exhibitions Zache�ta in Warsaw. The exhibition would then tour other Central and Eastern European countries and would be profoundly influential on realist artists The National Gallery of Modern Art opens in New Delhi April Jorge Romero Brest publishes his essay “Diálogo sobre el arte abstracto y el arte concreto” (Dialogue on Abstract and Concrete Art) in the Argentinian journal Saber vivir The Salon 54: Exhibition of Contemporary Yugoslav Painting and Sculpture is held in Rijeka. Dubbed a key exhibition for “the reconstruction of modernism” in Yugoslavia, the show featured the work of EXAT 51 members such as Ivan Picelj, Vlado Kristl, Božidar Rašica, and Aleksandar Srnec Akira Kurosawa releases his epic historical drama Shichinin no Samurai (Seven Samurai) May Bill Haley & His Comets release the album Rock Around the Clock Clement Greenberg delivers the lecture “Abstract Representational, and so forth” at

October The influential Exhibition of Economic and Cultural Achievements of the Soviet Union takes place at the Soviet Exhibition Hall in Beijing. Featuring works such as Fyodor Shurpin’s The Morning of Our Motherland (1948), the exhibition would provide the template for Chinese socialist realism for decades November Jean Rouch screens his first “ethnofiction” short film Les maîtres fous (The Mad Masters) to a small, select audience at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris Ishiro� Honda releases the film Gojira (Godzilla) December Ulli Beier publishes his essay “Wandmalereien  der  Yoruba” (Yoruba Wall Painting) in the journal Das Kunstwerk

1955 January Edward Steichen’s acclaimed Family of Man exhibition is held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, later traveling under the auspices of the US Information Agency throughout the United States and Europe Pokolenie (A Generation), the opening film of Andrzej Wajda’s “Three War Films” trilogy, is released Arnold Rüdlinger organizes the exhibition Tendances Actuelles III (Current Tendencies III) at the Kunsthalle in Bern, where he groups all of the exhibited abstract work under the term “tachisme” February Francis Newton Souza publishes his autobiographical essay “The Nirvana of a Maggot” in the journal Encounter

March Clement Greenberg publishes his polemical essay “American-Type Painting” in the spring edition of Partisan Review Famed jazz pioneer Charlie Parker dies in New York Wifredo Lam exhibits a series of his paintings at the Universidad de La Habana, Pabellon de Ciencias Sociales, in support for students’ protests against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista

12 The first Documenta exhibition opens at the Fridericianum, Kassel, 1955.

April Victor Vasarely and Pontus Hultén publish their “Yellow Manifesto” as part of the exhibition Le Mouvement (Movement) at the Galerie Denise René in Paris, thereby introducing the idea of kinetic art The exhibition Indonesian Art is held as part of the Asian-African Conference in Ban­ dung, exhibiting the works of key Indonesian modern artists Sandú Darié and Luis Martínez Pedro stage the Primera Exposición Concreta (First Exhibition of Concrete Art) at the Pabellón de Ciencias Sociales of the Universidad de La Habana, Cuba May The exhibition Man, Machine and Motion: An Iconography of Speed and Space is held at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne The exhibition The New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors opens at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Alberto Burri uses the occasion to print his famous “Words Are No Help” statement June Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s book Le Phénomène humain (The Phenomenon of Man) is posthumously published in Paris Herbert Bayer creates his Earth Mound at the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Meadows campus in Colorado, possibly the first “earthwork” done within the context of contemporary art July The Ogólnopolska wystawa młodej plastyki (National Exhibition of Young Art)—subtitled “Against War, Against Fascism”—takes place in the recently restored Armory building in Warsaw. More popularly known as the “Arsenal” exhibition, the show is considered to be the beginning of the cultural “thaw” in Poland, leading to a significant revision in Socialist Realism

The I. mednarodna graficˇna razstava (1st International Exhibition of Graphic Arts) is held at Ljubljana’s Moderna Galerija. The exhibition would subsequently become the Bienale Grafike (Biennial of Graphic Arts) Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein launch “The Russell-Einstein Manifesto” at a press conference at Caxton Hall, London The first Documenta exhibition opens in Kassel The exhibition Outdoor Exhibition of Modern Art to Challenge the Midsummer Sun represents the unofficial launch of the Gutai group (in that twenty-three of the forty participants were members) The Premiére biennale de la Méditerranée (First Biennial for the Arts of Mediterranean Countries) takes place at the Alexandria Museum of Fine Arts August Vladimir Nabokov publishes Lolita. Following its publication in Paris, the British Home Office orders all copies entering the United Kingdom to be seized. The French and US governments also subsequently ban the book for several years. The newly formed Grupa 55 hold their first exhibition at the “Desa” salon in Warsaw. Billed as an “anti-Arsenal” exhibition, the group rebelled against the domination of Socialist Realism

14 Saburo� Murakami performs Destruction of paper (Tsu�ka) at the 2nd Gutai Art Exhibition, Tokyo, 1956. Pablo Picasso’s monumental Guernica is exhibited as part of the exhibition Picasso 1900–1955 at Munich’s Haus der Kunst November The Wystawa obrazów (Exhibition of Pictures) is held at the “House of Artists” in Krakow, presenting works by Tadeusz Kantor, Jerzy Nowosielski, and others who combined Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. The exhibition resulted in the creation of numerous artists’ groups, clubs, and galleries

1956 January Frank Auerbach is given his first solo exhibition at the Beaux Arts Gallery in London February Lennie Tristano releases his album Lennie Tristano, in which he overdubs piano and manipulates tape speed for effect on some tracks Toru Takemitsu premieres his work Relief Statique in Tokyo, one of the first compositions to employ electronic tape-recording techniques

13 Participants at the First World Congress of Black Writers and Artists at the Sorbonne, Paris, 1956. Fernand Léger dies at his home in Gif-surYvette Satyajit Ray releases the Bengali-language drama film Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), the first film of The Apu Trilogy The Hiroshima Peace Center and Memorial Park, designed by Kenzo Tange, opens October Iannis Xenakis orchestral work Metastaseis premieres at the Donaueschinger Musiktage (Donaueschingen Festival) The First Gutai Art Exhibition opens at the Ohara Kaikan in Tokyo, with Saburo Murakami performing Work (Six Holes) and Kazuo Shiraga staging his work Challenging Mud Nicholas Ray’s film Rebel Without a Cause is released, portraying the moral decay of American youth

July Ousmane Sembène publishes his first novel Le Docker noir (Black Docker)

The first Exposição Nacional de Arte Concreta (National Exhibition of Concrete Art) opens at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, the first national meeting of concrete visual art and poetry

João Guimarães Rosa publishes his “monologue” book Grande Sertão: Veredas (The Devil to Pay in the Backlands) to great controversy

The exhibition Jackson Pollock opens at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the first major exhibition of the artist’s work after his death

works of Fernand Léger, a year after his death

March Fred M. Wilcox’s pioneering science fiction film Forbidden Planet premieres in the United States Loló Soldevilla organizes the influential exhibition Pintura de hoy. Vanguardia de la Escuela de París (Painting Today: Avant-Garde of the School of Paris) at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Havana Elvis Presley releases his debut solo album Elvis Presley April Alain Resnais’s documentary Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) is shown “out of competition” at the Cannes Film Festival May Elie Wiesel’s 245-page manuscript of his experiences at the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, Un di Velt Hot Geshvign (And the World Remained Silent), is published in Argentina. A shortened version of this book is published two years later in Paris as La Nuit (Night) June The Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris stages a large-scale retrospective of the

August Mongo Beti publishes his novel Le pauvre Christ de Bomba (The Poor Christ of Bomba) in Paris The landmark exhibition This is Tomorrow opens at the Whitechapel Gallery in London Sandú Darié first exhibits his “Estructura transformables” (Transformable Structures) at the Pabellón de Ciencias Sociales of the Universidad de La Habana, Cuba Jackson Pollock dies in a car accident September The First World Congress of Free Artists takes place in Alba, Italy. Organized by Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio and Asger Jorn, the conference concludes with an accord and signed resolution declaring the “inevitable outmodedness of any renovation of an art within its traditional limits” The First Congress of Black Writers and Artists is held at the Sorbonne in Paris. Leading black intellectuals address issues of colonialism, slavery, and Négritude October The 2nd Gutai Art Exhibition takes place at the Ohara Kaikan in Tokyo. It features Tanaka’s Electric Dress, a painting performance by Shimamoto Sho� zo� , Kazuo Shiraga’s Challenging Mud, and Saburo� Murakami’s At One Moment Opening Six Holes Satyajit Ray releases the Indian Bengali drama Aparajito (The Unvanquished), the follow-up to Pather Panchali November Bayn al-Qasrayn (Between the Two Palaces), the first book of Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy is published in Cairo Allen Ginsberg publishes Howl and Other Poems, one of the principal works of the Beat Generation Roger Vadim releases the film Et Dieu… créa la femme (And God Created Woman), launching Brigitte Bardot into the public spotlight December Yoshihara Jiro publishes the “Gutai bijutsu sengen” (Gutai Art Manifesto) in the journal Geijutsu Shincho¯

15 For Yves Klein’s Sculpture aérostatique 1001 blue balloons are released into the sky over Paris on the occasion of the exhibition “Yves Klein : Propositions monochromes” at Galerie Iris Clert, Paris, May, 1957

1957 January Renato Guttuso publishes his essay “Del realismo del presente e altro” (On Realism, the Present, and Other Things) in the journal Paragone, arguing for a form of socially engaged realism outside of the socialist realism proscribed by the Soviet Union Roland Barthes publishes his collection of essays from Les Lettres nouvelles as Mythologies February Miles Davis releases the influential album Birth of the Cool The Baghdad Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture is held at the Al-Mansur Club and shows the work of forty-five modern artists Ingmar Bergman iconic film Det sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal) is released March Paulin Soumanou Vieyra and Mamadou Sarr’s short documentary film Afrique sur Seine (Africa on the Seine) premieres in Paris Alina Szapocznikow publishes “Plastycy o plastyce” (Visual Artists on Visual Art) in the journal Przegla˛d Kulturalny

Uche Okeke’s first solo exhibition, Life in Northern Nigeria: An Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings (1954–1956), takes place at the Community Centre in Kaduna, Nigeria

Miles Davis releases his hard bop album Round About Midnight

Direction 1 opens at the Macquarie Galleries in Sydney, a landmark exhibition of abstract art in Australia

Andrzej Wróblewski dies in a mountaineering accident in Tatry, Czechoslovakia, at the age of twenty-nine

The Modern Fine Art exhibition opens at the Dong-hwa Gallery in Seoul


April The First one-night exhibition of the ZERO Group—“an evening vernissage without a subsequent exhibition”—takes place at the “Ruinenatelier” in Düsseldorf The First Southeast Asia Art Conference and Competition takes place in Manila, which includes an small exhibition sent over by New York’s Museum of Modern Art May The first Annual Fifth Moon Group Exhibition is held at Zhongshan Hall in Taipei, officially launching the group. These annual exhibitions would continue until 1970 Yves Klein releases his Sculpture aérostatique (Aerostatic Sculpture) into the sky as part of his exhibition Propositions monochromes at Galerie Iris Clert in Paris June Elaine de Kooning publishes the article “Pure Paints a Picture” in the summer edition of ARTnews; it is widely considered to be one of the best articles on “pure painting” July Nevil Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel On the Beach is published The founding conference of the Situationist International takes place at Cosio d’Arroscia in Italy. Participants include Michèle Bernstein, Guy Debord, Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio, Asger Jorn, Walter Olmo, Piero Simondo, Elena Verrone, and Ralph Rumney August The landmark installation/exhibition An Exhibit opens at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, before traveling to the ICA in London September The first issue of Black Orpheus, “a journal of African and Afro-American literature,” is published in Ibadan, Nigeria

Diego Rivera dies at his San Ángel studio in Mexico

Sensibility, The Void) takes place at Galerie Iris Clert in Paris

Chinua Achebe’s postcolonial novel Things Fall Apart is published

December Yayoi Kusama holds her first exhibition in the United States at the Dusanne Gallery in Seattle

The first Tehran Biennial takes place at the Abyaz Palace building within the Golestan Palace complex. Organized by Marcos Grigorian and featuring the work of almost fifty artists, the Biennial acts as a “feeder” exhi-

July Wojciech Fangor and the architect Stanisław Zamecznik organize the exhibition The Study in Space at the “New Culture” Salon in Warsaw; it is the first “spatial painting” (i.e., installation art) exhibition in Central Europe

1958 January Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) is posthumously published

Jasper Johns exhibits his “Flags” for the first time at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York February Lawrence Alloway publishes his essay “The Arts and the Mass Media” in the journal Architectural Design, coining the term “Pop art” March Robert Rauschenberg first exhibits his combines at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York Chuck Berry releases his classic rock-androll single Johnny B. Goode April The exhibition Das rote Bild (The Red Picture) takes place in the studio of Otto Piene in Düsseldorf, exhibiting monochrome works by forty artists. The catalogue accompanying the show is also the first issue of the group’s magazine, ZERO, which ceases publication after three issues Michel Tapié and Yoshihara Jiro� jointly organize the exhibition International Art of a New Era: Informel and Gutai at the Takashi-

Commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the October Revolution, the All-Union Art Exhibition is held at the Manege Exhibition Hall in Moscow; it is one of the largest exhibitions in Soviet history, with over eight thousand works displayed

September Mikhail Kalatozov releases the film Letyat bition for the country’s participation in the Venice Biennale An event simply called Untitled (Happening) takes place at Douglass College in New Brunswick, New Jersey, most likely the first happening in the United States Brussels World’s Fair (also known as Expo 58) opens at the  Heysel  Plateau, and includes the Atomium and Le Corbusier’s Philips Pavilion Pablo Picasso unveils his mural The Fall of Icarus on the wall of the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris May John Kenneth Galbraith publishes The Affluent Society, which introduces the controversial term “conventional wisdom”

Karl Jaspers publishes Die Atombombe und die Zukunft des Menschen (The Atomic Bomb and the Future of Man)

November The collective Equipo 57 publish their manifesto “The Interactivity of Plastic Space” to accompany their inaugural exhibition at the Sala Negra in Madrid

The exhibition Korean Contemporary Artists opens at the National Museum of Contemporary Art at Deoksugung Palace in Seoul

17 Yves Klein’s performance Anthropométrie de l'Époque bleue takes place at the Galerie internationale d'art contemporain, 253, rue Saint Honoré, Paris, 9 March 1960.

August Yashpal publishes Vatan Aur Desh (Homeland and Country), the first of his twovolume novel Jhutha Sach (This Is Not That Dawn) which is based on the events surrounding Partition. The second volume Desh Ka Bhavishya (The Future of the Country) is published two years later.

Elizeth Moreira Cardoso releases the album Canção do Amor Demais, widely considered to be the world’s first bossa nova record

The Chinese painter Qi Baishi dies at his home in Beijing at the age of ninety-three

Ben Enwonwu completes his sculpture of Queen Elizabeth II

Youssef Chahine releases the film Ba¯b al-H.adı¯d (Cairo Station)

Bimal Roy releases the Hindu drama Madhumati

Jack Kerouac publishes On the Road, a defining work of the postwar Beat and Counterculture generations

Boris Pasternak’s book Doctor Zhivago is first published in Italy after the author smuggles it out of the Soviet Union

The exhibition Seven Indian Painters in Europe at Gallery One in London attracts significant media attention to the work of Avinash Chandra and Francis Newton Souza

Ritwik Ghatak releases the Indian Bengali film Ajantrik (The Pathetic Fallacy)

16 Frank Stella in front of one of his “Black Paintings”, New York, between 1958 and 1962, Photograph: Hollis Frampton

June The exhibition Transferences at the Zwemmer Gallery constitutes the first London group show of “Commonwealth artists,” including Sidney Nolan, Francis Newton Souza, Denis Bowen, and a number of New Vision Centre artists

maya Department Store in Osaka, bringing together informel artists from Japan, Europe, and the United States

The Primera Bienal Interamericana de Pintura y Grabado (First Inter-American Biennial of Painting and Engraving) takes place at the Museo Nacional de Artes Plásticas in Mexico City

Yves Klein’s exhibition La spécialisation de la sensibilité à l’état matière première en sensibilité picturale stabilisée, Le Vide (The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial

Luciano Berio’s pioneering electroacoustic composition Thema (Omaggio a Joyce) is broadcast for the first time in Naples

18 Pablo Picasso attends the inauguration of his mural at the UNESCO building, Paris, 1958.

zhuravli (The Cranes Are Flying), depicting the damage suffered to the Soviet psyche as a result of World War II Dorothy Miller organizes the exhibition The New American Painting at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Berlin, which subsequently travels to Basel, Milan, Madrid, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and London October The Zaria Art Society is formed by a group of art students at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science, and Technology. Comprising Demas Nwoko, Bruce Onobrakpeya, S. Irein Wangboje, Yusuf Grillo, William Olaosebikan, Simon Okeke, and Uche Okeke, the group aimed to “decolonize” the visual arts as taught by expatriate Europeans

Amílcar de Castro, Ferreira Gullar, Franz Weissmann, Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, Reynaldo Jardim, and Theon Spanudis publish “Manifesto Neoconcreto” (Neo-Concrete Manifesto) in the Brazilian journal Jornal do Brasil / Suplemento Dominical. In the same issue, Lygia Pape publishes her essay “Ballet: A Visual Experience” The Second Conference of Negro Writers and Artists, organized by the Société africaine de culture takes place in Rome, with Gerard Sekoto delivering his “I Am an African” speech May Satyajit Ray releases Apur Sansar (The World of Apu), the final part of The Apu Triolgy of films 19 Antonio Porta, Angela Verga, Farfa, Nanni Balestrini and Enrico Baj pose with Baj and Verga's Interplanetary Sculpture, Milan, 1959. December The exhibition Art of Socialist Countries opens at the Manege Exhibition Hall in Moscow. Framed as a socialist response to the commercial biennials held in Western Europe, the exhibition was best remembered for the inclusion of several contrasting approaches to socialist realism as well as, in the case of the Polish contribution, elements of abstraction

1959 January Günter Grass publishes Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) February Musicians  Buddy Holly,  Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson are killed in a plane crash near  Clear Lake, Iowa, along with their pilot, Roger Peterson. The event is later dubbed “The Day the Music Died” The Extraordinary Congress of Art Critics takes place in Brasília, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo with the aim of discussing the construction of Brasília as part of the “Integration of the Arts” project March Jean Tinguely publishes his manifesto “Für Statik” (For Static), which he then scatters from an airplane over Düsseldorf. Jean Fautrier publishes his essay “Parallèles sur l’informel” (as “Parallelen zur neuen Malerei” [Parallels to the New Painting]) in the Viennese journal Blätter + Bilder, in which he famously states “painting is something that can only destroy itself, which must destroy itself in order to be reinvented” The first Exposição Nacional de Arte Neoconcreta (National Exhibition of NeoConcrete Art) opens at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, the first largescale exhibition of neo-concrete works

François Truffaut releases his debut film Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) The exhibition Gego: Sculptures and Gouaches takes place at the Liberia Cruz del Sur in Caracas; it is her first solo show June Alain Resnais’s film Hiroshima mon amour premieres in Paris Marcel Camus’ film Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) premieres in Paris. Featuring music by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá, the film is also noteworthy for popularizing bossa nova music outside of Brazil July The American National Exhibition opens in a pavilion in Sokolniki Park, Moscow, and is best remembered for the impromptu “Kitchen Debate” during the opening between then US vice president Richard Nixon and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev Documenta 2 opens in Kassel. Subtitled “Art After 1945,” the exhibition focuses solely on postwar art, particularly a contingent of ninety-seven predominantly abstract expressionist works sent by New York’s Museum of Modern Art August Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio publishes his “Manifesto della Pittura Industriale” (Manifesto of Industrial Painting: For a Unitary Applied Art) in the journal Internationale Situationniste Qurratulain Hyder publishes his novel Aag ka Darya (River of Fire), considered to be the most important novel of twentieth-century Urdu fictio The Antipodeans exhibition takes place at the Victorian Artists Society in Melbourne. Accompanied by the publication of “The Antipodean Manifesto,” the exhibition argues for the importance of figurative art and protests against the pervasiveness of US-style Abstract Expressionism Miles Davis releases the influential album Kind of Blue Eugène Ionesco’s absurdist play Rhinocéros is presented for the first time on BBC Radio

September William S. Burroughs publishes Naked Lunch

Raja Rao publishes his best-known work, The Serpent and the Rope Federico Fellini releases La Dolce Vita

Charles Mingus releases the song “Fables of Faubus” as a protest against Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus’s actions to prevent integration at Little Rock Central High School in 1957

The exhibition Ray Gun takes place at the Judson Memorial Church in New York, featuring Claes Oldenburg’s The Street and Jim Dine’s The House

Peter Selz organizes the exhibition New Images of Man at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, examining new approaches to figuration in Europe and the United States

February The exhibition Œuvres d’Art transformable (Transformable Art) opens at Gallery One in London

October Ornette Coleman releases the album The Shape of Jazz to Come

The First National Art Exhibition “Soviet Russia” takes place in Moscow, featuring over 2,400 works of socialist realist art The Modern Literature and Art Association organize the Hong Kong International Salon of Paintings at St. John’s Cathedral Hall, the first major exhibition of modern art from both Hong Kong and Taiwan

The first Paris Biennale opens at the Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, exhibiting mostly the work of younger artists The exhibition Zehn Jahre bildende Kunst in der DDR (Ten Years of Fine Art in the GDR) takes place as part of the 10. Jahrestag DDR-Gründung (The Tenth Anniversary Exhibition of the Founding of the GDR) at the Pavillon der Kunst in East Berlin Allan Kaprow stages his ground-breaking 18 Happenings in 6 Parts at the Reuben Gallery in New York

Yu Hyun-mok releases the film Obaltan (A Stray Bullet), commonly regarded as one of the best Korean films ever made The International Sky Festival takes place on the roof of the Takashimaya Department Store in Osaka, in which the work of thirty

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum opens in New York, ten years after the death of its founder and six months after its architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, died. November Gustav Metzger publishes his first mani­ festo of “Auto Destructive Art”, which exhibits at the Cardboards exhibition, held at Brian Robins' Coffee House in London Nam June Paik performs Hommage à John Cage: Music for Tape Recorder and Piano at Düsseldorf’s Galerie 22, his first action in which he performs outside the boundaries of conventional music The exhibition 10 Pintores concretos exponen pinturas y dibujos at the Galería de Arte Color‑Luz in Havana represents the first major showing of the recently-formed group Diez Pintores Concretos (Ten Concrete Painters); comprising Pedro Álvarez, Wifredo Arcay, Salvador Corratgé, Sandú Darié, Luis Martínez Pedro, Alberto Menocal, José Mijares, Pedro de Oráa, Loló Soldevilla, and Rafael Soriano Fateh Moudarres is given his first solo exhibition at the Galleria Cichi in Rome December Frank Stella exhibits the first of his “Black Paintings” at the exhibition Sixteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art, New York

1960 April Parviz Tanavoli opens the Atelier Kaboud in Tehran, an important meeting spot for the Contemporary Artists’ Group

20 Raymond Hains, Pierre Restany, Jacques Villeglé, François Dufrene and Arman meet at the studio of Yves Klein to sign the “Constitutive Declaration of New Realism”, Paris, 1960. Japanese, US, and European artists are attached to helium balloons and launched into the sky May Guy Debord publishes the “Situationist International Manifesto” in Paris June Nagisa Oshima releases the film Seishun Zankoku Monogatari (Cruel Story of Youth) Gustav Metzger stages the First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art at the Temple Gallery in London Michelangelo Antonioni releases the film L’Avventura July Jean-Luc Godard releases his first fulllength film, À bout de soufflé (Breathless)


September Lionel Rogosin’s semi-documentary film Come Back Africa premieres at the Venice International Film Festival Ben Enwonwu publishes his letter “African Art In Danger” in the Times newspaper, in which he speaks of his fear about the unhealthy situation affecting Nigerian modern art due to the influx of Western, particularly British, ideas and the ascension of the commercial market Gillo Pontecorvo releases the film Kapò October Arman’s exhibition Le Plein (Full-Up) opens at Galerie Iris Clert in Paris Wole Soyinka’s A Dance of the Forests is first performed as part of Nigeria’s independence celebrations in Lagos The Independence Exhibition takes place on Victoria Island in Lagos, and includes an Exhibition of Contemporary Nigerian Art Lygia Clark first exhibits her Bichos at the Galeria Bonino in Rio de Janeiro The “Nouveau Réalisme Manifesto” is signed at Yves Klein’s apartment in Paris

Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo, JP Clark, and Ezekiel Mphahlele The first proto-Fluxus events are held in New York to coincide with the opening of George Maciunas and Almus Salcius’s AG Gallery. Music and events are staged by Maciunas and Salcius himself, along with Toshi Ichiyanagi, Jackson Mac Low, and Dick Higgins The exhibition Bewogen Beweging (Moved Movement) takes place at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; it is an exhibition of kinetic art introducing the work of an emerging generation of artists such as Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely, Robert Müller, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Dieter Roth April The Gorgona group publish the first of their “anti-magazines,” Gorgona 1, with each issue prepared as an original artwork by a single artist, beginning with Josip Vaništa Malangatana Ngwenya has his first solo exhibition, Malangatana Goenha Valente, at the Associação dos Organismos Económicos in Lourenço Marques May The I. Trijenale likovnih umetnosti (First Yugoslav Triennial of Fine Arts) takes place at the Muzej savremene umetnosti (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Belgrade The exhibition Environments, Situations, Spaces opens at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York. Allan Kaprow installs his seminal work, The Yard, in the “sculpture garden,” while Claes Oldenburg publishes his text “I Am for An Art”

21 Frank McEwen with founding members of the Workshop School in Salisbury. November A group of artists stages an alternative exhibition of works on the exterior walls of the Duksoogung Palace in Seoul, which is hosting the annual Kukjeon (National Art Exhibition). Comprising informel-style works, the exhibition contrasts with the predominantly conservative works on exhibit inside the building

June Karl Otto Götz publishes his essay “Elektronische Malerei und ihre Programmierung” (Electronic Painting and its Programming) in the journal Das Kunstwerk V. S. Naipaul publishes his much-acclaimed novel A House for Mr Biswas Kwame Nkrumah publishes his book I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology

March The Mbari Artists’ and Writers’ Club is founded in Ibadan by Ulli Beier and the writers

The survey Recent Australian Painting opens at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, representing the first major exhibition of modern Australian art outside of the country Raymond Hains and Jacques (Mahé de la) Villeglé first exhibit their affiches lacérées referencing the Algerian War as part of the exhibition La France déchirée (Torn France), which is held at Galerie J in Paris July The exhibition Sydney Nine opens at the David Jones Art Gallery in Sydney, before showing at Gallery A in Melbourne in September. A direct response to the recent Antipodeans exhibition, the participating artists make a dramatic entrance, arriving at the opening of the Melbourne show in helicopter and brandishing abstract paintings. A young Robert Hughes writes the catalogue

The United States Information Agency organizes the traveling exhibition Vanguard American Painting, which opens in Vienna before traveling to Belgrade, Skopje, Zagreb, Maribor, Ljubljana, Rijeka, London,

György Ligeti’s “micropolyphonic” orchestral work Atmosphères premieres at the Donaueschingen Festival November Ibrahim El-Salahi is given a solo exhibition at the Mbari Gallery in Ibadan, Nigeria Georg Baselitz and Eugen Schönebeck publish the first edition of their “Pandämonisches Manifest” (Pandemonic Manifesto) as a poster during their joint exhibition at Fasanenplatz in Berlin. A second version of the manifesto would later be published as a limited edition in February 1962 Frantz Fanon’s book Les Damnés de la terre (The Wretched of the Earth) is published in Paris The exhibition Arte Destructivo (Destructuve Art) takes place at the Galería Lirolay in Buenos Aires. The exhibition comprises

Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, und Günther Uecker organize the event ZERO. Edition, Exposition, Demonstration at Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf, which coincides with the publication of the third and final issue of ZERO magazine August The first Nove tendencije (New Tendencies) exhibition opens at the Galerija suvremene umjetnosti (Gallery for Contemporary Art) in Zagreb The exhibition Otra Figuración (Other Figuration) takes place at the Galería Peuser in Buenos Aires, featuring the work of Luis Felipe Noé, Jorge de la Vega, Rómulo Macció, and Ernesto Deira September Arnold Belkin publishes his essay “Interiorism, Neo-Humanism, New Expressionism” in the journal Nueva Presencia

Athol Fugard’s play The Blood Knot premieres at the Rehearsal Room of Dorkay House in Johannesburg 22 Demas Nwoko and Uche Okeke at the opening of the inaugural art exhibition at the Mbari Artists’ and Writers’ Club, Ibadan, 1961.

Joseph Heller’s satirical novel Catch-22 is published

The Museum of the Chinese Revolution opens in Tiananmen Square in Beijing

Members of the Gorgona group hold the first Studio G exhibition at the Šira “picture framing shop” in Zagreb. Participants include Eugen Feller, Ivan Kožaric� , Maeda, François Morellet, Ivan Rabuzin, Matija Skurjeni, Marko Šuštaršic� , and Victor Vasarely

1961 February Niki de Saint Phalle stages the first of her “Shooting” actions in a vacant lot behind the artist’s studio at 11 Impasse Ronsin in Paris, the first of a dozen such events

Rattana Pestonji’s film Prae Dum (Black Silk) premieres at the Berlin International Film festival, becoming the first Thai film to be chosen for a major festival

Ornette Coleman releases the landmark album Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation

Hermann Nitsch stages his First Painting Action at the Technical Museum in Vienna

January Jewad Selim dies in Baghdad, just prior to the completion of his monumental Nasb al-Hurriyah (Monument of Freedom) in AlTahrir Square

Darmstadt, and Salzburg

October Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin release their experimental documentary film Chronique d’un été (Chronicle of a Summer) William Seitz organizes The Art of the Assemblage at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, a monumental survey exhibition of 130 artists’ works, ranging from cubism to the present day; the exhibition subsequently travels to Dallas and San Francisco

23 Participants of the Arte Destructivo (Destructive Art) exhibition pose for a group photo at the Galeria Lirolay, Buenos Aires, 1961 [Seated: Kenneth Kemble, standing f.l.t.r.: Jorge Lopez Anaya, Silvia Torras, Jorge Roiger and Luis Wells.] found objects subsequently distorted or destroyed to the sound of a lecture by Jorge Romero Brest, a reading of Aristotle’s Poetics, and the script to a play by Picasso, along with the artists’ own musical compositions Yoko Ono performs A Grapefruit in the World of Park, A Piece for Strawberries and Violin, and AOS—to David Tudor at Carnegie Hall in New York December Claes Oldenburg installs The Store in a disused property at 107 East 2nd Street in New York

1962 January Glauber Rocha releases the Barravento (The Turning Wind), one of the key films within the Brazilian Cinema Novo movement

February Chris Marker’s post-apocalyptic science fiction film La Jetée (The Pier) is released in Paris March Otto Piene organizes the first Zero-Fest at the Rheinwiesen in Düsseldorf, during which he releases balloons into the air, illuminating them with spotlights Marcos Grigorian exhibits part of his monumental Gate of Auschwitz for the first time at the Misaquieh Film Studio in Tehran The exhibition Nul is staged at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum. Featuring the work of Arman, Pol Bury, Enrico Castellani, Dadamaino, Piero Dorazio, Lucio Fontana, Francesco Lo Savio, Heinz Mack, Piero Manzoni, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker, the exhibition constitutes the first major survey of the ZERO group The Mbari Mbayo Club is founded in Osogbo. For its inauguration Duro Ladipo premieres his first opera, Oba Moro (Ghost-Catcher King) April A display of paintings by Charles Hossein

Christo installs his Wall of Oil Barrels: The Iron Curtain in Rue Visconti in Paris July The inaugural concert of the Judson Dance Theater takes place at the Judson Memorial Hall in New York Andy Warhol first exhibits his Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles The Premier salon de l’indépendance (The First Salon of Independence) takes place at the Salle Ibn Khaldoun in Algiers, the nation’s first major post-independence art exhibition August Frank McEwen founds the “Workshop School” in the basement of the Rhodes National Gallery in Salisbury, Rhodesia The first Actuel exhibition opens at the National Central Information Center in Seoul The First International Congress of African Culture is held at the National Gallery in Salisbury, Rhodesia The kinetic art exhibition Dylaby: Dynamisch Labyrint (Dylaby: Dynamic Labyrinth) takes place at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam September Joseph Beuys helps organize FLUXUS: Internationale Festspiele Neuester Musik (FLUXUS: International Festival of Newest Music) at the Städtisches Museum in Wiesbaden, Europe’s first major Fluxus festival Rachel Carson publishes her book Silent Spring, documenting the grave environmental effects caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides

24 Emmet Williams demonstrates his participative Universal Poem at The Festival of Misfits at the ICA, London, 1961. Zenderoudi at the Third Tehran Biennial at Abayz Palace marks the official beginning of the Saqqa�-k�a�na School movement Andrei Tarkovsky’s Soviet war drama Ivanovo detstvo (Ivan’s Childhood) is released in Moscow May Vladimir Nabokov publishes his 999-line poem Pale Fire Umberto Eco publishes Opera aperta (The Open Work) Benjamin Britten premieres his work War Requiem, Op. 66 to mark the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral June Doris Lessing’s novel The Golden Notebook is published Yves Klein dies of a heart attack in Paris

October The exhibition Entartete Kunst—Bildersturm vor 25 Jahren (Degenerate Art—Iconoclasm 25 Years Ago) takes place in Munich’s Haus der Kunst; it is the first critical survey of the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition that the National Socialists staged in the city in 1937

November The 1st Exhibition of the New Image Association takes place at Gyeongbokgung Palace Museum, Seoul An important solo exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’s work opens at the Mbari Club in Ibadan, Nigeria. It then travels to Lagos and Oshogbo Yasujiro� Ozu releases the film Sanma no aji (An Autumn Afternoon) December Anthony Burgess publishes his dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange

The First International Exhibition of Fine Arts of Saigon takes place at the Round-Pavilion in the Tao-Dàn Garden. Intended as a biennial, nomadic exhibition, the outbreak of the Vietnam War ensures that this is the only iteration of this event The International Exhibition of the New Realists at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York introduces the work of artists who would later be grouped under the banner of Pop art: Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, George Segal, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Tano Festa, Mimmo Rotella, and Mario Schifano

April Pierre Boulle publishes his science fiction novel La Planète des singes (Planet of the Apes) May Josiah Kariuki publishes Mau Mau De­ tainee, recounting his experiences of the detention camps in Kenya during the Mau Mau Uprising June Ben Enwonwu publishes “Into the Abstract

1963 January The exhibition Two Painters from Africa: Malangatana and Salahi opens at the ICA in London Ousmane Sembène's debut short film Borom Sarret (The Wagoner) premieres at the Festival de Tours in Paris Sylvia Plath publishes The Bell Jar February Tetsumi Kudo performs Happening: Philosophy of Impotence at the Cinéma-Studio de Boulogne in Paris George Maciunas publishes the first “Fluxus Manifesto” comprising selected dictionary definitions of the word “flux” Joseph Beuys performs Sibirische Symphonie, 1. Satz (Siberian Symphony, First Movement) as part of the festival FESTUM FLUXORUM. FLUXUS. Musik und Antimusik. Das Instrumentale Theater held at the Staatlichen Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf Piero Manzoni dies of a heart attack in his studio in Milan Federico Fellini's film 8½ premieres in Italy to universal acclaim

Dr. No, the first James Bond film, is released The Festival of Misfits takes place at London’s ICA and Gallery One, featuring Fluxus concerts and events organized by Robert Filliou, Dick Higgins, Gustav Metzger, Robin Page, Nam June Paik, Daniel Spoerri, and others

contains a copy of their manifesto

Jean-Marie Straub releases his short film Machorka-Muff in New York March Dennis Brutus’s collection of poems Sirens, Knuckles, Boots: Poems is published by the Mbari Artists’ and Writers’ Club in Ibadan while he is in prison in South Africa Daniel Spoerri stages Restaurant de la Galerie J in Paris, which consists of a working restaurant, the remnants of which are then exhibited Nam June Paik stages Exposition of Music —Electronic Television at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal The Beatles release their debut studio album Please Please Me

25 The members of the Otra Figuración group, Rómulo Macció, Ernesto Deira, Luis Felipe Noé, and Jorge de la Vega, in Buenos Aires, 1963. Jungle: A Criticism of the New Trend in Nigerian Art” in the South African journal Drum Marta Minujín, along with a group of other artists, stages La Destrucción (The Destruction) at Impasse Ronsin in Paris, in which she destroys all of the works that she had created during her scholarship in the city by burning them and then smearing the remains with paint July Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian is given a solo exhibition of his works at the Mbari Gallery in Ibadan LeRoi Jones publishes his landmark study of Afro-American music and culture Blues People: Negro Music in White America August The Nove tendencije 2 exhibition takes place at the Galerija suvremene umjetnosti (Gallery of Contemporary Art) in Zagreb. Matko Meštrovic� uses the occasion to publish his untitled manifesto, which would be subsequently distributed as “ldeologija Novih tendencija” (The Ideology of New Tendencies) The “Manifes Kebudayaan” (Cultural Manifesto) is published in the News Republic newspaper. Signed by a number of Jakarta-based artists, the manifesto called for a rejection of Sukarno’s authoritarian cultural policies in favor of a universal humanism Charlotte Moorman stages the first Avant-Garde Festival of New York at the Judson Memorial Church in New York; it combines Fluxus and happenings with performance, kinetic, and video art

The Zero Group stage their exhibition ZERO — Der neue Idealismus at the Galerie Diogenes in Berlin, the leaflet of which


September The Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel (Visual Arts Research Group) stage their first collective work, Labyrinthe, as part of the third Paris Biennale at the Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris Forough Farrokhzad’s acclaimed documentary short film Kh¯a˙neh sya˙h a˙st (The House Is Black) is released Wolf Vostell’s large-scale happening Nein – 9 Decollagen (organized by Galerie Parnass) takes place at various locations throughout Wuppertal. The audience is ferried by bus from location to location, including a cinema that screened Sun in Your Head as people lay on the floor Colette Oluwabamise Omogbai holds her first solo exhibition at the Exhibition Centre in Marina, Lagos The First Commonwealth Biennial of Abstract Art takes place at London’s Commonwealth Institute, before traveling around the United Kingdom The XII Convegno Internazionale Artisti, Critici e Studiosi d’Arte (12th International Convention of Artists, Critics, and Art Stu-

Demonstration for Capitalist Realism) at the Möbelhaus Berges in Düsseldorf Group 1890 have their inaugural (and only) exhibition at the LKA Gallery in New Delhi November Tadeusz Kantor’s exhibition Wystawa popularna (Popular Exhibition, also known as the Anti-Exhibition) at the Galeria Krzysztofory in Krakow, filling the space’s dark brick basement with almost a thousand objects that include drawings, sketches, theatrical costumes, boxes, and photographs December Shigeko Kubota’s first solo exhibition, 1st Love, 2nd Love ..., takes place at the Naiqua Gallery in Tokyo

October The first exhibition of the newly formed Amadlozi Group opens at the Egon Guenther Gallery in Johannesburg, featuring work by Cecil Skotnes, Sydney Kumalo, Ezrom Legae and Edoardo Villa Georg Baselitz holds a solo exhibition at the Galerie Werner & Katz in Berlin; in which he exhibits Die große Nacht im Eimer (The Big Night Down the Drain, 1962–63) for the first time. The work proves so controversial that it, along with the work Nackter Mann (Naked Man, 1962), are confiscated by the police The exhibition By or of Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy opens at the Pasadena Museum of Art. Curated by Walter Hopps, the show is Duchamp’s first ever retrospective Gerhard Richter and Konrad Fischer stage the exhibition/demonstration Leben mit Pop – Eine Demonstration für den kapitalistischen Realismus (Living with Pop – A

June Mohammed  Khadda publishes his essay “Éléments pour un art nouveau” (Components for a New Art) in the Algerian journal Révolution africaine Roland Barthes publishes Éléments de sémiologie (Elements of Semiology) in the French journal Communications Documenta 3 opens in Kassel. Now nicknamed the “Museum of 100 Days,” Docu-

November Herbie Hancock releases the album Empyrean Isles Wolf Vostell organizes In Ulm, um Ulm und um Ulm herum, featuring 200 participants across twenty-four locations

1965 January John Coltrane releases the album A Love Supreme A censored version of Marlen Khutsiev’s film Mne dvadtsat let (I Am Twenty) is released in Moscow. The original three-hour film would not be screened until 1989 March Dušan Makavejev’s art film Cˇovek nije tica (Man Is Not A Bird) is released in Yugoslavia

1964 January The Society of Nigerian Artists hold their inaugural exhibition at the Exhibition Centre in Lagos

March Marshall McLuhan publishes Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, coining the term “global village”

dents) takes place in Rimini and San Marino, concurrent with the IV Biennale di San Marino

Carolee Schneemann first performs her work Meat Joy at the American Center in Paris as part of the First Festival of Free Expression

The first Original Form Association exhibition takes place at the National Central Information Center in Seoul

Stanley Kubrick’s satirical black comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is released in the United States

26 Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg stage the exhibition Leben mit Pop: Eine Demonstration für den kapitalistischen Realismus (Living with Pop: A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism) at the Möbelhaus Berges, Düsseldorf, 1963.

of the Western art world

Duro Ladipo’s Three Yoruba Plays (Oba Koso / The King Did Not Hang; Oba Moro / The King of Ghosts; and Oba Waja / The King Is Dead) are published together for the first time

Twins Seven Seven has his first exhibition as part of the Third Anniversary Celebration of Mbari Mbayo at the Mbari Mbayo Club in Oshogbo 27 Paul Keeler, Sergio de Camargo, Guy Brett, Christopher Walker, David Medalla and Gustav Metzger mailing Signals Newsbulletin from Cornwall Gardens, London, 1964. menta’s focus on painting, sculpture, and graphic art—as well as its emphasis on abstraction—resulted in it appearing to be somewhat behind the times, especially when considering the ascendancy of Pop, Nouveau Réalisme, Fluxus, and Capitalist Realism in Europe and the United States

April Milan Knížák organizes the První manifestace Aktuálního ume˘ní (First Manifestation of Aktual Art) in the streets around Prague, simultaneously publishing his magazine Aktuální ume˘ni (Aktual Art), both of which constitute Central Europe’s first happenings The Rolling Stones release their first, self-titles album

July Millie Small releases a cover version of the song “My Boy Lollipop,” the first successful hit that was recorded in the bluebeat style and a forerunner to reggae Yoko Ono first performs Cut Piece at the Yamaichi Concert Hall in Kyoto, with further performances taking place in Tokyo, London, and New York August The first edition of the Signals Newsbulletin is published in London

Clement Greenberg organizes the exhibition Post-Painterly Abstraction at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, representing a comprehensive survey of color field painters and subsequently leading to their work being grouped under this heading

Mikhail Kalatozov’s film Soy Cuba (I Am Cuba) is released in Moscow

May The 32nd Venice Biennale signals the European arrival of Pop art, with the work of Jasper Johns, Jim Dine, and Claes Oldenburg exhibited in the American pavilion, while a collateral exhibition of pop artists is staged by Leo Castelli and Ileana Sonnabend in the ex-American Consulate in San Gregorio. Most controversial of all is the awarding of the prize for foreign artists to Robert Rauschenberg, further signifying the United States’ ascension as the center

October The inauguration of the Signals Gallery takes place in London. Founded by David Medalla and Paul Keeler, the gallery opens with a solo exhibition of Takis’s kinetic sculptures

September Uzo Egonu holds his first solo exhibition at the Woodstock Gallery in London

Hi Red Center perform their famous Ochanomizu Drop and Let’s Participate in the HRC Campaign to Promote the Cleanup and Orderliness of the Metropolitan Area! in various venues around Tokyo during the city’s hosting of the Olympic Games

May The Spiral Group (Romare Bearden, Charles Alston, Norman Lewis, and Hale Woodruff) hold their first—and only—exhibition, First Group Showing (Works in Black and White), in a storefront space at 147 Christopher Street in New York. Bearden exhibits his work Conjur Woman (1964) for the first time Stano Filko and Alex Mlynárcˇ ik stage the legendary HAPPSOC I events throughout the streets of Bratislava David Smith dies in a car crash in South Shaftsbury, Vermont Marta Minujín and Rubén Santantonín organize the installation exhibition La Menesunda (Mayhem) at the Instituto di Tella in Buenos Aires, featuring sixteen rooms of participatory environments The exhibition Lygia Clark: First London Exhibition of Abstract Reliefs and Articulated Sculpture takes place at the Signals Gallery in London, her first major solo exhibition outside of America June David Medalla publishes his “MMMMMMM … Manifesto” in the Signals Newsbulletin Nina Simone releases her influential album I Put a Spell on You Fateh Al-Moudarres, Abdel Aziz Alloun, and Mahmoud Daadouch publish their letter “Inta Harr fi Ra‘ika” (You Are Free to Your Opinion) in the journal Sawt al-‘Arab; the letter would be later known as the “Syrian Artists’ Manifesto” July The first Biennale der Ostseeländer (Biennial of the Baltic Sea Countries) takes place at the Museum der Stadt Rostock as part of the city’s larger Ostseewoche Festival

Shigeko Kubota performs Vagina Painting as part of the Perpetual Fluxfest event held at the Cinematheque in New York

However, the director of the institute, Jorge Romero Brest, orders its removal just prior to the opening

Günter Brus stages his Wiener Spaziergang (Vienna Walk) through the streets of Vienna’s old city

October The Muzej savremene umetnosti (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Belgrade officially opens

The first Biennial of Spatial Forms takes place in Elbla˛g, Poland. Organized and sponsored by the Zamech Mechanical Works and the artist Jürgen Blum (Gerard Kwiatkowski), the biennial served as a national survey of large-scale sculpture August Hélio Oiticica presents the first public performance of his Parangolés during the exhibition Opinião 65 at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro; concurrent

The exhibition Between Poetry and Painting takes place at the London ICA November On the evening before the opening at the Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf, Joseph Beuys stages the action Wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt (How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare). With the doors locked, Beuys sits in the window of the gallery explaining the surrounding paintings to a dead hare he cradles in his arms, his face covered in gold leaf and honey December Tadeusz Kantor’s stages his first happening, Cricotage, at Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Sztuk Pie˛knych (Kraków Society of Friends of Fine Arts) on Chmielna Street in Warsaw

28 Günter Brus during his Vienna Walk, 1965. with his publication of “Paragolé: uma nova fundação objetiva arte” (Paragolé: A New Objective Foundation for Art) in the Brazilian journal Opinião Archie Shepp releases the album Fire Music, which included a requiem for Malcolm X Swiss architect Le Corbusier dies after drowning in the Mediterranean Sea at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in France September Ye Yushan and a team of sculptors from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts exhibit The Rent Collection Courtyard at the former Manor House of Liu Wencai (the original “rent collector”). The 114 sculptures prove to be so popular that replicas are quickly made and exhibited at the Museum of the Chinese Revolution in Beijing The Commonwealth Art Festival takes place in various locations throughout London. Although predominantly focused on historical art, the exhibition of “New Rhodesian Sculpture” at the Royal Albert Hall features works by a group of African artists who emerged from the school run by Frank McEwen at the National Gallery in Harare (then Salisbury) León Ferrari first attempts to exhibit his sculpture La civilización occidental y cristiana (Western Christian Civilisation, 1965) as part of the Premio Nacional e Internacional Instituto Torcuato Di Tella (National Award and the International Institute Torcuato Di Tella) exhibition in Buenos Aires.


Section Introduction Yasufumi Nakamori Stephen Petersen Ariella Azoulay Plates





he opening image of the postwar era is that of the atomic bomb—a new technology that ushered in an era of intertwined beginnings and endings. The bomb was first a Japanese story, told through photography (much of it suppressed, only to be released later) and by artists describing the suffering they saw. Photographs and films of ruined cities and of concentration camp survivors also appeared in the immediate postwar period, and the full realization of the horror of the camps sparked ambitious work in Germany. As these accounts put an end to European moral authority, the war’s conclusion also signaled the end of Europe’s political power and the opening of an era of American military and commercial dominance. American artists were excited by the wondrous natural and scientific revelations of the nuclear age and were awed by the bomb’s biblically scaled power, even as they were skeptical of the U.S. government’s justification for its use. In the wake of Futurism’s worship of technology, Italian artists were also keenly focused on the bomb. A new kind of war began: the Cold War and the arms race, driven by the United States and Russia but encompassing all nations. The iconography of the mushroom cloud helped to create a new awareness of the globe as a single, interconnected entity, a sense of scale emphasized by the programs of space exploration that would emerge from military technology, affording views of the Earth that led to an awareness of global interconnectedness.




1. Aftermath


y ruminating on the images of Japanese cities bombarded in 1945, I believe I might be able to construct a point of view with which to confront world history. It was only from the springboard stance of a return to that point where all human constructs were nullified that future construction would again be possible, I thought. Ruins to me were a source of imagination, and in the 1960s, it turned out that the image of the future city was itself ruins. Professing faith in ruins was equal to planning the future, so much were the times deranged and out of sync. —Arata Isozaki, 2006  1

on August 10, 1945, reveal a raw, direct dimension of the carnage, unfiltered by artistic subjectivity.3 When the second atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, Yamahata was immediately dispatched from his post in Fukuoka to go there with four other soldiers, including a writer and a painter. Despite the relatively short distance between the two cities—about 105 kilometers, or 65 miles—in the chaos of the moment the reporters’ trip took them twelve hours by train. They arrived on the outskirts of Nagasaki around 3 a.m. on August 10. In the cold night air and under a beautiful starry sky, Yamahata’s first sight there was of “numerous small fires, like elf fires, smoldering at a distance.” 4 He soon sensed that the city was in complete ruins. One of his companions described it as “a desert of death, as if hit by the largest storm in an era, unfolding under a crescent moon.” 5 The epigraph above, by the architect Arata Isozaki, represents a senti Yamahata was in Nagasaki for the next twelve hours. As day broke ment shared in the 1960s by many of the so-called yakeato-ha, the popand the light grew, he began to photograph, walking about six kilometers ulation that had grown up in the fire-devastated areas of post–World War from south to north and passing near ground zero. His images show II Japan. Born in the 1930s, as adolescents they saw their cities in ashes. charred bodies, bomb victims near death (fig. 1), architectural debris, Working from their memoa burning landscape, and a ries in the immediate postfew seemingly healthy surviwar years, they envisioned an vors, all seen under the direct archetypal city, a future city. rays of a cloudless August sky Isozaki’s statement thus (plate 28). A photograph of a speaks of the power of visually young boy standing with his and viscerally experiencing mother, each holding a rice the city in ruins. For many of ball and gazing absently at them, the image of the the photographer, is among bombed city, memorialized the best-known pictures through photographs, served Yamahata shot that day; it as an allegory for the death of was later included in the 1953 the old city and its ideological exhibition The Family of Man system—that is, Japan’s imat The Museum of Modern perial fascism of the war Art, New York, a version of years—as well as for the city’s which traveled to Tokyo in 2 new life. 1955, where four more of It is against this backYamahata’s Nagasaki photoground that this short essay graphs were added. 6 Fig. 1. Yo�suke Yamahata. Nagasaki Journey. August 10, 1945. Silver gelatin print Yamahata’s photographs traces the ruins of the war, as on glossy fiber paper, 10.4 × 13.6 cm. Courtesy Daniel Blau, Munich from that day, later called they were photographed and the “‘ground zero’ of atomic rebuilt, between 1945 and photography” by the critic Masafumi Suzuki,7 were dramatically dif1968, a significant period in the postwar era when Japan’s political, ecoferent from his earlier documentary photographs of people and sites nomic, ideological, and architectural environments shifted dramatically. in China and Southeast Asia. Those photos had emphasized the triumAt first those ruins served as mere documents, but as they were built over phant aspects of Japan’s colonial expansion in the region and were and the collective memory of them began to evaporate, they began to released in propagandistic publications supporting the fascist governfunction not only as reminders of the past but—in Isozaki’s sense—as ment. In Nagasaki, finding his consciousness of “expression” blown imaginative sources in the search for the future. They were crucial in away, Yamahata just kept looking at the transfiguration of the world constructing alternate times and spaces to revive fading memories. brought about by the A-bomb. 8 He would later remember that he was Among the photographs bearing witness to the atrocity of the atom “completely calm and composed … it was just too much, too enormous bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, at least 119 shots of to absorb.”9 Nagasaki taken by the Japanese-army photographer Yōsuke Yamahata

Yasufumi Nakamori


The Japanese military never used Yamahata’s Nagasaki photographs for propaganda, since Japan soon surrendered. Some appeared in newspapers before General Douglas MacArthur banned publishing any information relating to the A-bombs. But Yamahata managed to keep his negatives during the Allied Occupation—they were not confiscated—and on August 15, 1952, after the ban was lifted, he published them as a book called Kiroku shashin: genbaku no Nagasaki (Documentary Photography: A-Bombed Nagasaki). The publication closely followed the issue of the magazine Asahi Graph for August 6, 1952, which for the first time widely distributed photographs of the full extent of the atrocities visited upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Fig. 2. Unidentified Photographer, United States Government. Blast- Fire-Damaged Ruins of Takeya Grammar School, Hiroshima. October 1945. Silver gelatin print, 10 × 12.7 cm. International Center of Photography, New York. Purchase, with funds provided by the ICP Acquisitions Committee, 2006

Yamahata’s pictures contrast sharply with a group of photographs taken in Hiroshima by photographers assigned to the Physical Damage Division of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. Those photographs, shot to investigate and record the effects of the bombs on buildings, infrastructure, and industrial complexes, focus on structural damages absent human presence. Between October 14 and November 26, 1945, the photographers took over a thousand photographs.10 These images are clinical, scientific, and typological; they categorize their subjects by building type and by location and elevation in relation to ground zero (fig. 2). They appear alongside written analyses in a classified three-volume report, The Effect of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, Japan (1947). The lives of the bomb victims soon began to be forgotten as the nation and its cities rebuilt at full speed. (By 1956, a Japanese white paper had stated that Japan’s postwar recovery efforts were complete.) Among the photographers who began to document the lives of A-bomb survivors in the 1950s was Ken Domon, who had earlier contributed to such journals as Nippon and Life. Having advocated realism in photography, Domon spent


the year of 1957 photographing survivors of the A-bomb at a hospital, an orphanage, and in various communities in Hiroshima. The following year, these photographs became a book, Ken Domon—Hiroshima, which begins with photographs of a young girl’s skin-graft surgery. While Domon focused on humanistic efforts to portray the lives of those affected by the bomb, the younger photographer Shōmei Tōmatsu took a more conceptual approach, creating a narrative flow of photographs presented as expressive rather than “objective” documents.11 In 1961, commissioned to produce images of bomb victims in Nagasaki by the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, Tōmatsu instead photographed fragments of objects stored at the Nagasaki International Culture Hall (predecessor of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum), such as a melted beer-bottle and a stopped wristwatch (fig. 3), shooting them simply against a plain backdrop. He also visited local villages with a social worker, photographing the keloid scars, burnt skin, and blinded eyes of their inhabitants. From then until 1999, he would take a series of photographs of the Urakawa family—a mother directly injured by the bomb and her three daughters born later, one of whom had only one functioning eye because of secondary exposure to radiation in utero, through her mother. When Tōmatsu published these images in the book Nagasaki, in 1966, twenty years had passed since the end of the war. A kind of collective amnesia had erased much of the direct memory of the consequences of the A-bombs, but Japan’s sovereignty remained in question through the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan (also known as Anpo), which allowed for the massive presence of U.S. military forces on Japanese soil. First signed in 1952, the treaty had been renewed in 1960. Around the same time, the photographer Kikuji Kawada became intrigued by cracks and stains on the surviving walls and ceiling of the dim, damp basement of the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome, the ruin now a memorial in the city. He created dark, high-contrast, abstract photographs of these shapes, then published them in 1965 in a book called Chizu (Map). The book was elaborately designed, with intricate foldouts of some of the photographs, which included images of portraits, letters, and personal items left behind by fallen kamikaze pilots. Tōmatsu’s and Kawada’s rather different books represented each photographer’s attempt to argue that the period of the A-bomb damage was not confined to August 1945—it had just begun ticking then, and continued into the present. In 1968, Yamahata’s Nagasaki photographs resurfaced in a different context. Not only was that year the centennial of the Meiji Restoration, which launched Japan’s modern era, but politically, socially, and culturally it was one of the most turbulent years since the end of World War II, in Japan and around the globe. The nation was caught in a dichotomy, on the one hand anticipating the opening of Asia’s first world exposition, the techno-utopian and futuristic Expo ’70, in Osaka in two years’ time, and on the other the second renewal of the security treaty, also scheduled for 1970. Japanese cities were flooded with protesters who considered Expo a mere distraction from the treaty renewal for Japanese citizens;

1. Aftermath

Fig. 3. Sh�omei T�omatsu. Atomic Bomb Damage: Wristwatch Stopped at 11:02, August 9, 1945, Nagasaki. 1961 (printed 1980). Gelatin silver print, 21.4 × 20 cm. Minneapolis Institute of Art. The Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison Purchase Fund. Acc. n.: 2013.22.1

Yasufumi Nakamori


universities were barricaded, and some shut down, by agitating students. This specific historical context saw a number of photographic examinations of the formation of Japan as a modern nation, for example a massive traveling show of over 1,600 photographs, Photography 100 Years: A History of Photographic Expression by the Japanese.12 The exhibition traced the modern nation’s history through twenty thematic sections. Four of those sections—“Document,” “War Period,” “National Propaganda,” and “Graph[ic] Journalism”—included photographs directly related to World War II, among them five of Yamahata’s photographs of Nagasaki, which were enlarged to almost one-to-one scale and exhibited as photographic panels. With their large size and vivid depictions of corporeal damage, these images renewed and even magnified their earlier impact, and in the minds of many viewers the post-apocalyptic city streets of Nagasaki in 1945 became linked with Tokyo streets in 1968, shattered and filled with protestors.

the work was made, and of the present in which the work is being viewed—when the city may once again become a ruin. A closer look reveals ambiguities over whether two steel building frameworks that survived the war (images Isozaki found and superimposed onto the ruined cityscape), disproportionately large, are collapsing or under construction. The architect’s own drawing of a utopian and futuristic megastructure, seen as vertical shafts beneath one of the frameworks, suggests the incubation of a new city. Thus multiple moments collide within Re-ruined Hiroshima, in a constellation of past and present. The title suggests that the city is for a second time dead, but fragments within the collage provoke a hope to restore the city with, in Isozaki’s words, “the operation of imagination.”13 The time sequence here is disordered; Isozaki deliberately disregarded the linearity of time, an integral aspect of modernity.

Fig. 4. Arata Isozaki. Re-ruined Hiroshima, project, Hiroshima, Japan (Perspective). 1968. Ink and gouache with cut-and-pasted gelatin silver print on gelatin silver print, 35.2 × 93.7 cm. New York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation. Acc. n.: 1205.2000

Also in 1968, the architect Isozaki created Re-ruined Hiroshima, a complex collage of found photographs and his own drawings (fig. 4). Remembering the bombing and burning of his hometown of Ōita by U.S. air raids in July 1945, and seeing streets and campuses in Tokyo vandalized over Anpo again—Isozaki himself had been one of the protesters who clashed with police over the first renewal of the treaty, in 1960—he made the work as part of a larger sonic, visual, architectural, and cybernetic installation, Electric Labyrinth, which he produced for the Milan design triennial that same year. Electric Labyrinth visualized an intermingling of past, present, and future, interwoven and saturated with tensions and contradictions. Re-ruined Hiroshima itself is based on a found photograph of the apocalyptic landscape of Hiroshima soon after the A-bomb was dropped. While the work refers to the city’s nuclear death on August 6, 1945, its title refers to a future moment—in terms both of 1968, when


As these examples indicate, photographs of A-bombed cities and their residents were shown and interpreted between 1945 and 1968 according to different strategies, in different formats and contexts, and for different purposes. As memories of the war began to slip away, though, photographers and artists gave the images a different life as an act of protest, reviving them, for example as a collage, in a context that unfolded as Japan’s growing role in the Cold War increased the recovering nation’s importance—problematically in relation to U.S. involvement in Asia. In this process, photographs of the ruins, whether they showed buildings or human bodies, transformed from mere documents to catalytic agents that complicated the linear sense of time and challenged the modernity Japan had achieved and the seeming progress it had made through its miraculous accomplishments in the economic, technological, and industrial arenas.

1. Aftermath

1 Arata Isozaki, Japan-ness in Architecture, trans. Sabu Kohso (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2006), pp. 99–100. Emphasis added by author. 2 See Yasufumi Nakamori, “Imagining Cities: Visions of Avant-Garde Artists and Architects from 1953 to 1970 Japan,” PhD dissertation, Cornell University, 2011. 3 See Rupert Jenkins, “Introduction,” in Jenkins, ed., Nagasaki Journey: The Photographs of Yosuke Yamahata, August 10, 1945 (San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1995), pp. 13–22. 4 Yosuke Yamahata, “Genbaku satsuei memo,” in Munehito Kitajima, ed., Genbaku no Nagasaki: kiroku shashin (Tokyo: Daiichi shuppan-sha, 1952), p. 23. Author’s translation. - in ibid., p. 16. 5 Jun Higashi, “Reportage: genbaku Nagasaki no sanj o,” 6 The additional photographs in the Tokyo exhibition were removed when Emperor Hirohito visited it, leaving only a cropped and enlarged photograph of the boy with the rice ball. The exhibition was designed by the architect Kenz -o- Tange, who at the time was completing the Hiroshima Peace Center (1949–56). Tange had played an important role in the life of Isamu Noguchi during the artist’s early years in Japan. Inspired by Tange’s Hiroshima project, Noguchi created Model for Bell Tower for Hiroshima (1950; plate 17) and proposed Memorial to the Dead of Hiroshima (1952). 7 Masafumi Suzuki, “The Atomized City and the Photograph,” in Jenkins, ed., Nagasaki Journey, p. 35. 8 Nakamori, “Experiments with the Camera: Art and Photography in 1970s Japan,” in Nakamori, Allison Pappas, and Yuko Fujii, For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968–1979, exh. cat. (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2015), p. 16. - “Meet Yosuke 9 Yamahata, quoted in Hidezoh Kondo, Yamahata—Nagasaki Photographer the Day after the Atomic Bombing,” Yomiuri Weekly, August 20, 1962, quoted here from Jenkins, ed., Nagasaki Journey, p. 103. 10 Erin Barnett and Philomena Mariani, “Introduction,” in Hiroshima Ground Zero 1945, exh. cat. (New York: International Center of Photography, in association with Steidl, 2011), p. 5. 11 Shomei Tomatsu argued for this approach in his debate with the documentary photographer Yonosuke Natori in 1960. In the issue of Asahi Camera for November of that year, Tomatsu published the letter “A Young Photographer’s Statement: I Refute Mr. Natori,” a response to Natori’s essay “The Birth of New Photography,” which had appeared in the magazine the previous month. Active since the prewar years, Natori complained that new, socially oriented photography often took on the style of Dada-influenced European commercial or fashion photography of the 1930s. Tomatsu in turn challenged the realist documentary photography practiced by Natori and his contemporaries and argued for the portrayal of social issues as personal documents. 12 See Nakamori, “Experiments with the Camera,” pp. 15–16. 13 Isozaki, quoted in Nakamori, “Imagining Cities.”

Yasufumi Nakamori



1. Aftermath


n May of 1952, Time magazine reviewed an exhibition of paintings at the Galleria del Cavallino, Venice, “inspired by the atomic bomb.” “How,” the review began, “should a modern artist react to the atomic age?” The works in the show, including a pierced canvas by Lucio Fontana, shown illuminated from behind, and an enamel drip painting by Gianni Dova, described as a “churning blue and green fantasy,” were self-conscious attempts to translate atomic energy into pure gesture (fig. 1). Time described the works as being “almost as explosive as the bomb itself: furious fireballs of bright colors and bold contrasts.” The exhibit, the brainchild of Milanese dealer Carlo Cardazzo, was a spectacular success. During its first week alone, said Time, “4,000 crushed in for a look at the atomic fireballs and glowing pinholes.”1 The question of how modern artists should react to a world forever altered by the use of atomic weapons had arisen as early as 1946, when artist Ad Reinhardt rejected Ralston Crawford’s hard-edged abstract renderings of the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests, asking, “Do crooked shapes and twisted lines represent painting’s adjustment to the atomic age? (NO).”2 In a much-quoted interview of 1950, Jackson Pollock linked his innovative drip-painting technique of the late 1940s to the need to respond to recent technological developments, among them the atom bomb:

nuclear fusion attacks their profiles and prevents them from remaining intact. As if a hammer had crushed them or as if a charge of dynamite placed inside them had exploded, leaving the traces of combustion.”6 The idea of “traces of combustion” recalls the scorched landscapes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as firebombing and other wartime atrocities. Viewed in this way, Wols’s nonfigurative works, like those of Pollock and de Kooning, remain haunted by the absent (exploded, disintegrated) figure. In postwar Milan, influenced by both Pollock and Wols, painters explored dripped enamels and other automatic techniques as a way both to depict and to express the consequences of the atomic bomb. Both the Arte Spaziale (Spatial Art) group, launched by Fontana with Dova and

My opinion is that new needs need new techniques … It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique. 3 Pollock saw, or at least intuited, a connection between his own stylistic breakthrough and the newly unleashed force of the atom, as did the many critics who reflexively described his work as “explosive.” Italian aesthetician Renato Barilli has more pointedly argued that postwar artists “had to confront the Holocaust of the Second World War, and, as if that were not enough, that of the atomic deflagration”: It might be said that the Other dramatically irrupted and not only in the marginal domain of stylistic research, but so as to reach all of humanity. This irruption changed the terms of the problem. Artists, with their intuition, understood it very well, and the informel, accompanied by other tendencies, was the response they proposed. 4 Barilli vividly likens the dissolution of the figure in the work of Pollock and Willem de Kooning in the late 1940s to the bursting atom: “In the same way, in the free transcription of Pollock and de Kooning the anthropomorphic figures of Picassian post-cubism explode … and are fused into the background of the picture.”5 Whereas modern art had been characterized by formal mastery, the informel brought about a disintegration of form and a fusing of figure and ground. Likewise, Barilli described the informel paintings of Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) as starting from the whimsical figures of Paul Klee, but “the fire of

Fig. 1. Members Roberto Crippa, Lucio Fontana, and Gianni Dova of the Arte Spaziale group holding their paintings inspired by the atomic bomb, Milan, 1952. Courtesy Galleria del Naviglio Milano

Roberto Crippa under the sponsorship of Cardazzo’s Galleria del Naviglio, and the contemporaneous Arte Nucleare (Nuclear Art) group, founded by Enrico Baj, Sergio Dangelo, and Joe Cesare Colombo, saw themselves responding to the atomic age with painterly experimentalism. Dova for his part had abandoned geometric abstraction in 1950 and had begun to work with the Surrealist technique of flottage, producing aqueous abstractions with titles such as Atomic Marine—a “seascape” of roiling paint—and Composizione nucleare (Nuclear Composition). Meanwhile, Baj was dripping enamel paints so as to suggest liquidated landscapes and figures, giving his works such unmistakably atomic titles as Esplosione (Explosion) and Due figure atomizzate (Two Atomized Figures).

Stephen Petersen


Fig. 2. Enzo Preda. Per dimenticare Hiroshima (In Order to Forget Hiroshima). 1951. Enamel on canvas, 100 × 80 cm. Private Collection


1. Aftermath

In November of 1951, Baj joined with Dangelo, who was exploring similar themes, in a dual show dubbed Pittura Nucleare (Nuclear Painting) at the Galleria San Fedele in Milan. Writing at length about the exhibit in Corriere della Sera, critic Leonardo Borgese summed up the artists’ belief that the atomic age required a new artistic vocabulary, distinct from the 1946 rendering of the atomic theme by Salvador Dalí: Let us therefore make an art that is modern, that is to say, atomic. Well, Salvador Dalí represented the atomic explosion with his fine mushroom cloud; but that is not enough, since a nineteenth-century painter would have rendered it in more or less the same fashion. We want, rather, a more intelligent, more alive, and, in a certain sense, more truthful representation, and even a more objective one.

Baj’s recurring image of the “atomic” man was a crude, graphic, at times whimsical conflation of a mushroom cloud and the skull and vertebrae of an eviscerated figure formed from freely poured enamel paint. On a certain level, these damaged and mutated forms resonated with written accounts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at a time when photographs of the bomb casualties were still being censored by the occupying authority and genetic mutations were only gradually being discussed in the international press. As the artist later explained, “We had a tragic conception of man. Representing pictorially the nuclear peril, the nuclear theme after all—nothing but exposing it—was already to show all its consequences.”8 The theme of contaminated birth and mutation appears in Baj’s ironically titled Concezione Immacolata (The Immaculate Conception) of 1950, its monstrous figure emerging from streams and pools of enamel,

Fig. 3. Unidentified Photographer, United States Government. Flash Burns on Steps of Sumitomo Bank Company, Hiroshima Branch. November 1945. Silver gelatin print, 10 × 12.7 cm. International Center of Photography, New York. Purchase, with funds provided by the ICP Acquisitions Committee, 2006

We want to remake, to interpret artistically and poetically … the physical and spiritual—and indeed psychic—explosions of the new man in the new world.7

and again in his 1953 Piccolo bambino (Little Boy), whose white blobs of paint suggest both the mushroom cloud and a small skeletal figure, conflating the name of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima with its consequences. Baj’s and Dangelo’s works, said Arturo Schwarz, “have as their motif the human condition as it would be after an atomic explosion.”9

Stephen Petersen


In preparation for a 1952 exhibit in Brussels, Baj and Dangelo issued a Manifeste de la peinture nucléaire (Manifesto of nuclear painting), in which they pronounced their “desire to demolish all the ‘isms’” of painting and to “reinvent” painting altogether. “Forms disintegrate,” the manifesto said; “man’s new forms are those of the atomic universe.” 10 They and Colombo collaborated to produce Nuclear Composition (1951; plate 36), an inventory of drips, blots, and splatters focused on a central “explosion” of pain. Baj has described the influence of Pollock on the three at this time, specifically the “idea of running colors, of colors thrown and emulsified … we were interested in investigating the material, by its disintegration.” 11 Colombo also collaborated with Baj to produce nuclear sculptures, assemblages made with bones (femurs, pelvic bones); further developing the atomic-anatomic theme, he exhibited a series of spray paintings outlining skeletal forms. This technique, visually conjuring the x-ray, used literal vaporization and atomization to suggest the effect of atomic radiation on the body. As Enrico Brenna wrote of Baj and the Nuclear artists in 1953, “They have wished to disintegrate painting and have found themselves in a nightmare world.”12 Baj’s 1951 word-painting Manifesto Nucleare BUM (Boom Nuclear Manifesto) featured a black mushroom-cloud-shaped head against an acid-lemon background overlaid with nuclear slogans and formulas, declaring “The heads of men are charged with explosives/every atom is exploding.” That same year, the Nuclear artist Enzo Preda exhibited Per dimenticare Hiroshima (In Order to Forget Hiroshima; fig. 2), a mushroom cloud made of drizzled enamel and punc­t uated by a bright orange spill emanating from its center. As the painter was clearly aware, Hiroshima could not be consigned to oblivion. In 1957, an expanded, international group of participants in Arte Nucleare included Yves Klein, the young French painter whose notorious Epoca blu exhibit—eleven nearly identical monochrome panels coated in artificial ultramarine pigment—had been held at the Galleria Apollinaire, Milan, in January. In September, Klein signed Baj’s manifesto Contro lo stile (Against Style), which denounced convention and style in art as empty repetition, and in October a monochrome painting by Klein was included in an important exhibit devoted to Arte Nucleare at the Galleria San Fedele. Only a few months later, Klein would exhibit his infamous Le Vide (The Void) at the Galerie Iris Clert in Paris, presenting the small gallery empty and painted a brilliant white, a provocative gesture that he contextualized at the time explicitly in terms of the atomic age and the threat of nuclear annihilation: I am happy to be dealing with a problem that is so much of our time. One must—and this is not an exaggeration—keep in mind that we are living in the atomic age, where everything material and physical could disappear from one day to another, to be replaced by nothing but the ultimate abstraction imaginable.13

and H bombs,” so that the explosions and their fallout would have a telltale color, detectable by all interested parties.14 The connection between Klein’s International Klein Blue (IKB) pigment and radioactive fallout suggests one possible meaning for his “Cosmogony” works of 1960, where the artist blew IKB pigment into falling rain and captured the blue-­infused drops on a sheet of paper, reminiscent of the “black rain” that poured radio­active particles on the atom-bomb survivors. Klein had lived in Japan for a year and a half in the early 1950s, studying judo. According to a friend he met there, the author Shinichi Segi, Klein was deeply impressed by a film by Fumio Kamei, Itike ite yokata (It’s good to live), which documented the scarred survivors of Hiroshima. The film included footage of the “shadow” of a vaporized figure burnt onto a Hiroshima doorstep by the atomic blast (fig. 3). Segi described its impact on Klein: In the great cataclysm, on the stairs, a man was disintegrated in a second, maybe less, and his shadow, from the brightest of all possible lights, remains etched—a disappearance, for eternity. ... Yves’s emotion was at its height. ... “This is close to a monochrome [he said].” Death, life and absence of life ... A stone colored by the shadow of a man: the stone and the body melted into one another by the extreme heat. The colored body—absence of the act of painting, and painting.15 The nuclear “shadows,” according to Segi, “influenced and incited” Klein to make the series of body imprints and silhouettes that he called “Anthropometries.” Klein, who only occasionally gave specific titles to his works, called one of the body prints, a unique example from c. 1961 featuring ghostly silhouettes, Hiroshima. Here his signature color IKB, applied with an atomizer, intimates the radiation blast itself, leaving faint shadows around absent figures. (The Hiroshima victims were literally vaporized by the blast, their shadows forming negative stains as the cement around them was blanched). It was, as Klein reportedly said about the atomic shadows, “close to a monochrome.” In 1961 Klein made a series of “Fire Paintings” using a flame thrower, among which some examples, the size of large Abstract Expressionist works, register imprints and silhouettes of figures along with scorch marks and drips made from water. In the days after the Hiroshima bombing, lacking onsite documentation, a Picture Post story on man’s entry into the “Atom Age” had in fact used the visual example of a flame thrower scorching a Japanese soldier to illustrate the action of the atom bomb, while pointing to the far greater force and speed of the bomb, which “literally seared to death all living things.”16 Harking back to an informel aesthetic while visibly suggesting flames and explosions, Klein’s “Fire Paintings” explored the ambiguous aesthetic territory—but also the terrifying reality—where the body disintegrates, fusing with the background.

Soon thereafter Klein drafted a letter to the International Conference on the Detection of Atomic Explosions proposing “to paint in blue the A


1. Aftermath

1 “Outside Is Everything,” Time 59, no. 21 (May 26, 1952): 73. 2 Ad Reinhardt, “How to Look at Three Current Shows,” PM, December 15, 1946, p. 12. 3 Jackson Pollock, interview with William Wright, 1950, in Jackson Pollock: Interviews, Articles, and Reviews, ed. Pepe Karmel (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1999), p. 22. 4 Renato Barilli, “Tachisme, informel, abstraction lyrique,” In Les Années 50 (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, 1988), p. 80. All translations mine unless otherwise noted. 5 Ibid., p. 81. 6 Ibid. 7 Leonardo Borgese, “Arte Nucleare,” Corriere della Sera (Milan), November 24, 1951, repr. in Enrico Baj: Opere dal 1951 al 2001, exh. cat. (Rome: Palazzo delle Esposizioni, in association with Skira, Milan, 2001), p. 238. 8 Enrico Baj, “Attenzione alla Pittura: Baj par Baj,” in Enrico Baj (Paris: Filipacchi, 1980), p. 19. 9 Tristan Sauvage [a pseudonym for Arturo Schwarz], Art Nucléaire, trans. John A. Stevens (Paris: Editions Vilo, 1962), p. 52. 10 Baj and Sergio Dangelo, Manifeste de la peinture nucléaire (Brussels: Galerie Apollo, 1952), n.p. 11 Baj, interview with Freddy De Vree, in Enrico Baj Modifications, trans. Pia Nkoduga, exh. cat. (Antwerp: Ronny van de Velde, 1998), n.p. 12 Enrico Brenna, “Pretion,” in Sauvage, Art Nucléaire, p. 204. 13 Yves Klein, “My Position in the Battle between Line and Color,” 1958, repr. in Otto Piene and Heinz Mack, eds., Zero, trans. Howard Beckman (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1973), p. 10. 14 Klein, quoted in Sidra Stich, Yves Klein (Stuttgart: Cantz, 1994), p. 147. 15 Shinichi Segi, “Le réaliste de l’immatériel,” in Yves Klein (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, 1983), p. 84. 16 Picture Post (London), August 25, 1945, quoted in Christoph Laucht, “‘An Imagined Cataclysm Becomes Fact’: British Photojournalism and Real and Imagined Nuclear War in Picture Post,” in Catherine Jolivette, ed., British Art in the Nuclear Age (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), p. 83.

Stephen Petersen



1. Aftermath


y the end of World War II in 1945, many German cities had been systematically destroyed by bombing from the air. The people who survived, and particularly the women, then went through another type of violence, this time from the land. A popular axiom of the Allied New World Order held that Germans had to pay for the Nazis’ crimes, and women, German in particular, had to relearn the lesson of rule by men, regardless of those men’s nationalities. The possibility that in the political vacuum created by the end of the war and the destruction of social fabrics, women would establish another polity amid the ruins, had to be eradicated. Starting on April 27, and over the course of several weeks, anywhere between a few hundred thousand and two million German women were raped.1 In the urban spaces where many of these rapes took place, cameras were not absent, to say the least; the destruction of living spaces and of the buildings of German cities is recorded in countless trophy photographs. These places were quickly crowded with photographers. The presence of rape, including both the preface to and the aftermath of physical violence, required no special effort to detect—the crime was ubiquitous. Yet it did not appear as a prime subject for these photographers in the way that the large-scale destruction of the cities did. A picture (fig. 1) showing two photographers together manifests an interest in the photographer in zones of war and violence as a figure always ready with his camera in his hand. That interest is reinforced by the invisible presence of yet a third photographer, the one who took the photograph we are looking at. In the context of the alleged absence of

Fig. 1. “Photographers at the Brandenburg Gate” (untaken photographs of rape), May 1945

photographs of rape, though, we can look at this photograph and ask, where are the photographs of rape that these photographers could have been taking in a city plagued with it? Did they not witness these rapes firsthand, or if women were raped in front of their eyes did they choose to avert their cameras? Using the diary A Woman in Berlin as a guide in my exploration of photography to capture rape, I focus mainly on Berlin, where thousands of photographs were taken during this time.2 In a city

where cameras abounded, though, I propose to use this photograph as a placeholder in a photographic archive in formation and to relate to it as a stand-in for a particular species: the untaken photograph of rape. Depending on the circumstances under which photographs were—or were not—taken or disseminated, and on the spectator position we nego-

Fig. 2. “The Capital of the Third Reich after the Storm,” April 1945

tiate, other placeholders can be named inaccessible photograph of rape, or as yet unacknowledged photograph of rape. These rapes were discussed, though not in depth or at length, in quite a few historical accounts.3 There is no disagreement among researchers about the widespread occurrence of rape—only about the precise number of women who were violated. To ask where the photographs of these rapes are, then, is not to search for evidence that women were systematically raped. Such evidence abounds. Instead, this is an ontopolitical question forced on the photographic archive, defying the priority given to photographs as the primary outcome of the event of photography, and the sanctity accorded to the frame as the boundary that determines what photographic narratives can be written. These priorities and presumptions limit what we can learn from photographs to discrete units of information known as facts, which are often used for summary accounts (as if the most important issue were whether “only” 700,000 or 800,000 women were raped in Berlin) or are dismissed as having any­thing to do with rape. When so many oral accounts from victims of rape describe the destroyed streets full of armed soldiers as the arena of their rape, we cannot refrain from asking, how is it that none of these photographs of destruction became associated with rape? What expectations are implied by the dismissal of these photos—that only a photograph in which a rapist or a group of rapists are captured in the same frame with an attacked woman could be recognized as a photograph of rape? Rather than reproducing common assumptions about the scarcity of images or the archival silence and expecting that after seventy years during which photographs of this systemic rape did not circulate, the archive will suddenly provide us with a few rare, previously unseen images

Ariella Azoulay


of torn bodies, and rather than inhabiting the imperial role of the discoverer of a large-scale and known catastrophe, I limit my study to available images. After all, the aim is not to ratify the number of women known to have been raped through photographs of their wounded bodies. When we speak about conditions of systemic violence, we should not look for photographs of or about systemic violence, but should explore photographs taken in zones of systemic violence. The places recorded in them are exactly the same places where rapes took place. Maybe not on the third floor, but on the second; maybe not in the apartment on the right, but in this one on the left; maybe only three soldiers rather than four; and so

Fig. 4. “Battered Berlin,” July 11, 1945 (recto) Fig. 5. “Battered Berlin,” July 11, 1945 (verso)

Fig. 3. “Berlin, 1945”

on (fig. 2). The impossibility of stabilizing this kind of information, even though it may be crucial in individual cases, is counterbalanced by the possibility of using photographs to explore the conditions of systematic rape as foundational to post–World War II democratic political regimes: ruined urban spaces, military rule, and artificially produced food shortages. Photographs should not be approached as raw archival material—as if “what was there” is equal to what made it into the frame—or as positive facts whose intrinsic meaning as primary sources is to be pulled out through research. They should be read with and against other material, often considered “secondary,” and they deserve special


1. Aftermath

Fig. 6. “Berlin, 1945”

Fig. 7. “Pumping for Water in Berlin,” July 20, 1945 (recto)

Ariella Azoulay


Fig. 8. “Pumping for Water in Berlin,” July 20, 1945 (verso)


1. Aftermath

attention since what they encapsulate is always more than what those who produced them intended to record. Hence my rejection of the axiom according to which there are no images of rape, which relies on the reduction of photography to photographs and ignores the co-presence of cameras and rape in the same unit of time and space. In zones of omnipresent violence of which there are no photos at all, all photographs should be explored as photographs of that very same violence. As with the rabbit-duck test, I propose to ask in which kinds of images this systemic rape is located, even if it remains elusive, and to attempt to bring rape to the surface of the photograph, side by side with more visible phenomena. Photographs showing the massive destruction of built environments are my first sources in this effort (fig. 3): I started to read these perforated houses, heaps of torn walls, empty door and window frames, uprooted doors, piles of rubble—all those elements that used to be pieces of homes—as the necessary spatial conditions under which a huge number of women could be transformed into an unprotected population prone to violation.

Fig. 10. “Berlin, 1945”

Fig. 9. “The Capital of the Third Reich after the Storming of the City,” April 1945

NO MARKS LEFT ON THE HISTORICAL TIMELINE Already in July 1945, the absence of rape was carefully constructed through tropes of substitution and displacement. The chaotic environment that had formed the arena of systemic rape had already been remodeled and replaced by discrete destroyed objects on relatively cleansed sidewalks. “This is one of the scenes presented to the eyes of Allied soldiers who entered war-shattered Berlin,” states the news agency that distributed these photographs (figs. 4, 5), replacing attention to the ruins with their appearance to the eyes of Allied soldiers. The

caption assumes the right of those who have destroyed the city to continue to seize it, administer it, and view it, and to act as if they were not the destroyers but those who had come to explore, assist, and restore order. This is the familiar imperial protocol: the plight one perpetrates becomes one’s trophy, the object of one’s gaze. Even if most of the rapes were perpetrated by Red Army soldiers and in the Soviet occupation zone, the tight daily cooperation among Allied forces made them more than just spectators—a position they inhabited without remorse—and certainly responsible for the naturalization and decriminalization of this systemic violence. Rather than standing against that violence and using the term “rape” to name a crime, the occupying powers deliberately conflated violence with sex and love—a private matter with public violence—by using “fraternization” as an umbrella term through which to regulate relations between men and women. Thus a photograph taken three months after the Allies entered the city, in which women are seen walking casually in the street, showing no sign that they have recently seen their first daylight after being forced to live for weeks as “cave dwellers,” can be distributed as a representation of the scene the Allies first saw when they entered the city on foot. The plight of certain segments of the body politic, or of entire populations, is not etched in historical time. Weeks of terror simply do not exist in the timeline of imperial powers’ news desks. Only some weeks later, and no earlier than that, were women actually back on the streets (fig. 6). To each

Ariella Azoulay


other these women still seemed “unbelievably different,” “unfamiliar, older, distraught,” even when some of the main arteries of the city were cleared of rubble and differentiations between roads and sidewalks, private space and commons, locked indoors and open outdoors, made the street safe for them again (figs. 7, 8). 4 Reconstructing women’s timeline is a first step in reassociating photographs with rape. When photographs record the presence of welldressed girls and women in open spaces, as in the “Battered Berlin” image, we are reminded that these women were in a very early moment of re-experiencing the meaning of walking in their city without the threat of being violently captured and raped, or forced into the cruel deal

disappeared, so that the degree of their presence in photographs can be used in the reconstruction of the photographic timeline of the rapes taking place in this decor. When an anonymous Russian soldier took the photo in fig. 9, for example, women’s screams were probably audible. Instead of complying with factual classifications such as “bombed city,” provided by those who had the power both to destroy a fabric of life and to promote a discursive matrix in which such violence could be justified, I seek to render them unavailable, unreiterable. When photos of catastrophe are made into tokens of destruction, details like the density of the smoke, the height of the rubble, the position of the rubble in the entrance to a building, women’s grimaces, features, and clothes—all

Fig. 11. “Berlin Struggles up out of Rubble” (recto)

of being provided with enough food to survive in exchange for their bodies and work. This is, though, a photograph of a city from which omnipresent rape has been wiped out in order to clear the way for its survivors to be shaped as consumers by the Marshall Plan devised for them. When the Allies walked into Berlin after heavily bombarding it, smoke was still hanging in the air and the streets were carpeted with rubble and the corpses of people and animals. A few refugees on the run, carrying small bundles, could be seen. These elements gradually


these are neglected, and appear as more of the same. When imperial violence is made into ether, these details can be helpful in making it palpable again. After all, innumerable photographs were taken in imperial arenas of violence. Careful attention to smell, color, sound, and other tactile aspects is necessary to endow this etheric violence with material presence in photographic archives. Visual documents of violence perpetrated in the open are not missing; they are located within available images falsely declared not to

1. Aftermath

Fig. 12. “Berlin Struggles up out of Rubble” (verso)

Ariella Azoulay


Fig. 13. “Hunger – The Price of Defeat,” October 23, 1945 (recto)

Fig. 14. “Hunger – The Price of Defeat,” October 23, 1945 (verso)

be images of rape, even though they were taken in the same places and at the same time as the rapes. Inserted in such a reconstructed timeline, I propose to read fig. 9 not as another photo of destruction but rather as a photo of an arena of rape. In these perforated and porous dwellings, women lived with no windows, no doors, no water, no gas, no electricity, and very little food. The women moved from the upper floors to the basement and back, depending on the data they could gather on the behavior of their rapists. Some of the rapists, they learned, were too lazy to climb to the upper floors, especially when drunk; others felt less comfort­ able raping women in crowded places like basements, where, after the aerial bombing, people stayed since their apartments were made uninhabitable. Young girls in particular hid in closets and other less accessible parts of what was left of their or others’ homes. Some of the women managed to reduce the number of men who raped them by making deals with individual soldiers who would protect them from the others and, in exchange for access to their bodies, provide them with food. The rubble that blocked buildings’ entrances didn’t stand in the way of those who came to rape women. On the contrary, the chase after women was part of the adventure. Although the buildings were not secure, women preferred staying in them to going outside and walking to their predators. The deserted street in fig. 9 indicates this clearly: the road is already relatively cleansed of rubble, but only one or two soldiers are seen on it. On May 9, Anonymous wrote in her diary that she was “alone between her sheets for the first time since April 27” (fig. 10).5 The day before,

with the help of some of their “protectors,” she and other women had been able to block the entrance of the building they were living in with a kind of door, which restored, even if in a very vulnerable way, some semblance of privacy, threshold, choice, and order. Rapes didn’t cease at this point, but with some sign of order and organization, their number and frequency diminished. After some of the apartments’ doors were restored, it came time to clear buildings’ street entrances (figs. 11, 12). Writing on the same morning, Anonymous continued, “Some people equipped with heavy scoops called us down to the street, where we shoveled the pile of refuse on the corner.”6 When the photo in fig. 9 was taken, some time after April 27 and not much after the first week of May, rapes were still numerous.

Fig. 15. “Black Market Arrests,” 1945


1. Aftermath

What exactly is fig. 9? Who took it, and why? The dead corpse of a horse, still attached to a damaged carriage, doesn’t seem to be what attracted the photographer; nor was it the scale of the destruction, as is clearly the case in “Battered Berlin,” whose focus is a collapsed building. In this image the photographer’s gaze is closer and more intimate. The photo was not taken in order to show the house or the street. It seems more like an idiosyncratic souvenir the photographer wanted to carry

their exchange: “‘How many times were you raped, Ilse?’ ‘Four, and you?’ ‘No idea, I had to work up the ranks from supply train to major.’” 10 Under these conditions, four times could not have been enough for survival. Not much could be found in a nearby dumping lot either. Anonymous noted “the people going hungry” in mid-May, after another friend of hers biked a two-hour distance to ask for some food (fig. 16). “She herself looks pitiful; a piece of bacon. Her legs are sticks and her knees jut out like gnarled bumps.” 11 There are no statistics, but many women preferred to shelter themselves from multiple gang rapes in these types of relationships. These men became friends of sorts, welcomed insofar as they could prevent foreigners from intruding and raping the women more brutally. Even if fig. 10 was not taken by Petka, Anatol, the Major, Vanya, it was taken by another soldier in a threatening proximity to women who, at the very moment when the photo was taken, hid in houses that were violated.

Fig. 16. “Refugees Get Hot Soup from Red Cross,” 1945

with him. He would have been familiar with this particular building; he probably knew how to get in and out of each of its holes, and wanted to keep some memories of the many evenings and nights he spent there with one woman or maybe many, first having to “grab her wrists,” “jerk her around the corridor,” and “pull her, hand on her throat, so she can no longer scream,” 7 and later providing some vodka, herring, candles, and cigarettes after he had raped her. At this point food rations were either nonexistent or minimal enough to push women to choose a sort of rape-under-control in the form of a food-for-sex exchange in place of other forms of rape. As Anonymous writes, “Physically I feel a little better, though, now that I am doing something, planning something, determined to be more than mere mute booty, a spoil of war.” 8 The photographer might be this guy, described by Anonymous: “out of all the male beasts I’ve seen these past few days he’s the most bearable, the best of the lot.”9 Those who succeeded in avoiding rape, or its recurrence, found themselves outside any of these providential economies. City dumps were rare places where they could find food (figs. 13, 14). The black-market economy was manipulated to authorize certain people to provide women with food, and to ensure that they were not creating their own markets with their own rules (fig. 15). They were constantly arrested since they never stopped trying to find and install their own trade networks. When Anonymous met with a friend, this was

This is a short version of a longer text shown as a visual essay at Pembroke Hall, Brown University, April 2016, and at the f/stop Festival for Photography, Leipzig, June 2016. 1 On the approximation of the number of rapes in Germany see Atina Grossmann, Jews, Germans and Allies: Close Encounters in Occupied Berlin (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), pp. 48–49; Antony Beevor, The Fall of Berlin 1945 (New York: Viking, 2002); and Helke Sander’s film Liberators Take Liberties (1992). 2 Anonymous, A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City. A Diary, trans. Philip Boehm (New York: Picador, 2000), p. 13. 3 In 9,558 pages of books I have looked at that focus on 1945, only 161 address the mass rape of German women. In the thousands of photographs taken in 1945 and printed in albums there is no mention of rape at all. A few pages on rape can be read in each of these books: Douglas Botting, From the Ruins of the Reich: Germany 1945–1949 (New York: Crown, 1985); Ian Buruma, Year Zero: A History of 1945 (New York: The Penguin Press, 2013); Richard Bessel, Germany 1945: From War to Peace (New York: Harper Collins, 2009); David Stafford, Endgame 1945: The Missing Chapter of World War II (New York: Back Bay Books, 2007); and Giles MacDonogh, After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation (New York: Basic Books, 2007). 4 Anonymous, A Woman in Berlin, p. 84. 5 Ibid., p. 155. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid., p. 53. These descriptions in the diary use first-person pronouns where I have used the third person. 8 Ibid., p. 64. 9 Ibid., p. 116. 10 Ibid., p. 204. 11 Ibid., p. 140.

Ariella Azoulay



Kim Kulim Karel Appel Norman Lewis Francis Bacon Roy Lichtenstein Enrico Baj Morris Louis Mieczysław Berman Maruki Iri and Maruki Toshi Joseph Beuys Henry Moore Jean Fautrier Movimento Arte Nucleare Weaver Hawkins Barnett Newman Jess (Burgess Franklin Collins)

Isamu Noguchi Eduardo Paolozzi Robert Rauschenberg Gerhard Richter Mira Schendel David Smith Frank Stella Alina Szapocznikow

Igael Tumarkin Wolf Vostell Andrzej Wróblewski Yosuke Yamahata Yuri Zlotnikov


Jean Fautrier La Juive (The Jewess) 1943 oil on paper mounted on canvas Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris

2 Francis Bacon Fragment of a Crucifixion 1950 oil and cotton wool on canvas Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven



David Smith Perfidious Albion 1945 bronze and cast iron Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas

4 David Smith The Maiden's Dream 1949 bronze The Estate of David Smith, New York


Joseph Beuys Hirschdenkmäler (Monuments to the Stag) 1958/82 mixed media Private Collection


Joseph Beuys Hirschdenkmäler (Monuments to the Stag) 1958/82 mixed media Private Collection



Wolf Vostell Deutscher Ausblick aus dem Environment “Das schwarze Zimmer” (German View from the environment “The Black Room”) 1958–59 décollage, wood, barbed wire, tin, newspaper, bone, television with cover Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur, Berlin


Alina Szapocznikow Hand. Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto II 1957 patinated plaster and iron filings The Estate of Alina Szapocznikow, Paris



Andrzej Wróblewski Liquidation of the Ghetto/Blue Chauffeur 1949 oil on canvas Private Collection


Andrzej Wróblewski Executed Man, Execution with a Gestapo Man 1949 oil on canvas Private Collection



Gerhard Richter Bomber (Bombers) 1963 oil on canvas Städtische Galerie Wolfsburg


Gerhard Richter Sargträger (Coffin Bearers) 1962 oil on canvas Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich


Frank Stella Arbeit Macht Frei 1958 enamel on canvas Private Collection



14 Morris Louis Untitled (Jewish Star) c. 1951 acrylic on canvas The Jewish Museum, New York


Morris Louis Charred Journal: Firewritten II 1951 acrylic (Magna) on canvas Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk



17 < Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Noguchi

Humpty Dumpty 1946 ribbon slate Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Bell Tower for Hiroshima 1950 (1986) terra-cotta, wood The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York




Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Noguchi

Memorial to the Atomic Dead 1952-82 graphite on tracing paper The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York

Sculpture Study c. 1950 ink wash on paper The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York



Isamu Noguchi Study for “Bell Tower for Hiroshima,” “Little Bomb,” and “Monument to Heroes” c. 1950 pencil on paper The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York

Isamu Noguchi Sculpture Study 1952 pencil on paper The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York


Isamu Noguchi Atomic Man 1952 kasama stoneware Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art, Bloomfield Hills


23 Isamu Noguchi Memorial to Man 1947 wallpaper The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York



Karel Appel Exodus n0 1 1951 gouache and colored paper on brown kraft pieces of paper applied on paper Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Geneva

25 Karel Appel Hiroshima Child 1958 oil on canvas Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo



Maruki Iri and Maruki Toshi Fire (Panel II) from “Hiroshima Panels” (series of 15 panels) 1950 Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels, Higashi-Matsuyama



Maruki Iri and Maruki Toshi Atomic Desert (Panel VI) from “Hiroshima Panels” (series of 15 panels) 1952 Indian ink and Japanese paper Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels, Higashi-Matsuyama


Yosuke Yamahata Nagasaki Journey 1945 gelatine silver prints Daniel Blau, Munich




Weaver Hawkins Atomic Power 1947 oil on hardboard Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney


Jess (Burgess Franklin Collins) If All The World Were Paper And All The Water Sink 1962 oil on canvas Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco


31 Eduardo Paolozzi Shattered Head 1956 bronze on stone base Private Collection, London


Joseph Beuys Verstrahlter Hangar (Radiated Hangar) 1962 polystyrene, wood, animal hair, and oil Museum Schloß Moyland, Bedburg-Hau



Barnett Newman The Beginning 1946 oil on canvas The Art Institute of Chicago

34 Norman Lewis Every Atom Glows: Electrons in Luminous Vibration 1951 oil on canvas Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Robert Rauschenberg The White Painting (two panel) 1951 oil on canvas Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York



Movimento Arte Nucleare Nuclear Composition 1951 oil and enamel on paper glued on canvas Private Collection


Enrico Baj Manifesto Nucleare BUM 1951 varnish and acrylic on canvas Private Collection



Roy Lichtenstein Atom Burst 1965 acrylic on board Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth


Henry Moore Atom Piece 1964–65 bronze Didrichsen Art Museum, Helsinki




Mieczysław Berman

Mieczysław Berman

Wojna (War) 1944 collage Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu, Wrocław

Apoteoza (Apotheosis) 1947 photomontage Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu, Wrocław

Igael Tumarkin Aggressiveness 1964-65 iron Tel Aviv Museum of Art



Andrzej Wróblewski Słońce i inne gwiazdy (Sun and Other Stars) 1948 oil on canvas Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź

Yuri Zlotnikov Geiger Counter 1955-56 oil on canvas The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

44 205


Kim Kulim Death of Sun II 1964 oil and object on wood panel National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon

46 Kim Kulim Three Circles 1964 steel, oil on wood panel Collection of the Artist, Seoul



Mira Schendel Untitled 1963 tempera and plaster on canvas Hecilda & Sergio Fadel Collection, Rio de Janeiro


Section Introduction Emily Braun Salah Hassan Geeta Kapur Richard Shiff Terry Smith Plates





aterialist abstraction is accounted for in the exhibition with works that were grouped under such labels as “art informel,” “Abstract Expressionism,” and “Gutai,” as well as with works by artists who responded to the visual appearance of this art but found different and local meanings in materials and how they handled them. Contemporary critics emphasized stylistic competitions that in historical accounts since then have often devolved into a kind of nationalist boosting. Today it is easier to see the transnational character of many of these strategies. Postwar emphasizes affinities of ideas and materials among American artists and artists who emigrated to the United States from Europe; it also documents the encounters of artists from around the world who gathered in such metropolitan centers as Paris, London, and Mexico City, and reviews the proximity and circulation of artworks in international exhibitions and small-press publications. This materialist art is typical of the postwar period in its difference from earlier European versions of modernism, often rejecting geometric approaches, for example, in a critique of rationality and science, which were seen as having dead-ended in the war and the atom bomb. Instead, artists favored gesture, raw materials and the laws of their behavior, and chance, producing surfaces that are often tactile, rough, and uneven. Many artists went farther still, invoking the entropy of matter and, more specifically, the outright destruction related to the traumatic events and lingering ruins of the postwar landscape. More hopefully, this materialism also embraced organicist, even vitalist thinking, as well as full-body performative experiments.




2. Form Matters

To lay bare with a brutal brush all the tortures, all the filth, that lies at the base of our society. —Gabriel Désiré Laverdant, “De la mission de l’art et du rôle des artistes” (On the mission of art and the role of artists), La Phalange, 1845 All you need is mud, nothing but a single monochrome mud, if you really want to paint. … The painter has to know how to smear. —Jean Dubuffet, “Notes pour les fins lettrés” (Notes for the well read), 1945


he history of Western painting since the Renaissance has been framed by two dominant paradigms. The first, which held sway for centuries, was that of the window. Artists and viewers perceived the painted canvas as a transparent plane, a threshold into virtual depth, be it shallow dimensions within arm’s reach or an infinite expanse beyond the limits of the eye. Pictorial illusionism embodied the humanist tradition that saw man as “the measure of all things.” By the late nineteenth century, the “carpet paradigm” of formalist modernism had displaced the window paradigm.1 Inspired by theories in the decorative and applied arts, painting subordinated spatial illusionism to the demands of a new realism: the inherent planarity of the canvas. “A picture—before being a war horse, a nude woman, or telling some other story—” explained Maurice Denis, “is essentially a plane surface covered with colors arranged in a particular pattern.” 2 This new concept of pictorial autonomy accompanied the deterministic logic of the industrial revolution. Geometric abstraction aligned on the grid emulated the rationale of technological systems; bursting color fields and flat biomorphic shapes signaled a reaction against the same standardizing forces, a retreat into the interior realm of the pure aestheticism, the spiritual, the dream. The carpet paradigm accentuated a purely optical, highly subjective viewing experience through the shallow and shifting spaces of figure-ground reversals. It produced beautiful objects based on pleasing arrangements of color and form, even when disrupted by pictorial assassins such as Joan Miró. A different concept emerged around 1945, when two French artists began to heap and smear gritty oils onto the canvas or to obliterate the surface with coagulated pools of tar. Painting hit bottom, reveling in dirt, organic decay, and the ooze of geological substrata. Jean Fautrier’s “Otages” (Hostages) series, exhibited at the René Drouin gallery, Paris, that year, inaugurated this view on and in the ground, and were followed in 1946 by a show of Jean Dubuffet’s canvases paved with asphalt and the gravelly detritus usually employed for surfacing roads.3 After seeing their work at the end of the decade, Italian artist Alberto Burri created his “Catrami” (Tars), “Muffe” (Molds), and defiled “Bianchi” (Whites), and by 1950 was making “Sacci” (Sacks), pictures made out of soiled burlap gunnysacks (which had often been used as sandbags during the war). The dirt of soil and sweat impregnated the painterly support, now reduced to threadbare rags. This new form of artistic

expression could not be as enduring or pervasive as the previous two paradigms, nor did it aim to be. Its action was swift, the results decisive: to level the Western pictorial tradition. The works of Fautrier, Dubuffet, Burri, and others who followed in their tracks (Antoni Tàpies, Manolo Millares, Adolf Frohner, Otto Muehl) attacked the privileged vertical orientation of easel and mural painting and with it the view into space, no matter how shallow, above and around things. They annihilated the “fine” in “fine art,” seized the metaphoric higher ground that painting had aspired to represent, and reduced it to

Fig. 1. Jean Fautrier. Sarah. 1943. Impastos made of oil, white lead, pastel powder, ink, and varnish on paper mounted on canvas, 116 × 80.7 cm. Fondation Gandur pour l'Art, Geneva, Switzerland. Inv. n. FGA-BA-FAUTR-1

an indeterminate mass of sand, pumice, bitumen, and other crushed organic and mineral substances. At times, the weighty mounds of earthy matter warped or compromised the planar support. Critics referred to the style as matiériste (matter painting), hautes pâtes (thick pastes) art brut (raw art or outsider art), or informe (formless),but these descriptive monikers did not capture the cause of this historical shift. The dirt paradigm expressed the conditions of its specific historical moment: pulverized self-confidence, psychological disintegration. World War II had reduced city and country to rubble and muck. Millions of bodies were buried beneath. So was European culture: from ashes to ashes, dust to dust, pigments to ground matter. The battle metaphors used here to describe this ground operation are intentional: the term “avant-garde” took its name and purpose from the military “advance guard.” In 1845, writing in the socialist

Emily Braun


journal La Phalange (or “the phalanx,” a body of troops in close formation), Gabriel-Désiré Laverdant defined this new cadre of intellectuals and artists and stressed the importance of its front-line position if one was “to know where Humanity is headed, know the destiny of the human race.” Rooted in radical left-wing ideology, its heroic mission was to depict the plight of the downtrodden, in all their destitution and despair. 4 Exactly one hundred years later, Dubuffet scratched out some “Notes for the Well-Read” that articulated a last-ditch effort for painting. The French artist represented the low in literal terms by covering the canvas with filth, primal pastes, and “outlines drawn in the earth by heels.” 5 Some have interpreted Dubuffet’s elevation of the unworthy as a Marxist contestation of museum high culture—a proposal for a “lumpen art” for the common man. 6 He indeed preferred the techniques of the proletarian housepainter to those of the artistically trained one. But in the immediate aftermath of the war, when Dubuffet advocated returning painting to “the primal soils of origins,” class warfare had temporarily ceased as the nation united under the myth of the Resistance and the need for rehabilitation.7 The dirt paradigm expresses not the culture of the left but the culture of the defeated. The “destiny of the human race” had reversed course: all of humanity was brought down to the ground. The plunge into grime and putrescent matter around 1945 was sudden and drastic, nothing like the lyrical scattering of sand and animal glue (another product of organic decomposition) in earlier Cubist and Surrealist painting. Nor did it merely entail working horizontally with a canvas on the ground or table top, temporarily rotating the axis of a painting before mounting it on a wall.8 In imagery, medium specificity (a focus on the materiality of painterly grounds rather than on the material support), and address to the viewer, the dirt paradigm emphasized being one with the earth. It refused grandiose sight lines that projected skyward or over and above the terrain. Height in every culture, writes Wolfgang Schivelbusch, stands for power and control. “These qualities are symbolically elevated, just as homo sapiens, the only creature that walks erect, rises above the rest of the animal world. Conversely those who lack power are put down, subjugated, subordinated. … The winner rises up in the world while the loser falls.”9 At the end, Italy and France were technically on the winning side against Nazi Germany, but were morally compromised by fascism and the Vichy collaborationist regime. They had sunk low, even if collective guilt was mitigated by the sense of collective victimhood at the hands of the Nazi occupiers and by the heroic instances of resistance. Dirty painting, dirty hands—one day someone will write an essay on guilt as a motivating factor in aesthetics. For now we can observe that the dirt paradigm was tilled by avant-garde artists in certain nations whose governments and people had shamed themselves by supporting fascism, genocide, wars of empire, and brutal colonial rule. Fautrier’s involvement with the Resistance remains murky; Dubuffet, a professed anti-Semite (and admirer of the famously anti-Semitic Louis-Ferdinand Céline), profited selling wine to the Germans during the Occupation; Burri served in fascist Italy’s armed forces, including during the conquest of Ethiopia. The Japanese Gutai artists Uemae Chiyū, Saburo Murakami,


Shōzō Shimamoto, and Michio Yoshihara sullied—even violently attacked—their canvases with charred bits, pulverized rubble, and the iridescent stains of spreading oil. Kazuo Shiraga slopped and slid paint with his feet. Many members of the group, including their leader, Jirō Yoshihara, had participated in the war.10 As to the German defeated, amnesia forestalled the representation of trauma until the next generation. Among those artists, Anselm Kiefer was a grand master of the dirt paradigm, first seen in his series of catastrophic battlefields, large-scale blackand-white photographs of scorched terrain overlaid with paint, sand, and straw.11 They emerged in the early 1980s, just as painting had been declared dead. Issues of personal culpability, equivocation, or helplessness aside, these artists acknowledged the toppling of European culture from its preeminent position. The utopian aims of the avant-garde had been compromised by instances of collaboration with totalitarian regimes of the left and right. To the winner go the spoils: America had secured the victory and therefore “stole” (or earned) the idea of modern art. The “strengths and capabilities” of the vanquished, observes Schivelbusch, “are symbolically transferred to the conqueror … a fate that befalls all losing elites in collapsing cultures as they are replaced by the homines novi.”12 Abstract Expressionism, however, did not stoop when it conquered: it embraced luminous and stormy hues, the colors of skies, verdant groves and watery depths. Awe, not disgust, prevailed. American postwar painters applied their medium freely with broad, energized stokes in “a new kind of flatness,” wrote Clement Greenberg, “one that breathes and pulsates.”13 They conjured deep space, the vertical figure, and transcendent atmospheric fields, by contrast to the compacted or excrescent layers of the European pictures under consideration here. Jackson Pollock’s occasional additions of strings, coins, and cigarette butts, while gritty, do not smother his labyrinthine skeins. Even his atomized compositions, with intimations of nuclear catastrophe, evoke inundation in the air, with sight lines through the autumn mists. Only after trips to Paris (in 1948) and Rome (1952–53) did an American, Robert Rauschenberg, start to paint and compile with asphaltum and gravel, soil and mold.14 Nor did the dirt paradigm apply to all postwar European gestural abstractionists, who preferred the American way in the postwar years of rehabilitation. Art informel practitioners Georges Mathieu, Hans Hartung, and Pierre Soulages choreographed free-floating strokes of color that hover in a distinct foreground plane (and, in their own time, metaphorically rose above the surrounding devastation). Working in Paris after the war, French-­ Canadian artists (on the winning side) invigorated their thick handling of paint with luscious white folds (Paul-Emile Borduas) or brilliant colors in a kaleidoscopic array (Jean-Paul Riopelle). By contrast, expressions of and with dirt resulted in drab hues or the acrid colors of rot. Accumulated particles and pancaked layers accentuated the perception of obdurate mass and refuted the three-dimensional extension of volume and space. Whereas the motions of Abstract Expressionism and art informel were sweeping, scattering, and elliptical, those of matter painting involved

2. Form Matters

digging, scratching, pressing, squeezing, and gouging, immersing oneself in the mire. Jean Paulhan observed that in Fautrier’s strangely shimmering and vaporous pastes, “crushed pastel is mixed with oil and ink with gasoline. Everything is made into a putty, pounded, rubbed down by hand.”15 Painting with sedimentary admixtures, these artists preferred tools that pushed, dragged, scraped, and troweled, or else they turned to the more basic appendages of palms and fingers. “A painter’s basic action is to besmear,” proclaimed Dubuffet, “not to spread tinted liquids with a tiny pen or a lock of hair but to plunge his hands into brimming buckets or basins. … He has to putty it

civilians, equated fleshy pastes with atrocities, being all “tumescent faces, crushed profiles, bodies stiffened by gunfire, dismembered, truncated, eaten by flies,” as Francis Ponge described them in 1946.18 In his macadam paintings Dubuffet went below the earth’s crust to fashion his urban troglodytes out of tar, then turned them “into griddle cakes, ironed flat.” 19 He often gave them the same colors as the ground into which they were impressed: fossil figures made from the same petroleum extracts as fossil fuel. The surfaces of the paintings actually open up physically but in one direction only, down, through cracks and fissures. Figure/ ground relationships in the dirt do not follow the spatial projections

Fig. 2. Paul-Émile Borduas. The Black Star. 1957. Oil on canvas, 162.5 × 129.5 cm. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gérard Lortie. Acq. n. 1960.1238

with his soils and thick paints, grapple with it, knead it, impress upon it.”16 As a result, he continued, the viewer would not scan the painting “passively” with an “instantaneous glance” but would dig deep into it as if through touch, becoming one with the matter and reenacting the feeling of being crushed, furrowed, plowed, and dragged down by gravity: “Wherever the surface has puckered when drying, he also dried, contracts, puckers.”17 Indeed, these artists privileged tactile sensations over the disembodied optical experience in tandem with their reorientation of the gaze. The wide visual scope commanded by the upright viewing figure was narrowed and directed downward to contemplate a new kind of landscape, not vertical motifs standing near or far but bodies in the ground. Fautrier’s “Otages,” begun in late 1942 in response to Nazi executions of French

and shifts of the carpet paradigm, as Hubert Damisch explained: “It is this illusion of the ‘behind-worlds’ that Dubuffet tirelessly denounces. And his work … eventually boils down to the stubborn assertion that behind things and under figures there is nothing but the ground.” 20 The same damning reversal of wall to pavement, vertical to horizontal, holds true even when Dubuffet paints urban walls marred by graffiti—or dirty words. As with Burri’s “Catrami,” “Muffe,” and “Bianchi,” layers of bitumen, pumice, and grime signal the reality of earthy biological growth and decay. We may view all of these pictures vertically on the wall but regard-“less,” what we see is the world beneath our feet; we press up against these images, they rub dirt in our faces. Faces, feces: Ponge noted the resemblance in Fautrier’s “pasty adhesive mortars,” and in his telling mania for covering up “small

Emily Braun


or fat mounds,” masking their traces with “quick lines of cinder or dust,” like cats who claw over their excrement.21 Like others after him, Ponge likened the globs, humps, and hollows of this postwar expression to Georges Bataille’s concept of the informe, or formlessness.22 For Bataille, matter that refused to take form in a coherent and centered composition represented the ascent of the foot and the demise of the head. This reversal of bodily hierarchy incarnated a loss of faith in reason and in the traditional cultural values of the West. Devised in response not to this postwar work but to Surrealism, however, Bataille’s analysis missed the embedded self-reflexivity of these artists’ ground maneuvers. The earthbound reality of the painterly medium, comprising powdered minerals, decomposing vegetative matter, and

Plants and leaves fall, minerals are crushed, but only to be taken up again and revivified by the artist’s palette. The culture of defeat inevitably leads to a culture of renewal. The dirt paradigm, as noted earlier, was necessarily short-lived: it provided a temporary buffer zone for psychic recovery. The function of such zones, writes Schivelbusch, “can be compared to the coagulation of blood and formation of scabs necessary for wounds to heal.” 25 One is reminded of Burri’s burlap skins with mucus membranes of polyacetate resin forming in and around the cavities. Wallowing in the mud is an age-old form of catharsis and cleansing before the cycle of death and rebirth, defeat and victory, begins again. In France, painting filth would not be tolerated for long in a new postwar society of modernization and decolonialization, obsessed with hygiene and smooth, clean surfaces.26

Fig. 3. Alberto Burri. Bianco nero (White Black). 1952. Oil, enamel, pumice, and PVA on canvas, 65 × 100 cm. Private Collection.

plant secretions, or what Dubuffet called the artist’s “forgotten native soil”: these base materials stood for themselves.23 Fautrier, Dubuffet, and Burri favored blending their own colored matter—black anthracite, blood-red mercuric sulphide, dark-blue cobalt oxide, and the whites of zinc, limestone, and gypsum. Their mucking about with artisanal craft debunked any notion of deskilling; to the contrary, they opposed the assembly production of paint in tubes. “We must bear in mind,” wrote Dubuffet respectfully on the language of materials, that the colors we handle are not abstract ciphers, they are highly concrete pigments or dilutions made of more or less finely ground minerals and blended with equally concrete substances like linseed oil, turpentine (distilled pine resin) and all kinds of other gums, glues and glazes. 24


As befits its origins, the cycles of avant-garde fortune mimic those of the military. One might argue that these artists of base materialism buried the Western pictorial tradition, which had reached a saturation point, for good. Historical events hastened its demise. Nonetheless, the firsthand, highly physical encounter with soil and viscous matter proved fertile in the postwar decade and the one to follow. Dirt came off the wall and onto actual grounds and bodies with new, creative force. Notably, the Japanese exponents of the dirt paradigm inaugurated a new genre of performance art epitomized by Shiraga, who, while dressed only in his underwear, kicked, rolled, and dug through earthen wall plaster, rocks, sand, and gravel (Challenging Mud, 1955). 27 In 1909, midway between Laverdant and Dubuffet, F. T. Marinetti had already scripted this narrative of regeneration when he recounted how he drove his car into a ditch and emerged from the dank sludge reborn

2. Form Matters

as a Futurist. Avant-garde renewal was a messy business, but someone had to do it.

3 See Mirobolus Macadam e Cie. Hautespates de J Dubuffet, text by Michel Tapié (Paris: Galerie René Drouin, 1946). 4 Gabriel-Désiré Laverdant, “De la mission de l’art et du rôle des artistes,” La Phalange. Revue Mensuelle de la Science Sociale, tome 2, vol. 1, pp. 254, 271. Available online at http:// (accessed April 2016). On the history of the terminology of the two avant-gardes, political and aesthetic, see Renato Poggioli, The Theory of the Avant-garde, trans. Gerald Fitzgerald (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 1968), pp. 8–9. 5 Jean Dubuffet, “Notes pour les fins lettrés,” 1945, Eng. trans. as “Notes for the WellRead,” trans. Joachim Neugroschel, in Jean Dubuffet and Mildred Glimcher, Towards an Alternative Reality (New York: Pace Publications and Abbeville Press, 1987), p. 67. 6 Hubert Damisch, “Dubuffet ou la lecture du monde,” 1962, Eng. trans. as “Dubuffet or the Reading of the World,” trans. Kent Minturn and Priya Wadhera with revisions by Richard G. Elliott, Art in Translation 6, no. 3 (2014): 302. First published in Art de France 2 (1962): 337–46. 7 Dubuffet, “Notes for the Well-Read,” p. 67. See Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945 (New York: Penguin Press, 2005), pp. 41, 63–71. 8 Influenced by Georges Bataille’s notion of formlessness (see note 22 below), Rosalind Krauss makes the argument that Jackson Pollock’s “importance was lodged in an axial rotation of painting out of the vertical domain of the visual field and onto the horizontal vector.” See “The Crisis of the Easel Picture,” in Kirk Varnedoe and Pepe Karmel, eds., Jackson Pollock: New Approaches (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1999), p. 161. But while Pollock dripped and scattered paint onto a canvas laid on the floor, he aimed at a new kind of mural painting, which, as Krauss admits (pp. 164–65) via an excursus into the criticism of Clement Greenberg, reasserted the optical, vertical orientation of the viewing subject and the opening up of the flat picture plane. Important for the “horizontal vector” argued for here is the self-reflexive subject matter (grounds literal and/ or depicted) and materiality of the medium employed, regardless of “axial orientation.” 9 Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Culture of Defeat: On National Trauma, Mourning, and Recovery (New York: Picador, 2004), p. 292. 10 Ming Tiampo, “please draw freely,” in Tiampo and Alexandra Munroe, eds., Gutai: Splendid Playground, exh. cat. (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2013), pp. 46–47. Jiro¯ Yoshihara had been familiar with the French avant-garde and its periodicals from before the war. 11 See Andreas Huyssen, “Anselm Kiefer: The Terror of History, the Temptation of Myth,” October 48 (Spring 1989), esp. pp. 43–45. 12 Schivelbusch, The Culture of Defeat, p. 19. 13 Greenberg, “‘American-Type’ Painting,” 1955, in Art and Culture (Boston: Beacon Press, 1961), p. 226. 14 On the influence of Alberto Burri on Robert Rauschenberg see Emily Braun, Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting, exh. cat. (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2015), pp. 74–76. On Burri’s matter painting under discussion in this essay see Braun and Carol Stringari, “Materials, Process, Color,” in ibid., pp. 116–19, 130–33, 136–39. 15 Jean Paulhan, “Fautrier l’enragé,” 1943, 1945–46, Eng. trans. as “Fautrier, the Enraged,” trans. Carol J. Murphy, in Curtis L. Carter and Karen K. Butler, eds., Jean Fautrier: 1898–1964 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002), p. 181. First published in Fautrier. Oeuvres, 1915–1943 (Paris: Galerie René Drouin, 1943), rev. and republished in 1945–46. 16 Dubuffet, “Notes for the Well-Read,” p. 77. 17 Ibid., pp. 77–78. 18 Francis Ponge, Note sur les Otages, peintures de Fautrier, 1946, Eng. trans. as “Note on the Otages, Paintings by Fautrier,” trans. Vivian Rehberg, in Carter and Butler, eds., Jean Fautrier: 1898–1964, p. 175. First published Paris: Editions Seghers, 1946. For the chronology of Fautrier’s “Otages” see Rachel Perry, “Jean Fautrier’s Jolies Juives,” October 108 (Spring 2004): 53–55; as Perry establishes, he started on these images in Paris well before he took refuge in the sanatorium at Vallée-aux-Loups, Châtenay-Malabry, in April 1944, where he supposedly overheard hostage shootings. 19 Dubuffet, “Notes for the Well-Read,” p. 79. 20 Damisch, “Dubuffet or the Reading of the World,” p. 11. 21 Ponge, “Notes on the Otages,” p. 176. 22 Ibid., and see Yve-Alain Bois and Krauss, Formless: A User’s Guide (New York: Zone Books, 1997). 23 Dubuffet, “Notes for the Well-Read,” p. 67. 24 Ibid., p. 71.

1 Joseph Masheck coined and defined the term in his landmark article “The Carpet Par-

25 Schivelbusch, The Culture of Defeat, p. 26.

adigm: Critical Prolegomena to a Theory of Flatness,” Arts Magazine 51, no. 1 (September

26 See Kristen Ross, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French

1976): 82–109.

Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1995).

2 Maurice Denis, “Definition of Neo-Traditionalism,” 1890, Eng. trans. in Charles Harrison,

27 Tiampo, “please draw freely,” p. 51. On the French/Japanese network in the early 1950s

Paul Wood, and Jason Gaiger, eds., Art in Theory 1815–1900: An Anthology of Changing Ideas

and the influence of Gutai on Allan Kaprow’s Happenings see Munroe, “all the landscapes:

(Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1998), p. 863.

gutai’s world,” in Tiampo and Munroe, eds., Gutai: Splendid Playground, pp. 27–36.

Emily Braun



2. Form Matters


he late Osman Waqialla’s pioneering experimenexperimentation he revealed the abstracted rhythmic shapes of calligtation with classical Arabic calligraphy led to the raphy, finding in them the presence of objects, figures, and a fantastic rise of a distinct style within postwar Sudanese world of imagery. The Last Sound (1964; fig. 3), Allah and the Wall of Con1 art. Based on a mastery of this calligraphy’s frontation (1968) and Untitled (early 1960s), three representative works diverse styles, and an extensive knowledge of its from this period, clearly evidence Arabic script and Arabic-like characaesthetic balancing of masses of light and dark, ters, in addition to the Islam-inspired crescent motif and West African Waqialla’s contribution lay not only in his creative masklike figures. These works reference events in the artist’s life—The treatment of the sacred text of the Qur’an—clearly Last Sound, for example, was made on the death of his father—but canevidenced in his calligraphic variations on Qur’anic themes, as in his not be interpreted as narrative or realist depictions. Both demonstrate El “Al-Anbiyya’” (Prophets) series (1952–2002)—but in liberating Arabic calSalahi’s pursuit of a new, modernist visual vocabulary and mark a transligraphy from its association formation in his practice, a with the Qur’an through a pishedding of his Western aconeering treatment of secular ademic training, first at the Arabic texts, exemplified in College of Fine and Applied his series on Sudanese modArt (formerly known as the ern poetry and starting with School of Design in Gordon his earliest surviving work, Al Memorial College in KharSufi al Mu’azab (The Tormenttoum), beginning in the late ed Mystic, 1952; fig. 1).2 This 1940s, then at London’s interest in revolutionary exSlade School of Fine Art in perimentation was shared the 1950s. These concerns by his relatively younger had parallels among artcolleagues Ibrahim El Salahi ists in other metropolitan and Ahmed Shibrain, promcenters of the Arab world. inent figures in what by the The well-known Fuearly 1960s had evolved into neral and the Crescent (1963; the influential Khartoum plate 118) refers to the killFig. 1. Osman Waqialla. Al Sufi al Mu’azab (The Tormented Mystic) (title page). 1952. School. ing of Patrice Lumumba, Ink and color on hand made paper, 46 × 36 cm. In his early works the democratically elected Shibrain further developed leader of Congo, executed the potential of the Arabic letter as abstracted form, seeing it as a figural in a coup in 1961. Lumumba’s assassination had been a turning point in element with an “inspiring plastic aesthetic value” that he applied to an the era of decolonization, creating an outcry against imperialism and 3 Africanized Sudanese framework. In his innovative pen-and-ink paintneocolonialism not only in Africa but in the rest of the Third World. The ings of c. 1960, such as Untitled (fig. 2), Arabic-like characters are arcrescent moon, seen in other works of El Salahi’s from the early 1960s, ranged in a Kufic style on a plain white background. Individual characters recurs here with a procession of mourners, their facial expressions are barely decipherable, being shortened or elongated, compressed or masklike, carrying a corpse. Abstracted, elongated, and emaciated figexpanded, to become part of a larger abstracted composition. Shibrain’s ures cover the painting’s surface. Points of articulation such as knees and oil painting Message 40 (1966) includes both calligraphy and traditional elbows are delineated with spiral forms, and the male sexual organ is deIslamic decorative motifs, such as rosettes, crescents, and semifloral liberately exaggerated, in a style recalling certain West African sculptur4 arabesques. The paintings from this period, such as Untitled (1965), al forms and styles. deploy earthy colors recalling the references to landscape in the work of The real breakthrough in Sudanese visual modernism came in the other other Khartoum School artists, including El Salahi. Shibrain envilate 1950s and early ’60s in the pioneering work of Waqialla, Shibrain, sions colors such as blue and bluish green as referring symbolically to the and El Salahi. Iftihkar Dadi’s argument that El Salahi’s work should Nile river—a major life presence in Sudan—and red, yellow, and brown as be situated between “[Arabic] textuality, African plastic forms, and the hues of the earth and of northern Sudanese traditional architecture. transnational modernism” holds for the other two as well, and they also Concerns with calligraphic forms and abstracted figurations also shared a distinctive role in “developing an aesthetic of decolonization for appear in the work of El Salahi, who began to break down Arabic letthe Sudan and much of Africa.”6 The uniqueness of the dialectics and intertextualities in the work of these three artists becomes evident when ters and abstract their shapes in the early 1960s, focusing on their for5 analyzed in the context of artistic developments in the postwar period, mal properties rather than on their meanings. Through this process of

Salah M. Hassan


which saw the rise of a distinct postcolonial modernism that was imbricated with Western metropolitan modernism. Calligraphic abstraction, which originated in different metropolitan centers of the Arab and Islamic worlds, was one form of this expression. It has continued to inform modernist experimentation, particularly in Sudan, where the early generation of the Khartoum School embraced it in the mid-to-late 1950s.

Fig. 2. Ahmed Shibrain. Untitled. N.d. Ink on paper, 76.3 × 45.8 cm. Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth. Courtesy DEVA, Universität Bayreuth

Rooted in Islamic discursive traditions, it must be understood within the modernist quest for a new formalist visual language that emerged in the context of decolonization in the Middle Eastern Arab world. The end of World War II signaled not only the defeat of fascism in Europe but the beginning of decolonization in Africa, Asia, and the Arab world. The impact of decolonization on art and culture is still insufficiently well studied. It advanced through several landmark events that shifted world politics and created a new international order—the


Bandung Conference in 1955, the Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris in 1956 and in Rome in 1959, the Pan-African Festival in Algiers in 1969.7 The postwar era both engendered and intensified new and emerging schools of thought such as Négritude, Pan-Africanism, Pan-Arabism, and African socialism, in addition to the rise of movements for Afro-Asian solidarity and tricontinentalism. 8 Decolonization shaped the rise of a distinct postcolonial modernism, producing some of the period’s most exciting developments in visual expression. Such “new” art forms were the result of a process of hybridization that shaped them in terms of media and material, technique, and personal and cultural identity.9 In the Arab and Islamic worlds, the rich tradition of the Arabic letter was available to artists in search of a new visual vocabulary. The letter and its various calligraphic styles generated complex and diverse forms of abstraction and figuration. In art-historical discourse this movement has come to be known by different terms, including al Hurufiyya (letterism) and calligraphism. 10 “Calligraphic abstraction” seems to me a more appropriate designation: the juxtaposition of calligraphy and abstraction encompasses more of this multifaceted movement, and of its multifarious intersections with Western and transnational modernism. Although nationalism remains central to any analysis of postwar art in the context of decolonization in North Africa and the Arab world, African and Arab modernist artists had crossed geographic and cultural boundaries since the early twentieth century, moving beyond national identities to express themselves in a transnational visual language that incorporated an array of motifs, images, and objects. Arab literacy, and a well-developed corpus of art and literary criticism, facilitated forms of Pan-Arabism and Pan-Islamism in the modern visual arts. In North Africa and the larger Arab world, this tendency was further reinforced by a phenomenon of “diglossia” specific to Arabic, namely the coexistence of two forms: the standardized “high” version of Arabic known as Modern Standard Arabic, which is used across the Arab world in education, the mass media, and the press, and the various vernaculars specific to regions and countries. Modern Standard Arabic further facilitated the diffusion of artistic and literary ideas across the Arabic and Islamic worlds in North Africa and the Middle East. As the vehicle of the Qur’an, the Arabic language is considered sacred, but given the fundamental role played by calligraphy in the aesthetic and style of classic Islamic art—the nonreligious poetic verses on the walls of palaces and on everyday items not intended for sacral use—this tradition did not forestall modernist experiment with the Arabic letter. In the context of the Arab and the larger Islamic world (North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia), calligraphic abstraction has evolved into a complex set of artistic practices. El Salahi, Shibrain, and Wagialla in the Sudan have pioneering counterparts elsewhere: Shakir Hassan Al Sa’id in Iraq, Nja Mahdaoui in Tunisia, Pervez Tanavoli in Iran, Sadequain in Pakistan—all have reworked Arabic calligraphic motifs in

2. Form Matters

modernist forms that defy any literal interpretation. These experiments continue among younger artists such as the Algerian Rachid Koraïchi and the Iraqi Dia Azzawi, who have developed a more conceptual approach. As Dadi argues in the context of Muslim South Asia, the imbrication of modernist calligraphy with post-Cubist art represents a broad artistic movement that can be understood in a variety of ways.11 In the work of these artists, abstraction and figuration can be interpreted as a renewal of a traditional artistic form in a modernist fashion; as a vehicle of individual expression and subjectivity; as fostering a renewed sense of

period, the search for a common denominator—for a Sudanese national culture that would cut across its ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity— became a focal point. Totalizing terms such as “Sudanese culture,” “Sudanese identity,” “Sudanese literature,” and “Sudanese art” became central to discourse, forming the basis for the vocabulary of a new social, literary, and artistic consciousness.13 The overall ideology guiding this intellectual drive evolved into what Ahmed El Tayib Zein El Abdein has called al-Sudanawiyya, “Sudanism,” an evolving cultural process through which Sudan has developed a

Fig. 3. Ibrahim El Salahi. The Last Sound. 1964. Oil on canvas, 121.5 × 121.5 cm. Collection of Abdulmagid A. Breish

nationalist pride; or, as in the case of El Salahi and Shibrain, as a critical engagement with Western modernism. While the art of Waqialla, Shibrain, and El Salahi resonates with these analogous visual vocabularies in other parts of North Africa and the Arab world, these artists are unique in the interconnectedness of their work with classical African forms, and in their quest for a new identity in the context of independent Sudan. No discussion of art and modernity in Sudan can be isolated from a deeper knowledge of the cultural geography of this ethnically diverse country, within which almost every major African ethnic or linguistic group is represented.12 In the decolonization

unique ethos based on principles of hybridity and layering of cultural continuities. Zein El Abdein understands this multiple layering as the common denominator that distinguishes Sudanese cultures—despite their internal variations and differences—from neighboring nations in Africa and the Arab world.14 The roots of the Khartoum School were intricately related to this larger quest for a shared Sudanese identity. Germane to our understanding of the school’s intellectual tenets is its relationship to the literary group Madrasat al-Ghaba wa al-Sahra’, the “Jungle and the Desert School,” which included major poets, literary critics, and intellectuals such as Muhammad al-Makki Ibrahim,

Salah M. Hassan


Muhammad Abdul-Hai, and Salah Ahmad Ibrahim. The main ideological and intellectual concern articulated by this group was the creation of a true “Sudanese” literature, art, and aesthetic. Their literary production clearly reinforces the symbolism behind the name: the goal of representing not only the geographical landscape of the country but its hybrid cultural framing of Islamic and African elements.15 The poet Salah Ahmad Ibrahim passionately expressed such concern for hybridity and racial intermixture in his collection Ghabat Al Abanus (The forest of ebony) of 1958. He wrote, Liar is he who proclaims: I am the unmixed, the pure pedigree. The only. Yes!, a liar!16


ndeed, Waqialla, Salahi, and Shibrain, who were closely associated with the poets, novelists, and literary critics in the Jungle and the Desert School, shared the goal of constructing a new ethos for Sudanese identity in the visual arena. A major question was how far artists should be obliged to shake off Western and other influences in their schooling and to produce art that was uniquely “Sudanese.” Experimentation with calligraphic forms continued in Sudan into the 1980s, then took a more conservative ideological turn under the current Islamist regime, which came to power in 1989. A circle of artists that included Shibrain joined in the wave of Islamic revivalism that swept the region, mostly propelled by the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran after the mid-1970s.17 In 1986, a group of artists led by the painter Ahmed Abdel Aal, a student of both El Salahi and Shibrain, issued the manifesto of a new school called Madrasat Al-Wahid, “the School of the One.”18 While acknowledging pioneers such as El Salahi and Shibrain, members of Madrasat Al-Wahid claim that a spiritual link with the Islamic faith gives their work a spiritual dimension. In advocating an exploration of the arts of Islam, especially calligraphy, Madrasat Al-Wahid echoes the ideas of the Iraqi modernist Al Sa’id, who claimed to have connected his concern with calligraphy as an artistic practice to spiritual salvation.19 Few of these artists abandoned figuration for pure calligraphic forms, but not all artists who use calligraphy work strictly abstractly. Indeed, calligraphy is an influential motif within representation for many Sudanese artists. To assert a Sudanese identity, many Sudanese who engaged with calligraphic abstraction emphasized local styles associated with popular Islamic schools, an approach known as the Khalwa style.20 In practice, the work of Madrasat Al-Wahid is a continuation of the Khartoum School’s attempt to synthesize the African and the Islamic elements of Sudanese culture. While Madrasat Al-Wahid puts more emphasis on the Arabic and Islamic identity, and (like Al Sa'id) its member artists claim to seek spiritual salvation through artistic creativity, its manifesto also acknowledges Sudanese culture as hybrid and Africanized. After all, the reworking of calligraphic forms in the art of Ahmed Abdel Aal, Ibrahim Al-Awam, and Ahmad Abdallah Utaibi differs little from the Khartoum School approach seen in the works of El Salahi and Shibrain.


Calligraphic abstraction was intricately linked to the Western avant-garde tradition, which was significant in the revival of calligraphy in the context of a postcolonial modernism. Western modernist movements such as Cubism, Surrealism, Lettrism, art brut, and others proved more engaging for the mid-twentieth-century non-Western artist than did older realist and academic schools of European painting. This does not make calligraphic abstraction merely a derivative of Western modernism. Decolonization presented a challenge for Arab and African modernists, who faced the urgent task of recovering and reviving expressive visual practices that had been suppressed or interrupted in the colonial period. Nationalism offered one crucial avenue in the practice of calligraphic abstraction, whether in Sudan or elsewhere, but calligraphic abstraction is also a transnational aesthetic form that has been shared across the region. This becomes acutely important when we consider the facts of diaspora and mobility in the life and work of artists such as El Salahi, Shibrain, and Waqiallah, whose Western schooling, and experience of living in the West in the early 1950s, challenged them to create a new transnational modernism in which the development of forms out of experiments with calligraphic modes was fundamental.

2. Form Matters

at the College of Fine and Applied Art until 1954, when he formed Studio Osman, in the center of Khartoum. After Sudan won independence, in 1956, Studio Osman received major visual assignments, such as the calligraphic design on the first Sudanese currency, and served until 1964 as a meeting place for artists and others. 2 Al Sufi al Mu’azab is among the few surviving works dating to Waqialla’s post-Camberwell studies. This twelve-page manuscript, executed on large-format handmade paper (46 x 36 cm, 18 x 14 inches), is based on a famous poem by the late Sudanese poet Al Tijani Yusuf Bashir, “Al Sufi al Mu’azab.” The manuscript, which is bound in brown coated cloth and paper, is rendered in the classic Diwani style and framed in a colored calligraphic formation based on extracts from the poem, exemplifying Waqialla’s pioneering experimentation with calligraphic abstraction. 3 Ahmed Shibrain, quoted in Evelyn S. Brown, Africa’s Contemporary Art and Artists (New York: Harmon Foundation, 1966), p. 109. 4 It is worth noting that Shibrain rarely titled or dated his early works. 5 See Ulli Beier, “Ibrahim El Salahi, an Interview, Bayreuth,” Iwalewa-Haus archives, University of Bayreuth, 1983. Repr. in Salah Hassan, ed., Ibrahim El Salahi: A Visionary Modernist (New York: Museum for African Art, 2013), pp. 107–13.6. Iftikhar Dadi, “Ibrahim El Salahi: Calligraphic Modernism in Comparative Perspectives,” South Atlantic Quarterly 109, no. 3 (Summer 2010): 555. 7 See Hassan, How to Liberate Marx From His Eurocentrism: Notes on African/Black Marxism, dOCUMENTA (13): 100 Notes—100 Thoughts No. 091 (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2012). 8 For more on the Afro-Asian solidarity movement in the art and literary arenas see issues of Lotus, the journal of the Afro-Asian Writers Association from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. Lotus was important in documenting the development of this body of thought, networks, and exchanges of ideas among African and Asian writers and artists in the 1960s and ’70s. See Hala Halim, “Lotus, the Afro-Asian Nexus, and Global South Comparatism,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 32, no. 3 (2012): 563–83. 9 See Amanda Alexander and Manisha Sharma, “(Pre)determined Occupations: The Post-Colonial Hybridizing of Identity and Art Forms in Third World Spaces,” Journal of Social Theory in Art Education 33 (2013): 86–104. 10 See Wijdan Ali, Modern Islamic Art: Development and Continuity (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997), chapters 15 and 16; Nada Shabout, Arab Art: Formation of Arab Aesthetics (Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 2007); and Sharbal Daghir, Al Hurufiyah Al-Arabiyah: Fan wa Hawiyah (Beirut: Sharikat al-Matbu’at Lil Twazi’ wa Al-Nashr, 1990). 11 See Dadi, Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia (Durham: University of North Carolina Press, 2010). See also his article “Ibrahim El Salahi: Calligraphic Modernism in Comparative Perspectives,” South Atlantic Quarterly 109, no. 3 (Summer 2010): 555. 12 See Muhammad Abdul-Hai, Conflict and Identity: The Cultural Poetics of Contemporary Sudanese Poetry, African Seminar Series no. 26 (Khartoum: Institute of African and Asian Studies, University of Khartoum, 1976); Mohammed Omar al-Bashir, Cultural Diversity and National Unity in Sudan (Khartoum: Institute of African and Asian Studies, University of Khartoum, 1980); Muhammad al-Makki Ibrahim, Al Fikr Al Sudani Usuluh Wa Tatawurhu (Khartoum: Ministry of Culture and Communication, 1976); and Ali A. Mazrui, “The Multiple Marginality of the Sudan,” in Yusuf Fadl Hasan, ed., Sudan in Africa (Khartoum: Institute of African and Asian Studies, University of Khartoum, 1971), pp. 240–55. 13 In the 1930s, Hamza al-Malik Tambal, an influential Sudanese literary critic and editor, proclaimed that “Sudanese identity is an ideal to which we should all aspire, it must be reflected in all our work.” See Hamza al Malik Tambal, al-Adab al-Sudani wa Ma yajib an yakuna ‘alayhi, 1931 (repr. ed. Khartoum: New Edition, 1972), pp. 66-67, 77; see also Abdul-Hai, Conflict and Identity, pp. 7–10. This ideal has evolved into intellectual movements characterized by conflict and by attempts at reconciliation of identities. 14 Ahmed El Tayib Zein Al Abdein, “Al-Sudanawiyya,” Majallat Al Thaqafa Al Sudaniyya no. 15 (July 1998): 30–35. 15 For an excellent recent autobiographical reflection on the Jungle and the Desert School see Muhammad al-Makki Ibrahim, Fi Zikra al-Ghaba wa al-Sahra’ (Omdurman: Abdul Karim Mirghani Center, 2007). 16 Salah Ahmad Ibrahim, from Ghabat Al Abanus (Beirut, 1958), p. 45, trans. in Abdul-Hai, Conflict and Identity, p. 52. 17 In the early 1980s members of the fundamentalist Islamic group the Muslim Brotherhood formed a Society for Islamic Thought, which, though, has tried to recruit artists and writers who are not fundamentalists. 18 See my translation of the manifesto of the School of the One in Clementine Deliss, ed., Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa (Paris and New York: Flammarion, 1995), pp. 244–46. 19 See Shakir Hassan Al-Said, al-Usul al-Hadariya wa al-Jamaliya lil Khat al-Arabi (Baghdad, 1988). 1 Osman Waqialla was a poet, journalist, and broadcaster as well as a visual artist. After

20 The Khalwa style is closer to the Kufic-derived Maghribi tradition, known in North and

studying at the Camberwell School of Art, London, in 1946–49, he attended the School of

West Africa as Sudani and in North Africa as ifriqi style, than to the Naskh tradition popular in

Arabic Calligraphy and College of Applied Arts in Cairo. Returning to Sudan in 1951, he taught

the eastern part of the Islamic world.

Salah M. Hassan



2. Form Matters


he title “Material Facture” layers this essay with a double emphasis on materiality. In modernist discourse, “facture” means the treatment of materials, the manner of making, or the formal and material qualities of a work. It has conceptual and ideological significance because it surfaces within Constructivism, for which reason it also correlates with the terms “techne” and “construction.” 1 Transported to postwar art (including painting), “facture” implies an enhanced materiality, foregrounds surface textures as tactile affect, and confounds the difference between form and formlessness with gestural manifestations of materiality. The 1920s avant-garde had two major aspects, each with a distinct form of materiality.2 The Surrealists, following Dada and Marcel Duchamp, unraveled a newly theorized unconscious into tantalizing miracles on the ground of art. In revolutionary Russia, Suprematists such as Kazimir Malevich and Constructivists such as Vladimir Tatlin saw abstraction as both transcendent and rational and proclaimed it the language for a new world. One move spelt subversion and excess; the other mapped the universe conceptually, materially, ethically, and gave it a utopian dimension. World War II and the Holocaust devastated such claims. Consciousness and language were sundered, the efficacy of art annulled. Witness literature narrates the destruction of experience, the destruction of the body, the destruction of the image.3 Important postwar artists strategized nihilist agendas. In 1959, Gustav Metzger, an émigré transported as a child from the Nuremberg of the Nazis to England, issued his manifesto “Auto-Destructive Art” and soon staged a series of “destructions” in civic sites, incendiary acts using acid or technologically devised implosions. In South Bank Demonstration of 1961, for example, Metzger sprayed hydrochloric acid on three large tarpaulins—white, black, and red, after the palette of Malevich—stretched over a set of frames. His 1966 Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) in London elicited the participation of international artists and gave the countercultural underground a platform for performance and a credo for hyphenating creation and destruction as a compound pair. Metzger’s work drew attention to the violence immanent within postwar politics. 4 John Latham’s assemblages and performances, made in England in the same period, involved pulping, burning, devouring, and entombing books, which he called “skoobs” (fig. 1). His idea of the “Event Structure” troped postwar crisis with a critique of liberal societies and presented a complex realignment of social, economic, and political structures with concomitant aesthetic and knowledge systems. He participated in the Artist Placement Group, founded in 1966 to position artists in industry, science, and government for direct intervention and creative employment. Continuing this theme, this essay foregrounds the postwar practice that was material-driven, improvisatory, and, in relation to modernist “integrity,” antiform. Cruelly distorted by the violence of the midcentury, the figure-ground gestalt reconfigured itself as moral obduracy

and mnemonic form. Philosophically, modernism harbored existential doubt and semantic ambiguity and placed ethics on a par with formalist aesthetics. Jean Dubuffet swirled his deformed bodies in mud and packed them in filth. Jean Fautrier’s “Otages” (Hostages) series, made during the war, cast human heads as fatal lesions. In a new language of abstraction, artists built up paint as matter, turning the picture plane into wall or ground and converting surface opacity into sign-laden templates. If the painting had been seen as a window, Antoni Tàpies boarded it up, erected a wall of crumbling sand and plasterlike paint etched with graffiti. He gave the formalist credo of surface and support an existential and political resonance, as did Lucio Fontana, who abstracted trauma, transcribing it into gesture, slashing and perforating the canvas. Piero Manzoni replaced the image with an artifice masked in white, as in the object-studded kaolin-soaked canvases in the “Achromes” series (1961–62). Alberto Burri compacted several strategies to build up reliefs that were at once imagist, haptic, and visceral. As a former doctor and

Fig. 1. John Latham. Soft Skoob. 1964. Books on canvas and spray paint, 25 × 132 × 50 cm. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

prisoner of war, he memorialized mutilation and blood with humble materials—sutured sack-cloth bandages for the symbolic wound. There is both aesthetic conceit and abjection in messing with grit and slime, in using wax, nails, resin, tar, metal, burlap. All stuff, whether abstruse or enchanting, transmutes in the artist’s hands. In the Vienna Actionist movement, blood and shit proffered meaning in myth and ritual, were believed to substantiate the experiences of desire, death, and regeneration, and translated into extravagant blood ceremonies— arguably a modern artist’s claim to apotheosis. There was renewed reference to Georges Bataille’s metaphysics of “base materialism.”5 Infantile dreams gained sanction, and so, along with them, did sinful and ludic

Geeta Kapur


acts. The hand probed the gash, slipping to the underbelly of the absent subject and messing with excremental stuff. As magician, surgeon, and bricoleur, the artist staged encounters that inverted ontological attributes. Living subjects were snatched away from humanist rendering. Joseph Beuys's objects, (over)signified metonyms for amnesiac recovery, become amenable to psychoanalytical reading. In the 1960s, women artists, progenitors of feminist art in the United States, extended the aesthetic of enhanced materiality. Carolee Schneemann melded body and paint and installed her exposed self as votive figure and desacralized form. Niki de Saint Phalle used a pellet gun to burst sacs of color, transforming white surfaces into color fields. Her many Nana figures culminated in Hon-en-Katedral (She-a-Cathedral, 1966), a giant reclining Nana open to public entry between her legs. In this perverse and productive mayhem, form matters.

Saburo Murakami crashed through framed paper walls as through barricades, ruptured the mise-en-scène, and (literally) collapsed (fig. 2). Having left Japan for Paris in 1962, Tetsumi Kudo made lurid, object-based performances/Happenings. Add to this the Fluxus-related performative acts of Shigeko Kubota and Yoko Ono, the one provocative, the other conceptual, and the scandalous excess of Yayoi Kusama’s performances and installations, which mimicked psychedelic experience. The spectators witnessed a theatricalization of the encounter on feminist ground. If this is art in extremis, I pause to consider an altogether different aesthetic, indeed a reverse aesthetic that looped around modernist canons and signaled, again but differently, the metaphysical basis for abstraction. Here was a turn to Far Eastern conventions that transposed spirit and language and understood phenomenology and aesthetics in terms of immanence. Certain artists extended modernist formalism,

Fig. 2. Saburo Murakami. At One Moment Opening Six Holes. 1955. Performance. Courtesy Fergus McCaffrey

A retroactive understanding of postwar practice must start with the assumption that art produced across the world, from Brazil to Japan, is not reducible to the conventional art-historical litany of origin, chronology, precedence, and derivation. Works from this vast “elsewhere” are often positioned in an agonistic relationship to mainstream EuroAmerican art. Within a decade of the war’s end, for example, Japanese artists launched the Gutai movement to enact postwar rage—against Japanese fascism, against American imperialism.6 They pushed against the boundaries of Jackson Pollock’s method, preempted Allan Kaprow’s celebrated Happenings. The surface of wall or ground was damaged, abused, held on to in desperation. Kazuo Shiraga’s Challenging Mud (1955), a manic performance with field mire, produced a stressed indexicality.


treating the compaction of surface and support as affording perceptual and cognitive lucidity. I refer to the work of two Korean artists, begun between the mid-1950s and the mid-’60s: Lee Seung-taek put together, tied, and laid out materials ranging from stones to human hair, inducing the viewer to sublimate the quality of touch into a discreet act of contemplation. The diasporic artist Lee Ufan’s gestural paintings recalibrate the modernist language of painterly touch with the virtuoso hand of oriental calligraphy. His later installations in stone, metal, and found objects spatialize the act of chance-determined meditation. Beginning in the late 1950s, V. S. Gaitonde, an Indian artist inspired by Zen, developed a numinous aesthetic with color-saturated paintings aglow with viscuous, roller-spread paint-matter animated by spare tachist markings (fig. 3).

2. Form Matters

In rethinking postwar art, there are distinctions to be made between artists in countries directly affected by the war (that is, artists in Fascist or Fascist-occupied territories and in the liberal and Communist countries constituting the Allied forces) and those involved indirectly, through colonial recruitment, or not at all. Further, the postwar period is charged with alternate histories of countries where national liberation struggles led to active decolonization and shaped the Third World. Mid-twentieth-century art was made the more complex by a situational ethics relevant not only to newly enfranchised citizens/subjects but also to migrant, marginalized refugee populations that remained in effect disenfranchised. Narratives of belonging and unbelonging materialized new subjectivities, new communities, as well as conditions of exile that made the right to a new aesthetic a political call. If the claim that form matters is not limited to academically recorded modernism, it must include art’s materiality as it was elicited from a cultural ethos both inspired by living traditions and committed to a modernizing process supporting radical self-realization. If we make the ideological assumption that modernity is coproduced by the colonizers and the colonized, several strategic positions are viable. The historical project of postcolonial reconstruction might become strongly nationalist, as in India.7 At the same time, artists might break away from Western (imperialist) antecedents but realign themselves with Marxist-socialist politics rooted in Western modernity, or forge international political alliances, as the Egyptian Surrealists did. 8 Here we should look at the contentious term “indigenism,” deployed in relation to resurgent cultures of South America and aligned with radical politics in Mexico and Brazil. A creative response to

between art and life. In their different ways, both Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica drew on the phenomenological sentience of living communities and transformed the mise-en-scène of ritual to host performative installations. There was a subtle recalibration of material traditions and thus of the concept of facture, followed by a bold reinterpretation of matter, means, and form—all of which made Brazilian art a culturally charged avant-garde. Three famous categories of Oiticica’s art remain unique even within modernism’s long engagement with poor materials. These were the Bólides (Fireballs), exquisitely

Fig. 4. Nildo of Mangueria wearing Hélio Oiticica's P15 Parangolé capa 12, “Eu incorporo a revolta” (1967), c. 1968. Courtesy Projeto Hélio Oiticica

Fig. 3. V.S. Gaitonde. Untitled. 1962. Ink and watercolor on paper, 55.9 × 76.2 cm. Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi

colonial hege­mony and its cultural hubris led to a canny paradox: the Brazilian concept of antropofagia (roughly translated as cannibalism) and its critique of humanist modernism had remained a tendentious inscription in cultural history since the 1920s. In the 1960s, Brazil’s Neo-Concretist and Tropicália movements developed a vitalist affect and embraced an avant-garde principle: active engagement

simple assemblages; the human-scale Penetrables, resplendent with color and light; and the Parangolés, rough capes worn by favela youth in improvised performances (fig. 4). Clark’s formal aesthetic distilled simple materials into objects that were also communicative devices seeking to change subjective lives and social relations. Her practice gave feminist art forms of therapeutic embodiment; it also prefigured the conceptual and linguistic transmission that characterizes later feminist practice. In continuation with the drive toward indigenism, consider how the replay of fetishism envisaged pure presence, how totems turned into new linguistic signs, how craft (inversions) produced bricolage, and how ornamental calligraphy yielded esoteric diagrams. The material surfaces of walls and earth became a cultural resource. The Armenian-Iranian artist Marcos Grigorian’s framed tablets of patterned earth were constructed, congealed, and

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meditative. Mohan Samant’s canvases, with their fragile surfaces of paint and sand, recall the ritually painted and easily erased markings on mud walls in rural India. Inspired by Bengal’s seventeenth- and eighteenth-century terra-cotta temples, the horizontal relief mural installed by K. G. Subramanyan in the Lucknow Rabindralaya in 1963 set around 13,000 terra-cotta tiles in a figural pattern (fig. 5). Its motif derived from a play by Rabindranath Tagore, founder of the culturally syncretic, Asia-oriented university at Santiniketan, where Subramanyan was educated. Subramanyan’s engagement with living traditions articulates artisanal practices in semiotic rather than ethnic terms, as a language and grammar sustainable within modernizing societies. I select another example from the Indian context, the (only) exhibition of Group 1890, in Delhi in September 1963. 9 Jagdish Swaminathan—Communist, journalist, and, later, artist/“anarchist”—wrote

(then) margins of canonical modernism: it was a claim to authorial self-signification. Group 1890 refused representation as well as composed and painterly (School of Paris) abstraction. It assumed a style of self-“primitivization” to bait pictorial protocols. There was a deskilling and a retooling of the hand. Much later, Swaminathan developed a virtual thesis prioritizing the cultural, cultic, and linguistic contribution of India’s ancient adivasi/tribal communities. 10 As an artist/ideologue in the postcolonial mode, Swaminathan denounced modernity’s guilt and, ironically, favored untethered contemporaneity over historical time. By the 1960s, the manifold cultural imaginaries looped into global contemporaneity needed to be retranslated into semiotic structures based on a principle of difference. Take three artists from the Asian diaspora. The Filipino artist David Medalla, founder, with Paul Keeler,

Fig. 5. K.G. Subramanyan. King of the Dark Chamber (detail). 1963. Terra-cotta mural, 2470 × 270 cm. Courtesy Asia Art Archive

the (unsigned, collective) manifesto printed in the catalogue. Octavio Paz, then Mexican ambassador to India (and a friend of Indian artists), wrote a text, “Surrounded by Infinity.” Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru opened the exhibition. A full account of this conjuncture would unpack histories of modernism and indigenism, and of statist, liberal, and radical perceptions within Indian and Third World discourse in the 1950s and ’60s. While that story cannot be told here in detail, I offer a few pointers to the material and formal choices made in this context. The foremost artist in Group 1890 was Jeram Patel, who rendered the modernist project in erotic-nihilist terms enacted as violence. He hammered nails and scrap metal into wooden supports, layering them with shoveled tar and globules of color-dyed glue; he gouged out forms with a blowtorch in thick-layered plyboard. While traveling in Europe in the late 1950s and early ’60s he was attracted to Tàpies and Burri, but if Burri’s wounded and bandaged surfaces suggested the need for haptic healing, Patel asserted psychic potency through an aesthetic of destruction, declaring exactly why form mattered to an artist at the


of the Signals Gallery, London, was a key avant-garde figure in the 1960s. His itinerant and contrarian practice privileged an ebullient formlessness, as in his “Cloud Canyons” series and in participatory projects with indigenous antecedents such as A Stitch in Time (1968–72), cloth murals stitched with associative fragments by volunteer contributors. Rasheed Araeen’s provocations began in Karachi; his mimicry of England’s ethnic typecasting developed into militant partisanship as an editor of the critical journals Black Phoenix and Third Text, and his wood-andindustrial-pipe constructions engaged the international art language from a (claimed) level ground. The Iranian artist Siah Armajani realized a diasporic internationalism on a monumental scale through symbolic bridge projects made for public spaces in the United States. Three concluding propositions: Disparate cultures within or without the modern—an attribution that remains complicated—function through a locus of knowledge that

2. Form Matters

produces a revisionist understanding of modernism itself. Art history can be less reparative and more engaged if it is, in equal measure, archival and dialogic. If the Western world has suffered a fading of the utopian vision, the future must be placed as a key motif in that narrative: the socialist revolution in conjunction with World War I, decolonization before and after World War II. This historical paradigm facilitates a hermeneutics whereby given narratives and annotated interpretations generate both doubt and affirmation. This also permits a turn to a negative aesthetics. The compact of destruction and creation produces a performative poetics: ironic, activist, and emancipatory.

1 See John E. Bowlt, ed. and trans., Russian Art of the Avant-Garde: Theory and Criticism 1902–1934 (London: Thames & Hudson, 1976), pp. 205–7, 216–17, 223–25, and Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, “From Factura to Factography,” in Formalism and Historicity: Models and Methods in Twentieth-Century Art (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2015), pp. 256–68. 2 For an ideologically annotated chronology of twentieth-century avant-garde art see Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, and Buchloh, Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism (London: Thames & Hudson, 2012). Especially relevant to this essay are pp. 125–29, 174–76, 190–95, 208–11, 373–78. 3 See Theodor W. Adorno, “Cultural Criticism and Society,” in Prisms (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1983), pp. 17–34. See also Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The

Matter relates to materials and means of production. Form contours the act of perception and signifies a phenomenology of encounters. That form matters is an instance of how historical materialism aspires to the more esoteric operation of a dialectic.11

Witness and the Archive (New York: Zone Books, 2000), esp. the chapters “The Witness” (pp. 15–39) and “The Archive and Testimony” (pp. 137–69). 4 See Paul Schimmel and Kristine Stiles, Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 1998). This catalogue is widely referenced in this essay. 5 See Georges Bataille, “Base Materialism and Gnosticism,” 1930, in Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939, trans. Allan Stoekl (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), pp. 45–52, and Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind E. Krauss, “The Destiny of the Informe,” in Formless: A User’s Guide (New York: Zone Books, 1997), pp. 235–54. 6 See Alexandra Munroe, Ming Tiampo, Yoshihara Jiro, et al., Gutai: Splendid Playground, exh. cat. (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2013). The book includes Jiro’s Gutai Manifesto. 7 I cite India as a way of indicating the material and ideological struggles that often characterized transitions from nascent nationhood to a postcolonial nation-state. India’s political leadership differed on strategy but recognized Britain, its colonial oppressor, as an antifascist force. The tumultuous decade leading up to independence, in 1947, had seen a “volunteer” Indian army of 2 1/2 million soldiers recruited to fight for the Allies, the Quit India Movement of 1942, and the Bengal famine of 1943 (a collateral effect of the war economy), which left c. 3 million dead. India and Pakistan gained independence after the violence of Partition, in which 200,000 or more were killed and 14 million displaced—the largest mass migration in human history. Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement placed trust in the populace, and especially in village India, and was averse to the monolithic nation-state. The new republic’s constitution was largely formulated by B. R. Ambedkar, a militant leader of India’s oppressed dalit caste. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, shaped a modernizing, socialist-inclined nation-state. Because of him, India became a leading member of the Afro-Asian and NonAligned movements, part of what became the Third World. In art, the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group (1947) developed mytho-realist and expressionist genres (M. F. Husain and F. N. Souza respectively). Satish Gujral, who trained in Mexico in the 1950s, practiced a form of social-realist expressionism. Abstraction developed in the early 1960s (S. H. Raza, Mohan Samant, V. S. Gaitonde). On Group 1890 of 1963 see below. 8 The Egyptian Surrealists, active from the late 1930s and working under the name “Art and Liberty Group” (the Arabic initials are JFH), were part of a worldwide network of comrades with special connections to Mexico. During and after the war, Egyptian and British authorities began to imprison and exile these revolutionaries for their political (at first Trotskyite) affiliations. Surrealist theorist and painter Ramses Younan was arrested in 1947, went to Paris, aligned himself with anarchists, and was active in the early 1950s. Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalist military coup in 1952 confirmed the state’s hostility toward Surrealism. 9 In 1962, artists from Delhi, Baroda, Ahmedabad, and Madras met to draft a new aesthetic. They started with a critique of the Paris–London–New York axis that had, they argued, overdetermined India’s art since the country’s independence. The twelve artists of Group 1890 (the number in the address of the house in Bhavnagar where they met) exhibited together in 1963, aligning themselves with their Mexican friend Octavio Paz’s tilt toward a surrealist/ anarchist, indigenist, and material-based language. These artists were not fully cognizant of contemporary art in Brazil and Japan. 10 See Jagdish Swaminathan, The Perceiving Fingers: Catalogue of Roopankar Collection of Folk and Adivasi Art from Madhya Pradesh, India (Bhopal: Bharat Bhavan, 1987). 11 See Fredric Jameson on Bertolt Brecht and Theodor Adorno (differing protagonists of form), in Marxism and Form: Twentieth-Century Dialectical Theories of Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972).

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0 TO 1 Richard Shiff

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e speak, write, and read, all without attending to the shape and patterning of our language. Its everyday use grows so customary that we need not probe it to understand it. Painting and sculpture similarly operate as thoroughly established modes of communication. These media present images, raise cultural issues, and offer speculative arguments, while implicitly excluding their materiality as an additional focus of interpretive effort. Identifying an object of depiction, an issue in question, or the gist of an argument nevertheless becomes secondary when a medium reveals its material core. Exposure of the fundamentals is shocking, as if a veneer

an image (Spatial Concept, Expectation, 1962; fig. 1). Similarly, in viewing works by Jackson Pollock, we may be struck by fluidity; in Beauford Delaney, viscosity; in Frank Auerbach, thickness; in Jean Fautrier, smears; in Ellsworth Kelly, nothing but color; in Piero Manzoni, colorlessness; in Yayoi Kusama, repetitive texture; in Tetsumi Kudo, skeins; in Helen Frankenthaler, stains; in Simon Hantaï, creases; in Alberto Burri, cracks; in Ramsès Younan, accumulation; in Hermann Nitsch, corporal physicality. The list could continue. Physical gesture guides Willem de Kooning’s mimeticism (Woman, 1952; plate 131). Engagement with gravity, letting it hang, shows Eva Hesse what sculpture can be (Untitled, 1965; plate 79). The material assumes its form, which becomes the form of a novel art. “How it went, that’s how it was”: Barnett Newman’s rhetoric of monosyllables conveys the elemental directness of the drawings he

Fig. 1. Lucio Fontana. Spatial Concept, Expectation. 1962. Oil on canvas, 100.5 × 81.3 cm. Private Collection, Wassenaar

of cultural civility had been removed. In reaction to the wartime loss of political civility, arts of the postwar period offered a homeopathic remedy by returning to base materiality—aesthetic experience lacking aesthetic development, experience lacking history. Beginning in 1949, Lucio Fontana punctured his canvases, destroying the integrity of the pictorial surface, shifting a viewer’s attention from the potential for depiction to the physical condition of the object. By 1958, Fontana was using razor cuts, sometimes just a single one, causing the materiality of canvas to become the image rather than the support for

produced in 1944 and 1945, as the war ended in moral ambiguity, with fire-bombing in Dresden and atom bombs in Japan (Untitled, 1944; fig. 2).1 Newman’s art may be the clearest expression of a postwar aesthetic devoid of prewar and wartime baggage. His modest compositions— groupings of strokes in ink, crayon, or watercolor: straight, angled, looping, squiggly, rubbed—marked his return to visual art after a midwar hiatus. He was reassessing what art should be. The war itself demonstrated the extent of a collective moral failing that threatened continued global disorder. Newman was pessimistic; he perceived little difference

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Fig. 2. Barnett Newman. Untitled. 1944. Oil and crayon on woven paper, 50.5 × 37.8 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington. The Nancy Lee and Perry Bass Fund. Acc. n.: 1998.59.1


2. Form Matters

among fascists, nationalists, communists, capitalists, and imperialists, condemning the lot for tacitly accepting a Hegelian sense of progress. Hegelianism provided dialectic cover for destructive policies: “The science of history is the curse of the world.”2 Each political institution, restricting itself to the ordering principles of its ideology, had become repressive. Through the noninstitution of art, Newman would restore the world not to order but to vitality. The drawings of 1944–45 resulted from his realization that he needed not only to begin again but, before beginning, to intuit “how to begin,” as if his evolutionary position had been set back to the chaotic formlessness of state 0 rather than the elemental primacy of state 1. All imagery, both representational and abstract, seemed tainted, all methods were suspect: “The Depression and the War made the history of painting … obsolete.”3 So Newman’s renewal enlisted no familiar imagery, deployed no accepted method; at state 0, an artist has neither orientation nor commitment, even to cultivated techniques of the hand. Newman’s action amounted to exercising intimate physical gestures with a sense of the natural inclination of the materials: “With an automatic move you could create a world.”4 The artist would occupy this world, becoming an element of it, in sympathy with the configured form. The collaboration of artist and material would raise the consciousness of both, rendering the sensitivity of the artist more acute, revealing form as mind-in-matter. Newman imposed no forms that were entirely of his invention. He was not tracing an image onto his paper ground, as if it could exist elsewhere. Instead, the form he drew was as much of the pigment and the paper as it was of the artist’s imagination. By 1946, Newman was creating radically abstract paintings that lacked all traditional features of composition. Compositional devices would have been impositions, violations of the freedom of “how it was.” He would later say that his paintings had not only been “a confrontation with surrealism” (too much of an escapist fantasy for times of political crisis) but also, more significantly, “a confrontation with abstraction.”5 His strategic choices implied a distinction between what we might label material (or materialist) abstraction and a more pictorial, image-oriented abstraction of either geometric or organic elements in harmony and dynamic balance (Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky). Where Newman placed verticals he included no compensating or competing horizontals; pictorial dialectic was not at issue (The Beginning, 1946; plate 33). Likewise, where he used horizontals there were no corresponding verticals. He removed from his practice the traditional means of pictorial articulation, just as philosophers, seeking a foothold in state 0, speculated on removing conventional signification from their use of language. Newman’s contemporary Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote, “Philosophy … asks of our experience of the world what the world is before it is a thing one speaks of … before it has been reduced to a set of manageable, disposable significations; [philosophy] addresses itself to that compound of the world and of ourselves that precedes reflection.”6 “How it went” preceded Newman’s

reflection on how it should go. His action was a Merleau-Ponty–like “compound” of world and self—the reciprocal articulation of the two aspects of being, rather than a top-down expression of an artist’s aesthetic authority. Yet to reach such a conclusion is to repeat a massive generalization that, in theory, could be applied to any creative—signifying, communicative, meaningful—human act. Modern theory is replete with chiasmus: human volition, we claim, does not act without the resistance of what it acts upon, which in turn acts upon it; language, we contend, has a rhetoric and a sensory effect that resist its message even as they generate it. In the postwar context, however, it did not seem that artists merely invoked a philosophical truism when they took aesthetic, even antiaesthetic action in recognition of the material ground of meaning. Newman attempted to revivify aesthetic experience by passing from state 0 to state 1—and no further— through every work he fashioned. Analogously, Fontana developed no composition with his cuts; he merely cut. Extremes of form offered liberation from the history of painting, as oppressive as the dialectical science of history. Postwar politics failed to assure Newman that humankind was regaining its humanity. Like many intellectuals, he worried over increasing rule by technocracy. In 1946, the United States began to conduct atomic tests at isolated South Pacific atolls, seemingly oblivious to the local environment and the island culture it sustained. Shortly before the first test, Newman published an introduction to an exhibition of Oceanic art, noting that the remote Pacific could no longer serve artists as “the romantic dream of our time” (as it had served Gauguin and Matisse). The atolls had always been sites of “intangible” terror, their existence threatened by unpredictable tsunamis.7 Now the entire world was experiencing an analogous intangible terror, but manmade: the bomb. In prehistoric ages or perennially in Oceania, when humans faced terrifying phenomena, they took solace in primitive magic, becoming “maker[s] of gods that had animate life [and] intrinsic meaning.” 8 Experiencing new terrors, Newman returned his art to a materialist version of primitive magic. Philosophers, not to mention the physicists of the bomb, argued that matter, base materiality, holds a magical vitalism within; an evolutionary continuity exists between mineral life and animal life, independent of any actualized evolution. The continuity is at every moment potential. All matter has some mind, though not much. This notion was prevalent around 1900, expounded by Charles Sanders Peirce, Henri Bergson, and others. “Matter is effete mind,” Peirce wrote—passive and habit-bound, like the law-abiding elements of nature.9 Through a process of ideological stultification, the technocratic mind devolved to become immobile like rock. In 1956, Gilles Deleuze published on Bergson; his essay reads as if reflecting the philosophical position Newman and others had reached inadvertently through a primitive manipulation of materials. Deleuze argued that matter represents the lowest degree of the life force, life at its most distended. In its passivity, thoroughly removed from living consciousness, it becomes a mere object of instrumentality. The single life

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force, extended as matter, converts to mind when contracted down to a spatial point and a temporal instant: this is consciousness.10 The differentiation of life into mind and matter may seem tantamount to a dualistic, even a dialectical system of negations, but is instead chiasmic, in reciprocal flux, so that mind finds itself in matter and matter in mind. The chiasmic element amounts to rhetorical sleight-of-hand—the philosopher’s magic act, relieving a dialectical impasse. It encourages speculation that intelligent life and obtuse matter might interact in mutual respect, even in the form of the tsunami or the bomb, certainly so in materialist art. Materials become energized like living bodies and

or force is capable not only of responding to us but also of initiating the exchange, “speaking” to us, like the Oceanic spirit or mind of the tsunami? This is the magic of matter and its form, acknowledged by Newman and Deleuze, and simultaneously by the Japanese Gutai group (fig. 3): “Gutai art does not change the material but brings it to life. … In Gutai art the human spirit and the material reach out their hands to each other, even though they are otherwise opposed” (differ­ entiated as mind and matter).13 The metaphoric use of animating verbs, such as speak and reach out, replacing the undemonstrative likes of represent and signify, indicates more than rhetorical flourish. The formal

Fig. 3. Kazuo Shiraga. Challenging Mud. 1955. Performance. Courtesy Fergus McCaffrey

convey their feelings to receptive minds. Newman spoke of stretching a color “until it broke”: it would break (as if exercising a will to break); he would not break it himself.11 Manipulating matter does not equate with controlling it. When we think this way, we imagine that matter must think also. Perhaps we merely project abstract thoughts onto matter as an indirect way of representing and objectifying those thoughts as external form. Is it like film projection, with a thought-image that can alight on any surface, leaving no material trace? This would be imposed, top-down thinking. Deleuze suggests that the material medium we use to express our thoughts and feelings absorbs our excess of psycho-sensory “vibrations,” with the result that the material itself receives a boost in sentience—its sensory form.12 Otherwise why would we feel that any material object


matter of material abstraction communicates directly, as if, among all material stuff, it attained the highest degree of sentience. To develop art that speaks outside the static culture of ideological programming, begin with 0 to 1. Self-consciousness occurs when we turn our thinking and feeling upon our thinking and feeling. We exchange self for matter. We treat our subjectivity, not as if it were condensing and projecting onto a material surface, but as if it were penetrating into the surface, becoming the object. At moments of self-consciousness, we view our conscious actions as an emergent work of art having material presence. Autonomous will yields to compelling sensation. When passing from 0 to 1, no self-expression is involved. No self yet exists to be expressed; it will precipitate from the encounter with matter—part mind, part

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matter—constituting an impersonal moment of discovery. The art of 0 to 1 is anonymous, with names merely temporary place-holders. The various forces and qualities are transient markers—not possessions or expressions—of individuals who incorporate them as art. Materials do what materials do; they assume form. The artistry that gains our respect induces us to per­­ceive elemental quality, form’s primordial emergence. Groping for a metaphor, Peirce associated this first level of material awareness with the equation of quality to consciousness: not “a waking consciousness. … A sleeping consciousness, perhaps.” 14 Bridget Riley called it “the somnambulist element in perception,” what “we cannot quite see.” 15 Ideology inhibits perception of what cannot ordinarily be sensed; terror does the same. Philosophers and artists agree that perception is best advanced by ceding a degree of conscious control: “How it went, that’s how it was.” At state 0, no control: terror. At state 1, some control, yet no ideology to dull the mind. State 1 is a place of discovery—of magic as well.

1 Barnett Newman, in conversation with Thomas B. Hess, 1968; see Hess, Barnett Newman (New York: Walker and Company, 1969), p. 26. 2 Around 1944, Newman drafted an anti-Hegelian diatribe, unpublished during his lifetime; see Richard Shiff, “Newman’s Time,” in Reconsidering Barnett Newman, ed. Melissa Ho (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2005), p. 161. 3 Newman, in conversation with Hess, 1969; see Hess, Barnett Newman, pp. 25–26. 4 Newman, interview with Alan Solomon, May 20, 1966. Unedited transcript, Barnett Newman Foundation, New York. 5 Newman, “Letter to the Editor, Artnews,” May 13, 1968, in Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews, ed. John P. O’Neill (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), p. 234. 6 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, ed. Claude Lefort, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968), p. 102. Merleau-Ponty’s text remained unfinished at his death, in 1961. 7 Newman, “Art of the South Seas,” 1946, Selected Writings and Interviews, pp. 98, 100. 8 Newman, “Painting and Prose/Frankenstein,” 1945, in ibid., p. 93. 9 Charles Sanders Peirce, “The Architecture of Theories,” 1891, in Collected Papers, ed. Charles Hartshorne, Paul Weiss, and Arthur W. Burks (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1958–60), 6:20. 10 Gilles Deleuze, “Bergson, 1859–1941,” 1956, in L’Ile déserte et autres textes, ed. David Lapoujade (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 2002), p. 42. 11 See Shiff, “Until It Breaks,” Source 29 (Fall 2009): 39. 12 Deleuze, Bergsonism, 1966, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam (New York: Zone Books, 1988), pp. 74–75. 13 Jiro Yoshihara, “Gutai Art Manifesto,” 1956, in What’s Gutai?, ed. Shoichi Hirai (Hyogo: Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha, 2004), p. 84. 14 Peirce, “The Origin of the Universe,” 1898, Collected Papers, 6:149 (emphasis eliminated). 15 Bridget Riley, “The Artist’s Eye: Seurat,” 1992, in The Eye’s Mind: Bridget Riley, Collected Writings 1965–2009, ed. Robert Kudielka (London: Ridinghouse, 2009), pp. 267, 273 (original emphasis).

Richard Shiff



2. Form Matters


n 1957, the British-Australian author Nevil Shute published On the Beach, a novel that follows a number of Australians, immigrants, and American naval personnel in Melbourne as they face the death inevitably coming their way as radiation from the nuclear war that has obliterated life in the Northern Hemisphere floats toward them across the Pacific.1 Two years later in the same city, a group of artists released a statement in which they fought back against a different kind of virus. Known as the Antipodean Manifesto, the document opens with this salvo:

Today tachistes, action painters, geometric abstractionists, abstract expressionists and their innumerable band of camp followers threaten to benumb the intellect and wit of art with their bland and pretentious mysteries. The art they champion is not an art sufficient for our time, it is not an art for living men. It reveals, it seems to us, a death of the mind

“Socialist Realism in the East.” Instead they sought a middle path, one along which they might, as Australians, serve “a young society still making its myths,” and “the society of man” more generally, by making art about subjects of national and universal concern and by using a visual language accessible to all—that is, through the image, which “communicates because it has the capacity to refer to experiences the artist shares with his audience.” While specific to the art worlds in Melbourne, Sydney, and London, the battle lines drawn within the Antipodean Manifesto are a microcosm of those that shaped postwar art discourse throughout the world: abstraction versus figuration, nationalism versus “international styles,” peripheries versus centers, artistic autonomy versus social obligation, dependence versus nonalignment, democracy versus socialism. Another, less remarked recurrence is the pivotal role of art critics, acting as champions of one artistic group or tendency against another and

Fig. 1. Lithographic poster for the Antipodeans' exhibition at the Victorian Artists Society, Melbourne, 1959

and spirit. And yet wherever we look, New York, Paris, London, San Francisco or Sydney, we see young artists dazzled by the luxurious pageantry and colour of non-figuration.2 The signatories of the Antipodean Manifesto were artists Charles Blackman, Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, John Brack, Robert Dickerson, John Perceval, and Clifton Pugh, along with art historian and critic Bernard Smith. The last was its primary author, shaping drafts by the artists into his own unmistakable language.3 While deploring “the triumph of non-figurative art in the West,” the Antipodeans also opposed

promoting one or the other side of these dichotomies. As we shall see, the debates were never black-and-white divisions between clearly marked positions. Local circumstances, the changing relationships among places, and above all the constant contrariness of artists made them always, everywhere, volatile. In the immediate prehistory of contemporary art—that is, the transformative moment of the later 1960s and early ’70s and the postwar period just before it—the figure of the art critic seems to catch more light than other actors. If attention today seems captivated by collectors and auctioneers, in the 1990s and early 2000s curators were both celebrated

Terry Smith


Fig. 2. Sidney Nolan. Ned Kelly. 1946. Enamel paint on composition board, 90.8 × 121.5 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of Sunday Reed 1977


2. Form Matters

and attacked for creating the most visible buzz. Less obviously, but insistently, theorists came to the fore in the 1980s, while in the late 1960s and ’70s it was artists who offered the most powerful accounts of what art was and could be. These artists—so the story goes—had displaced the critics who seemed so prominent in the 1950s and early ’60s. Generalizations such as these are mostly rhetorical fictions, but their persistence signals energies that were alive in at least certain times and places. (This decade-by-decade story is mainly a North American one.) We need to ask more specific questions: in the reconstituting and soon expansionist art worlds of the major European centers, and in ascendant New York and some of the rapidly growing art worlds elsewhere, such as Tokyo and Buenos Aires, did certain writers succeed in recording, defining, and even setting artistic agendas to a degree that their predecessors rarely achieved? If so, how did they do it—with which arguments, about what kinds of art, using what kinds of acumen, and with what effects? Did they remain “men of letters” (litterateurs, critics of the arts in general) or did they redefine the role of the critic as a medium specialist? What were the issues that impelled them to write? How did they mobilize the evolving elements of art-critical practice—selection, description, interpretation, evaluation—in sizing up the situation for art in their location? Many places were in the early phases of becoming art worlds—what role did critics play in building their infrastructures? Above all, given that the European wars of the twentieth century had resonated throughout the world, not least in accelerating the collapse of colonial empires, what was distinctive and what shared among writers in the many different art centers that were being rebuilt or were under construction at the time? Unfortunately there is no single survey of the history of modern art criticism on which to draw to find ready answers to these questions. In the rare encyclopedia entries on the subject, postwar writing in New York is taken as the gold standard, to the virtual exclusion of everything and everywhere else. 4 From this perspective, critics are valued to the degree that they were influential explicators of “The Triumph of American Painting,” a story that goes like this: initially shaped in the crucible of Depression-era social realism, inspired by the arrival during World War II of Europe’s most innovative artists of the interwar years, a loose cohort in New York turns first to a universalizing primitivism, then to an existentially expressive action painting (as Harold Rosenberg characterized it) or a kind of post-Cubist pure abstraction (as defined by Clement Greenberg), thus arriving, instinctively, intuitively, but unmistakably, at a distinctively American kind of art. By the mid-to-late 1950s, however, ironic literalism, allusive figuration, and popular imagery enter the picture, inviting on the one hand a debate about the exact nature of artists’ attitudes (are the Pop artists for or against U.S. consumerism?) and on the other a principled refusal of interpretation in the face of the art’s evident singularity (Susan Sontag). Despite objections and reconsiderations, this story has been repeated so often that it has become the rock upon which even the most critical accounts of postwar art continue to be

erected, even as they complicate it and slowly but surely reject it.5 The good news is that a generation of scholars is finally focusing on critics as worthy of the kind of close attention paid to artists. They are doing so from a contemporary global perspective, alert to the complexities of the relationships among the multiple modernities of actual, existing modern art. Andrea Giunta and Inés Katzenstein have done pioneering work in the case of Argentina, as have Charles Green and Heather Barker for Australia. 6 Pierre Restany is an obvious focus of studies of Nouveau Réalisme, as is Michel Tapié for art informel.7 Reiko Tomii has highlighted the role of critics such as Miyakawa Atsushi, Nakahara Yūsuke, Tōno Yoshiaki, and Haryū Ichirō in defining the acute sense of “international contemporaneity” (kokusai-teki dōjisei) in Japan when information about art informel in Europe and Happenings in the United States arrived there after the innovations of the Gutai group. 8 Research into postwar art criticism elsewhere (including the Soviet Union, Eastern and Central Europe, and the Middle East), however, remains in the early stages. Documents from the archives of art critics are being gathered, notably by the Archives de la critique d’art, Rennes, and the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, and some are being published, as in the “Primary Documents” book series produced by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, which now includes Eastern Europe, China, Japan, Argentina, Venezuela, and the influential Brazilian critic Mário Pedrosa.9 There is promise in enterprises such as the Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art Digital Archive, hosted by the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.10 Symposia and conference sessions devoted to individual critics are appearing with increasing frequency, so we can anticipate more publications along the lines of the recent collection of studies of Lawrence Alloway.11 Any comprehensive picture of the role of art critics during the postwar period—indeed, of any period—must await the results of such research. What follows are provisional notes about the work of certain representative and in various ways exemplary critics, critics who played crucial roles within the debates about the dichotomies mentioned earlier. Each did so in a different way, according to the context in which he (it is, unfortunately, overwhelmingly “he”) operated.

THE CRITIC AS AMANUENSIS, PUPPET-MASTER, AND MEDIATOR If, with the great exception of poet/activist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto of 1909, statements by artists were the primary written documents of the early-twentieth-century avant-gardes, it is striking that the key texts of postwar art were in many places authored by art critics. They spoke, usually, as the voice of a specific group of artists, whom they joined in defining the option that they believed would best secure art’s future. In such contexts, criticism became engaged in contestation

Terry Smith


about the direction of art, which just about everyone presumed would indeed flow in one or another major direction. In the postwar period, such criticism was also, unavoidably and necessarily, engaged in the Cold War culture wars. On April 4, 1958, in the culture supplement of the Mexico City newspaper Novedades, painter and graphic artist José Luis Cuevas published a pivotal document of postwar Mexican art. Headlined “Cuevas: The Enfant Terrible versus the Sacred Monsters,” the essay tells the story of Juan, son of a bribe-taking official, as he strives to forge a career as an artist, inspired by predecessors in Mexico and contemporaries abroad, yet slowly succumbs to the compromises and bad faith of an art world dominated by officials in obsequious thrall to an ossified and unpopular muralism. “I protest,” Cuevas writes, “against the crude, limited, provincial, nationalistic Mexico of the Juans,” a condition he names “la cortina de nopal” (the cactus curtain) to link Mexican muralism to Soviet Socialist Realism. He praises the few artists, writers, and filmmakers whose art he believes represents “the true, universal Mexico, open to the whole world without losing its essential characteristics. … What I want in my country’s art are broad highways leading out to the rest of the world, rather than narrow trails connecting one adobe village with another.” 12 These sentiments reflect Cuevas’s relationship to the Cuban critic and curator Jóse Gómez Sicre, from 1946 to 1968 head of the Visual Arts Unit of the Pan American Union, which operated within the Organization of American States. From his base in Washington, D.C., and with the support of U.S. political and cultural figures such as Nelson D. Rockefeller and Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Gomez Sicre traveled tirelessly, promoting the idea of “Latin American Art” as a loose collation of regional modernisms and, after the Cuban Revolution (which he did not support), a vital part of a pan-American cultural front against the spread of Communism. Cuevas wrote his barbed essay from Philadelphia, where he was a member of a tour organized by Gomez Sicre. Recent research has shown that the young artist and the worldly critic actually collaborated on most of Cuevas’s writings from this period, including the famous “cactus curtain” text.13 Gomez Sicre celebrated Cuevas as the model of the self-creating Latin American artist: inspired by local traditions, alert to international tendencies, but an individualist, finally beholden to neither. It is no surprise that caricatures of the two as puppet-master and puppet circulated in the Mexican press.14 Similar patterns may be found throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. In Argentina during the 1960s, artists such as Tomás Maldonado, Kenneth Kemble, and Marta Minujín, patrons such as Guido di Tella, but above all critics such as Julio Llinás and Jorge Romero Brest engaged in a constant struggle to influence the direction of culture in their country. 15 Everyone involved believed art to be vital to Argentina’s polity and all were aware of the country’s economic and political vulnerability to American interests. Without hesitation, all understood that taking up art styles and adopting critical postures meant adopting ideological allegiances. At the same time, the most influential critics of the period, while not afraid to take positions (or, if afraid, taking them anyway), also sought to modify the


disabling practice of matching categories of art, and particular styles, to exclusionary ideologies. Their role was to act as public and private mediators between competing, indeed incommensurable visions of what art could become.

ARTICULATING ARTISTIC CHANGE Published in Rio de Janeiro in the Sunday supplement of the Jornal do Brasil on March 21–22, 1959, the Manifesto neoconcreto was signed by the poet and critic Ferreira Gullar, the artists Franz Weissmann, Amílcar de Castro, Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and Cláudio Mello e Souza and the poets Theo Spanudis and Reynaldo Jardim (fig. 3). Associated with a show at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, it sought to put the exhibiting artists at a small but significant distance from the Constructivist tendency then defining modernism in Brazilian art and also, by implication, from the developmentalist ideology inspiring the “New Brazil,” expressed most visibly in the building of the new capital, Brasília. “Neo-Concrete art, born out of the need to express the complex reality of modern humanity inside the structural language of the new plasticity, denies the validity of scientific and positivist attitudes in art and raises the question of expression.” This is the language of the group. It was, however, Gullar who sought to define what this meant as a description of what was distinctive in the works of these artists: “We do not conceive of the work of art as a ‘machine’ or as an ‘object,’ but as a quasi corpus; that is to say, as something which amounts to more than the sum of its constituent elements; something which analysis may break down into various elements but can only be understood by phenomenological means.”16 A few months later, realizing that Clark’s art of the time could not be characterized as either painting or sculpture but constituted a new kind of artwork, Gullar wrote his essay “Theory of the non-object.” 17 He recognized that these artists had moved to “rupture the frame and eliminate the base,” with the result that the artwork became “a primary formulation of the world,” one that occurred in the phenomenological field between the artist and the spectator. 18 Gullar was one of the first to articulate the spirit of conceptualism, over a decade before it was formalized as Conceptual art.

OUT OF THE COLONIES: CRITICISM AS CULTIVATION In Africa, the first formulations of contending perspectives on the desired direction of the visual arts are replete with paradox. From the 1930s through to the ’60s, Nigerian artist and teacher Aina Onabolu

2. Form Matters

vigorously promoted a rigorous Western academicism as the way forward for African artists, while his colleague Kenneth Murray was equally convinced that the elements of folk art were essential to the modernization of Nigerian art.19 Igbo artist Ben Enwonwu forged a synthesis of these opposing positions in his work and writings.20

that there is “very little genuine abstraction and no naturalistic art of any importance”; rather, “the more powerful African artists are drawn to expressionist or Surrealist forms.”21 We are immediately in a discursive space quite other than that of the dichotomies prevailing in Europe, the United States, and their modernized cultural colonies in much of South

Fig. 3. Amílcar de Castro, Lygia Clark, Ferreira Gullar, Reynaldo Jardim, Cláudio Mello e Souza, Lygia Pape, Theo Spanudis, and Franz Weissmann. Manifesto neoconcreto. 1959

Along with his short study Art in Nigeria, from 1960, Ulli Beier’s 1968 volume Contemporary African Art is arguably the first art-critical text that attempted to survey the emergence in Africa of a kind of art that neither perpetuated traditional, local practices nor sought, through imitation or expatriation, to join other, usually European artistic currents. A German writer, educator, translator, and institution-builder, Beier had moved to Nigeria in 1950 to teach at the University of Ibadan. He notes

America and in Australia. It is a tentative, exploratory one, searching for a language appropriate to its fresh yet fragile experience of possibility. Contemporary African Art opens with an acknowledgment of the decline of traditional African art, steering blame not only to European colonialism but also to the “inherent weaknesses” and “decadence” of many local cultures.22 Against this, Beier notes the recent exuberance of many kinds of popular and tourist–oriented art, which heralds “the

Terry Smith


coming of the intellectual African artist,” one who “refuses to be fossilized,” who accepts the challenge of Europe, and “does not hesitate to adopt new materials, be inspired by foreign art, look for a different role in society,” such that “New Forms, new styles and new personalities are emerging everywhere” and “this contemporary African art is rapidly becoming as rich and as varied as were the more rigid conventions of several generations ago.”23 He demonstrates this claim through evaluations of the work of artists from across the continent, many of whom have subsequently become widely acknowledged. While noting that “superficially a common vocabulary can be detected among many of these artists: the mask, the sacrifice, spirits, and folklore,” Beier underscores that “the way in which this mythological vocabulary is used differs considerably from artist to artist.” For example, while Uche Okeke collects and illustrates Igbo folklore, Skunder Boghossian rejects the imagery of his country (Ethiopia) in favor of a painstaking constructed personal mythology.24 Prefiguring the future for art in Africa, this is an art driven by its own differences. Beier remarks that many artists “regret and rightly so that art criticism is a field hardly explored by Africans themselves at the moment,” but that “they certainly want to communicate” about art.25 Oddly, he does not cite Okeke’s “Natural Synthesis” manifesto, written in 1960, the year of Nigeria’s independence. It is a call to the “young artists in a new nation” to reject the confusion of Western art (“What form of feelings, human feelings, can void space inspire in a machine artist?”) and, equally, the copying of “our old art heritages, for they stand for our old order.” Instead, Okeke urges artists to create a synthesis based on openness to all possibilities, “a natural synthesis, for it should be unconscious not forced.”26

In the postwar period, critics took sides within the various artistic tendencies and attitudes, favoring one over another and often becoming its public spokesperson. Art-world position-taking nearly always aligned with one or another competing ideological or political perspective within each center, and was readily understood to be so aligned by others in the same discursive world. A competition of styles dominated discourse and, to a large degree, practice. Nevertheless, within the period, counter-tendencies arose and countercurrents swirled. By the mid- and late 1960s, things were changing: while these markers persisted for the growing audiences for art, artists deliberately set out to complicate them, and increasing numbers of younger critics took on the responsibility to do the same.

CRITICISM AS A POSTWAR PRACTICE These few examples of different critical practices, undertaken in wildly differing situations, have introduced us to some of the challenges critics faced in their immediate localities during a period when international connections between art worlds were gathering pace, inequities between them were becoming more evident, and these differences were being both codified and contested. There are marked inequities between the dense concentrations of critics in the modern metropolitan centers and their relative isolation in towns within internal provinces, in the cities of colonies and ex-colonies, and in peripheral countries. In such settings, certain individuals, many of them artists, took on multiple roles as critics, curators, art dealers, educators, and administrators. Everywhere critics took for granted that their basic task was to describe and evaluate the kinds of art being made and exhibited in their location. With exceptions (including Sontag, Dore Ashton, and Marta Traba), and usually late in the period, it was rare for women to take prominent roles as critics, but some (such as Dorothy C. Miller at MoMA) curated significant exhibitions.


2. Form Matters

(accessed June 2016); and Kerr Houston, “A History of Art Criticism,” An Introduction to Art Criticism: Histories, Strategies, Voices (New York: Pearson Education, 2013), pp. 23–81, available online at (accessed June 2016). See also Lionello Venturi, History of Art Criticism 1936 (rev. ed. New York: Dutton, 1964), and James Ackerman, “Art History and the Problems of Criticism,” Daedalus 89, no. 1 (Winter 1960): 252–63. 5 Landmarks include Irving Sandler, Abstract Expressionism: The Triumph of American Painting (London: Pall Mall, 1970); Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983); Michael Leja, Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997); Ann Gibson, Abstract Expressionism: Other Politics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999); Anne Wagner, A House Divided: American Art since 1955 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012); and Katy Siegel, Since ’45: America and the Making of Contemporary Art (London: Reaktion Books, 2011). Few individual critics have won monographic studies, with Clement Greenberg being the most evident exception. 6 Inés Katzenstein, ed., Listen, Here, Now!: Argentine Art of the 1960s: Writings of the Avant-Garde (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004). Charles Green and Heather Barker’s No Place like Home: The Idea of Contemporary Australian Art, 1960–1988, forthcoming, is a sustained analysis of three generations of critics. 7 See Jill Carrick, Nouveau Réalisme, 1960s France, and the Neo-avant-garde: Topographies of Chance and Return (Burlington: Ashgate, 2010), and Julia Robinson, ed., New Realisms: 1957–1962. Object Strategies between Readymade and Spectacle, exh. cat. (Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, 2010). 8 See Reiko Tomii, “Historicizing ‘Contemporary Art’: Some Discursive Practices in Gendai Bijutsu in Japan,” Positions 12, no. 3 (Winter 2012): 611–41. 9 Mário Pedrosa: Primary Documents, ed. Gloría Ferreira and Paulo Herkenhoff (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2016). 10 Online at (accessed June 2016). 11 Lucy Bradnock, Courtney J. Martin, and Rebecca Peabody, eds., Lawrence Alloway: Critic and Curator (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2015). 12 José Luis Cuevas, “Cuevas: El niño terrible vs. los monstrous sagrados,” México en la cultura no. 473 (April 4, 1958): 7. Eng. trans. as “The Cactus Curtain: An Open Letter on Conformity in Mexican Art,” Evergreen Review 2, no. 7 (Winter 1959): 111–20, this quotation 119–20. 13 See Claire F. Fox, Making Art Panamerican: Cultural Policy and the Cold War (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), chapter 3, esp. pp. 151–59. 14 See ibid., p. 150. 15 See Andrea Giunta, Avant-Garde, Internationalism, and Politics: Argentine Art in the 1960s (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2007). 16 “Manifesto neoconcreto,” Jornal do Brasil, March 22, 1959, Sunday supplement, pp. 4–5. Extracted in Mari Carmen Ramírez and Héctor Olea, Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America, exh. cat. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, in association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2004), pp. 496–97. 17 Ferreira Gullar, “Teoria do Não-Objeto,” Jornal do Brasil, December 19–20, 1959, Sunday supplement. Eng. trans. in Kobena Mercer, ed., Cosmopolitan Modernisms (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, and London: Institute of International Visual Arts), pp. 170–74. 18 Ibid., p. 174. See also Michael Asbury, “Neoconcretism and Minimalism: Cosmopolitanism at a Local Level and a Canonical Provincialism,” in ibid., pp. 174–89. The contemporary resonance of Gullar’s essays has eclipsed the fact that the dominant Brazilian critic at the time was Mário Pedrosa; see Mário Pedrosa: Primary Documents, ed. Gloría Ferreira and Paulo Herkenhoff (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2015), and the introductory essay’s discussion of the relationship between the two critics. 19 See Ola Oloidi, “Art Criticism in Nigeria, 1920–1996: The Development of Professionalism in the Media and the Academy,” in Katy Deepwell, ed., Art Criticism and Africa (London: Saffron Books, 1997), pp. 41–49. See also comments by Olu Oguibe in the same volume, pp. 99–101. I thank Nicole Coffineau for research assistance and Jennifer Josten and Paulina Pardo for

20 See Sylvester Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist (New York:

helpful suggestions.

University of Rochester Press, 2008).

1 Nevil Shute, On the Beach (London: Heinemann, 1957).

21 Ulli Beier, Contemporary Art in Africa (New York: Praeger, 1968), p. 168.

2 The Antipodean Manifesto is most readily accessible in Ann Stephen, Andrew McNamara,

22 Ibid., p. 3.

and Philip Goad, eds., Modernism & Australia: Documents on Art, Design and Architecture

23 Ibid., pp. 13, 14.

1917–1967 (Melbourne: Miegunyah Press, 2006), pp. 694–97.

24 Ibid., pp. 169, 168.

3 See Bernard Smith, The Antipodean Manifesto: Essays in Art and History (Melbourne: Ox-

25 Ibid., p. 167.

ford University Press, 1975), p. vii.

26 Quoted in Clémentine Deliss, ed., Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa (London:

4 For example, James Elkins, “Art Criticism,” Dictionary of Art (London: Macmillan, 1996),

Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1995), pp. 208–9. See also Chika Okeke-Agulu, Postcolonial Mod-

2:517–19; Donald Burton Kuspit, “Art Criticism in the 20th Century,” Encyclopedia Britannica,

ernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria (Durham, N.C.: Duke University

available online at

Press, 2015).

Terry Smith



Shafic Abboud Rasheed Araeen Siah Armajani Frank Auerbach Antonio Berni Lee Bontecou Vladimír Boudník Alberto Burri John Chamberlain Ahmed Cherkaoui Lygia Clark Willem de Kooning Niki de Saint Phalle Beauford Delaney Jean Fautrier

Lucio Fontana Helen Frankenthaler Ivo Gattin Marcos Grigorian Philip Guston Raymond Hains Eva Hesse Jiˇr í Kolá rˇ Leon Kossoff Lee Krasner Tetsumi Kudo Yayoi Kusama Maria Lassnig John Latham Lee Seung-taek

Lee Ufan Ernest Mancoba Piero Manzoni David Medalla Gustav Metzger Marta Minujín Joan Mitchell Ernst Wilhelm Nay Hermann Nitsch Hélio Oiticica Alfonso Ossorio Jeram Patel Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio Jackson Pollock Carol Rama

Mohan Samant Carolee Schneemann Anwar Jalal Shemza Shozo Shimamoto Kazuo Shiraga Antoni Tàpies Emilio Vedova Jacques (Mahé de la) Villeglé Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) Ramsès Younan Prinzessin Fahrelnissa Zeid


Jackson Pollock There Were Seven in Eight c. 1945 oil, enamel, and casein on canvas The Museum of Modern Art, New York



Jackson Pollock Number 23 1948 enamel on gesso on paper TATE, London


Willem De Kooning Black Untitled 1948 oil and enamel on paper, mounted on wood The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York



Ernest Mancoba Composition 1951 oil on canvas Gordon Schachat Collection, Johannesburg

52 Ernest Mancoba Untitled 1962 oil on canvas Moderna Museet, Stockholm



Lee Krasner The Seasons 1957 oil and house paint on canvas Whitney Museum of American Art, New York



Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid My Hell 1951 oil on canvas Istanbul Museum of Modern Art



Leon Kossoff City Building Site 1961 oil on board Private European Collector


Frank Auerbach Shell Building Site 1959 oil on board Hartlepool Borough Council


Helen Frankenthaler Lorelei 1957 oil on untreated cotton duck Brooklyn Museum, New York




Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) Composition jaune (Yellow Composition) c. 1947 oil on canvas Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie


Philip Guston Untitled 1958 oil on canvas Private Collection


60 Ernst Wilhelm Nay Augen (Eyes) 1963 oil on canvas Ernst Wilhelm Nay Stiftung, Cologne

61 Ernst Wilhelm Nay Meteor 1964 oil on canvas Ernst Wilhelm Nay Stiftung, Cologne


John Latham Untitled (Roller Painting) 1964 spray paint on white duck Lisson Gallery

62 267


Joan Mitchell Lucky Seven 1962 oil on canvas Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon

Joan Mitchell Chemin des Ecoliers 1960 oil on canvas Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York

64 269


Piero Manzoni Achrome 1958 parts of canvas, impregnated with kaolin, and glue on burlap MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main

66 Siah Armajani Prayer 1962 oil and ink on board Walker Art Center, Minneapolis



Maria Lassnig Selbstporträt (Self-Portrait) 1957 oil on Wood Maria Lassnig Foundation, Vienna

68 Beauford Delaney Untitled c. 1958 oil on canvas Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York


Kazuo Shiraga Work II 1958 oil on canvas Hyōgo Prefectural Museum of Art, Kobe



Tetsumi Kudo The Flowing Movement and Its Condensation in Mind 1958 watercolor on cotton fabric Aomori Museum of Art



Ramsès Younan Cristaux rocheux (Rocky Crystals) 1960 oil on fiberboard Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna




Jeram Patel Untitled 1961 oil on Masonite board Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi


Jean Fautrier Sunset in Alabama 1957 oil on paper mounted on canvas Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris


Rasheed Araeen Before Departure (Black Paintings) 1963-64 oil on canvas 3 panels from a series of 5 Sharjah Art Foundation Collection



75 Anwar Jalal Shemza Composition in Three Parts 1963-64 oil on canvas on hardboard Estate of Anwar Jalal Shemza, London


Anwar Jalal Shemza City Wall 1960 oil on board Private Collection, New York



Shafic Abboud Composition 1954 oil on canvas Antoun Nabil Sehnaoui


Ahmed Cherkaoui Le Couronnement (The Coronation) 1964 oil on canvas Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris


Eva Hesse Untitled 1965 painted cord wrapped around plastic tubing and ring in wood and metal Moderna Museet, Stockholm




Vladimír Boudník

Vladimír Boudník

Krajina (Landscape) 1960 mixed media on paper The National Gallery in Prague

Krajina (Landscape) 1960 mixed media on paper The National Gallery in Prague


Vladimír Boudník Kompozice (Composition) 1960 mixed media on paper The National Gallery in Prague



Alberto Burri Sacco e oro (Sackcloth and Gold) 1953 burlap and gold on canvas Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Città di Castello



Lucio Fontana Concetto spaziale (Spatial Concept) 1949 paper on frame Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan


Lee Ufan Pushed-Up Ink 1964 ink on Japanese paper mounted on wood Private Collection



Antoni Tàpies Forma negra sobre quadrat gris (Black Form on Grey Square) 1960 mixed media on canvas Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona


Hermann Nitsch Blutbild (Blood Painting) 1962 fabric, blood on canvas Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna


Niki de Saint Phalle Fragment de l'Hommage au Facteur Cheval (Fragment of a Homage to Postman Cheval) 1962 paint, plaster, assemblage of small found objects, wire mesh on wooden board Private Collection



Niki de Saint Phalle Grand Tir - Séance de la Galerie J (Big Shot – Gallery J Session) 1961 plaster, paint, string, fence, plastic on chipboard, wire, mesh, wooden board, plastic balloons Private Collection



Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio La sirena e il pirata (The Mermaid and the Pirate) 1958 mixed media on canvas roll Galerie van de Loo, Munich



Raymond Hains Les nymphéas 1961 torn posters on zinc sheet panel Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée national d'art moderne – Centre de création industrielle


Jacques (Mahé de la) Villeglé Palissade aux palmiers (Fence with Palm Trees) 1957 ripped posters mounted on wood Private Collection



Marta Minujín My Mattress 1962 mattresses, cardboard, patching plaster, and paint Collection of the Artist, Buenos Aires


Shozo Shimamoto Sakuhin (Work) 1955/92 galvanized steel painted on both sides Axel & May Vervoordt Foundation, Antwerp


Emilio Vedova Berlin '64 1964 relief, paper, iron, mixed media on wood Fondazione Emilio e Annabianca Vedova, Venice




Carol Rama Ovale Nero (Black Oval) 1961 mixed media and oil on canvas Aishti Foundation, Beirut

97 Lygia Clark Obra mole (Soft Work) 1964 (replica) industrial rubber The Associação Cultural O Mundo de Lygia Clark, Rio de Janeiro


98 Carolee Schneemann Conversions 1961 wood, paint, rope, metal on board Private Collection, London


Carolee Schneemann Colorado House 1962 wood, stretchers, wire, fur, strips of painted canvas, bottles, broom handle, glass shards, flag, photograph, plywood base Private Collection


100 Lee Bontecou Untitled 1962 welded steel, epoxy, canvas, fabric, saw blade, and wire The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


John Latham Belief System 1959 books, plaster, metal, light bulb, and paint on canvas on board TATE, London


John Latham Little Red Mountain 1960-62 timber base, books, plaster, wires Lisson Gallery



Marcos Grigorian Untitled 1963 sand and enamel on canvas Grey Art Gallery, New York


Jiˇrí Koláˇr Rasierklingengedicht (A Poem of Razors) 1962 assemblage, cords, and razor blades on cardboard, wooden frame with glass Neues Museum - Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Design in Nürnberg, Nuremburg

Lee Seung-taek > Non-Sculpture 1960 rope, paper, and wooden stick Gallery Hyundai, Seoul





< Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama

Ladder 1963 mixed media Des Moines Art Center

No. E.R.F 1960 mixed media Private Collection


Gustav Metzger Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art 1960 (remade 2004) glass, fabric, table, trash bag, paper, plastic, and steel TATE, London


Tetsumi Kudo Philosophy of Impotence 1959 cord and resin on painted panel Private Collection


Helio Oiticica B17, Glass Bólide 05 “Homage to Mondrian” 1965 glass, textile, water, pigment, cork TATE, London



111 Ivo Gattin Red Surface with Two Slashes 1962 resin, pigment, burlap Marinko Sudac Collection, Zagreb

112 Mohan Samant Green Square 1963 synthetic polymer paint, sand, and oil on canvas The Museum of Modern Art, New York


David Medalla Cloud Gates - Bubble Machine 1964 stainless steel, methacrylate, water pump, water, soap, and acrylic Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid


John Chamberlain Wildroot 1959 automobile parts; iron, lacquered, and welded MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main


115 Alfonso Ossorio Rescue 1961 mixed media on panel Philadelphia Museum of Art


Antonio Berni La pampa tormentosa (The Stormy Pampas) 1963 oil, tempera, wooden sticks, metals (including sheet metal, corrugated metal with paint residue , scrap and tin plate), cardboard , imprint on paper , plastic buttons , threads and fragments of lace on two plywood panels Private Collection



Section Introduction Yule Heibel Sarah Wilson Homi K. Bhabha Plates




iroshima and Nagasaki, Auschwitz and the other camps, and colonialism had laid bare the failures of Western civilization. In the wake of these shocks came ambivalent political attempts to establish more just geopolitical systems, using new legal forms such as the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—putatively global but in fact dominated by Western authority. At the same time, people in former European colonies struggled for full citizenship and autonomy. Philosophers and artists sought to inquire into human nature itself, in debates that included the discourses of Négritude and existentialism and of the rights of individuals and groups within larger (often oppressive) social and political entities. “New Images of Man” features pictorial versions of such inquiries. Here, humans often appear battered, deformed by the horror of modern life, rent by the question of their own value. The artists making this work often deliberately combined figuration and materialist facture, refusing the choice between abstraction and representation—or between physical and social life, seeing the binary as not only ideologically false but also deeply destructive. The most significant counterforce to universalist Western humanism came, in different veins, from the former European colonies. Sometimes, as with Frantz Fanon's “new man,” the formerly colonized claimed a moral right to define humanism broadly and universally, a right abrogated by the West, and offered a correspondingly more positive, future-oriented vision of humanity.




3. New Images of Man


ermany reentered a contested public life had learned to despise modernism as degenerate “Judeo-Bolshevism.” after the Allies defeated Nazism. The many Since they had also mostly exhausted their appetite for “heroics,” modpublications that sprang up between 1945 ernist artists who wanted to risk what Nay called “openness and selfand the currency reform of 1948 gave writcreation” through vitalism could not count on young audiences to supers and critics platforms on which to probe port their work.7 Nor, in the late 1940s, was there any young German 1 version of the New York critic Clement Greenberg, who was effectively Germany’s situation. Much ink was spilled over the idea of the Menschenbild (image shaping a narrative about the American painting of the time, tying it to of man), by 1950 a pressing enough issue French modernism while championing its heroic American direction. 2 to justify a conference in Darmstadt. Twelve years of Nazi rule, a GerThe closest any German critic came to linking German and French man destruction of states that entrenched Hitler’s racialized view of the modernism was Will Grohmann, who by the end of the decade was world, and the murder of millions of Jews by Germans and their helpin his sixties, and was more than twenty years older than Greenberg. ers had created an unprecedented crisis in Europe.3 The critical focus In postwar Germany it was (weirdly) up to relatively older writers like fell mainly on politics and philosophy but the question also mattered Grohmann to lead German youth to an understanding of modern art. deeply in modernist art, especially abstract painting, where the troubled Yet Nay persisted. In 1945–48 he embarked on his “Hekate” series, a Menschenbild prompted anxieties around expression and expressivity. group of Cubist- and Expressionist-inspired works that take the human Those anxieties in turn provided figure, often severely abstractparameters for art’s reception. ed, as their starting point. 8 The formal vocabulary Nay created Fast-forward to 1965 and an here would serve him even in his exhibition at Munich’s Galerie most abstract works, the 1954–62 Franke by the abstract painter “Scheibenbilder” (Disk Paintings). Ernst Wilhelm Nay. In opening Consider a 1948 “Hekate” penremarks at the show, Nay told viscil drawing, Begrüßung Außerhalb itors that since West Germany’s (Meeting Outside; fig. 1), a work “general restoration,” the nation with the controlled affective had become “anaesthetized,” incharge that would prove characcapable of accepting “openness teristic of Nay’s postwar art. We and self-creation” (Selbsterfindrecognize two figures emergung). 4 A practitioner of vitalism— the belief that all living matter ing from and receding into the is determined by an almost suhatched and shaded ground. pernatural life force not found in Their eyes are set in faces that dead matter—Nay was one of the resemble Pablo Picasso’s quotaFig. 1. Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Begrüßung außerhalb (Meeting Outside). 1948. Pencil on paper, 21 × 30.5 cm. Private Collection country’s few abstract painters tions of African masks, and their of the period who leaned on the sexual markers—the round forms lessons of Cubism. Most postwar abstractionists of his generation pracof buttocks and bellies, triangular breasts set off by darker dots for nipticed “absolute” painting, abstraction without reference to the material ples—repeat in circles that could be pupils, vertebrae, or umbilici. A kind world.5 For some, this postwar German abstraction had turned into wallof “vitalist” agitation is suggested by arms that fling upward, but all is 6 paper decoration. But was postwar Germany, divided into eastern and held parallel to the picture plane. Never does Nay ignore the basic limits western zones, in fact “anaesthetized” and its art merely decorative? Or of the picture’s two-dimensional support, or—as he himself put it—does had the patient submitted to a kind of cultural triage in which successive he let objects “float” on their ground. He had disparaged “floating” aboperations had stitched up the tattered Menschenbild until “he” (the “imstraction as early as 1948, instead praising formalism, the close adherage of man” was most decidedly male) could once again confidently take ence to modernism found in Cézanne and Picasso, because it led to the sides in a polarized Cold War world? “picture-form,” a “Cubism of Juan Gris [which] must combine with the Most postwar German critics failed to note even obvious differnew style, the modern vitalism.”9 Here we find him describing verbally exactly what he was working on visually. ences between abstract styles such as Nay’s and “absolute” painting. Nay’s position was unusual insofar as most of his contemporarTheir reviews might differentiate between “abstract tendencies” and ies, if they were abstractionists, wanted to stay away from physical vi“realism,” but they couldn’t seem to differentiate within abstraction itself. tality and instead to seek refuge in Geist, the mind. 10 Compare Nay’s Consider, too, the generational problem facing the country: many young work to that of Fritz Winter, a member of Zen 49. The title of Winter’s Germans had spent their youthful enthusiasm on Nazism, where they

Yule Heibel


Klänge (Sounds, 1949; fig. 2) already suggests disembodiment. Two Vitalism or physical expressivity could be seen as dangerous types of shapes float across the picture plane: the soft layers of mutor dirty, then, through association with the recent past, whereas Geist ed color that constitute the ground are bisected by a brown, semiseemed above it all. The distinction is akin to that drawn between the transparent arc that attenuates at the support’s edges, while on top of Dionysian (“vitalist”) and Apollonian (“spiritual”). “Absolute” abstracthis arc, eight earth-toned vertical bars, tinged with yellow-gold, are tion, which eliminated the body, was the safer bet. As the Cold War arrayed in a cluster. This is an abstraction that eschews all references to deepened and the safe as opposed to the experimental set the agenthe physical world. da,13 it became even less desirable to venture into vitalism, or to see differences within abstraction. Expression and affect were hot-button But why this turn away from physicality? A look at the discourse issues in postwar Germany, especially for people who had expended shaping up in the postwar publications I mentioned at the outset is inas much vehement feeling as the Germans had on Hitler and his racial structive. Take Werner Krauss’s 1947 analysis of the role of slang in firing war. Surely German “wildness” was dangerous. A return to that other up young men’s romantic enthusiasm for military life under Hitler. WorkGerman tradition of Geist, on the other hand, offered a safe harbor. ing from a short story in a Nazi schoolbook, Krauss shows how and why As an old-boys' network returned to power in the wake of currenslang was viscerally authentic. A fighter pilot gets “blown full of holes” cy reform (1948), partition but avoids getting “snuffed” as (1949), and rebuilding, discushis motor “gags” and “croaks”; sion of the Menschenbild conon the lower-class social levels tinued.14 The “thousand-year where slang like this circuReich” had upended social lated, Krauss argues, bodily norms, and Nazi rites had disfunctions were ascribed to placed civic behaviors. Ernst machines, and this form of Cassirer observed in 1947 that language was compelling, rites were designed to eradieven dangerous because it cate the subject’s sense of self: engaged a visceral response, in Nazi racial politics, “Not a way of thinking through the individual, but the group, the body that shaped identiis the ‘moral subject.’” 15 The ty. Reflection, which requires individual was left precarious. distance, was canceled out. Similar concerns came This formal strategy molded from the conservative camp, the reader’s thinking: “Argot typically couched within forces its world view on all more general indictments those who speak it,” Krauss Fig. 2. Fritz Winter. Klänge. 1949. Mixed media on paper. Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen Sammlung Moderne Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne München, Munich of modernity. Consider Max writes. “As long as one spoke Picard’s book Hitler in uns the language of the infantry11 Selbst (Hitler in Ourselves) (1946), which emphasized the nonhumanness man, he was bound to the infantryman’s faith.” Geist was altogether different. Consider Joseph Fink’s paean to the of Nazism, its seeming alienness to civilized norms. The book also gave ideal Greek countenance, published in the same year as Krauss’s disGermans a kind of pass by setting the Nazis’ crimes beyond human cussion of slang. Fink wants to explain why the Greeks pursued a Menbounds: “They are so monstrous that one cannot in any way explain schenbild reflecting “the high, the elevated, the affinity to the gods.” The them through any human cause that still acts as a cause within human Greeks, he writes, discovered “the human portrait in a spiritualized order. … Nazi cruelty … no longer has human measure, but rather the sense”—not physiognomy (the particular, the bodily) but countenance measure of something beyond the human,” emanating from “a human (the eternal, mental aspect of the face). In championing Geist it was who has become a total apparatus.”16 Cassirer’s description of Nazism as producing new political myths that “did not start by dictating man’s also once again perfectly all right to be just a little colonial: Fink writes, ability to do or not do, [but instead] undertook in the first instance to “Recall the goggly-eyed faces of early, non-Greek artists. … Their con12 alter man himself, in order then to regulate and control his actions” here quest was the spiritual deed of the Greek artists.”  As “goggly-eyed” physiognomy is conquered by a colonizing ideal of “countenance,” the meshes with Picard’s conservative critique.17 “Man” was mutable. Ironi­ cally, this realization was brought home by an ideology, Nazism, that had body dies so that Geist may live. Physical being changes but Geist is eterpretended to give “man” a fixed, eternal contour. And with this realizanal. Geist also requires middle-class leisure: contemplation can’t happen tion of mutability, foundational beliefs—that the Menschenbild was secuif one is preoccupied with gagging and croaking. rely rooted in Western rationality—caved. It was impossible to go back to


3. New Images of Man

the way things were after Nazism had destroyed fundamental “truths” about man. The Cold War subsequently provided an escape hatch. It was obvious that Germans had to choose sides, East or West. Some critics cemented the rift by mapping cultural qualities onto geographical regions. 18 In the East, Berlin’s Kulturmagistrat encouraged a Soviet-­ style Menschenbild in which comrades could strive in solidarity for the messianic future promised by socialism. The West’s Menschenbild was different: capitalism doesn’t encourage the deferred satisfactions of the messianic worldview, it runs on near-instant gratification. Its ideal “man” is the bourgeois liberal individual, into which former Nazi Germans had to be reeducated. This isn’t to say that Americanization anaesthetized West Germany, but many Germans welcomed the opportunity to bury the body of history by transubstantiating it into inoffensive Geist. If the ensuing form of modernism was wallpaper, that made it no less expensive.

1 This essay is based on my book Reconstructing the Subject: Modernist Painting in Western Germany, 1945–1950 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995). For details on Germany’s postwar publications see p. 153, n. 34. 2 See Hans Gerhard Evers, ed., Darmstädter Gespräch. Das Menschenbild in unserer Zeit (Darmstadt: Neue Darmstädter Verlagsanstalt, 1950). 3 Hitler “thought that the world was a planet covered by races rather than a globe covered by states.” Timothy Snyder, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2015), p. 241. 4 E. W. Nay, Bilder und Dokumente 1902–1968 (Munich: Prestel, 1990), p. 206. 5 Grouped around Willi Baumeister in Stuttgart, Zen 49 brought together metaphysical abstractionists. See Jochen Poetter, ed., Zen 49. Die ersten zehn Jahre–Orientierung, exh. cat. (Baden-Baden: Staatliche Kunsthalle, 1986). 6 See Günter Grass, “Geschenkte Freiheit. Versagen, Schuld, vertane Chancen,” originally published in Die Zeit 40, no. 20 (May 17, 1985), available online at geschenkte-freiheit/seite-5. 7 Visiting Frankfurt in 1947, the German architect and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, in exile in the United States during the war, was “devastated”: “My only hope I place in the spirit of the older generation that finished school before Hitler. The younger generation … is cynical, and relations with them are very difficult.” Quoted in Hermann Glaser et al., Soviel Anfang war nie. deutsche Städte 1945–1949 (Berlin: Wolf Jobst Siedler Verlag, 1989), p. 221. See also Hans Grundig, “Berichte und Berechtigungen. Dresdener Bilanz. Betrachtungen zur ersten allgemeinen deutschen Kunstausstellung,” Prisma 1, no. 2 (1946): 33–34. It is also worth noting that American Abstract Expressionism wasn’t shown in Germany until the early 1950s. See my Reconstructing the Subject, pp. 77–78. 8 See Nay’s catalogue raisonné, available online at 9 Nay, letter to Herr Voigt, September 19, 1948. Nay file, Archiv für bildende Kunst, Nuremberg. 10 Space constraints prevent me from discussing the wrangling, especially in divided Berlin, where a Communist-led Kunstmagistrat tried to set an agenda of social realism while attacking “formalism.” But consider the case of Carl Hofer, a supporter of socialism who had the misfortune of running afoul of both the Communist leadership (for refusing to subordinate his work to Soviet “extra-artistic demands”) and West German students (for signing an address to the World Peace Congress that was published in the Communist journal Vorwärts in 1949). 11 Werner Krauss, “Über den Zustand unserer Sprache,” Die Gegenwart 2, no. 2/3 (1947): 30. 12 Joseph Fink, “Das griechische Antlitz,” Aussaat 1, no. 10/11 (1947): 39. 13 Konrad Adenauer’s slogan in the West German federal election of 1957 was “Keine Experimente!” (No experiments!) See 14 The art historian Edwin Redslob’s postwar careerism seems typical. See my Reconstructing the Subject, pp. 117–20. 15 Ernst Cassirer, “Der Mythos als politische Waffe,” Amerikanische Rundschau 3, no. 11 (1947): 34. 16 Max Picard, Hitler in uns Selbst, 1946 (Erlenbach-Zürich: Eugen Jentsch Verlag, 1949), p. 58. This edition of 1949 was the book’s third printing. 17 Cassirer, “Der Mythos als politische Waffe,” p. 34. 18 See, e.g., J. A. von Rantzau, “Geschichte und Politik im deutschen Denken,” Die Sammlung 1 (1945–46): 544–54. In von Rantzau’s view, “Eastern” thinking creates Romanticism (and is linked to the “Asiatic”), which damages “Western” (“Occidental”) rationality. In a postwar context, anti-East, anti-Soviet attitudes neatly meshed with rationalism and anti-Communism. 18 On the OMGUS–ECR (Office of Military Government for Germany, United States–Education and Cultural Relations Division) see Heibel, Reconstructing the Subject, passim, esp. pp. 126–31.

Yule Heibel



3. New Images of Man


umanity is not something man simply has. He must fight for it anew in every generation and he may lose his fight. … One need only look at the dehumanizing structure of the totalitarian systems in one half of the world, and the dehumanizing consequences of technical mass civilization in the other half. In addition, the conflict there may lead to the annihilation of humanity. —Paul Tillich, New Images of Man, 19591

with rage, spirituality, compassion—even with hope or a new beauty. Expressing both pathos and human resilience, this art contrasted with the technological imagery of the future: London’s Skylon sculpture (1951), for example, or the Atomium structure built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Western European philosophy had dual origins as well in the thought of Ancient Greece (pre-Socratic, Platonic, Aristotelian) and in Christianity, with Protestant individualism countering the Vatican. Eighteenth-century Enlightenment and nineteenth-century German Romanticism would join these twin heritages to subtend modern philosophy’s arguments, its institutional edifices, and national tradiHumanism was never so passionately debated as during the aftermath tions. René Descartes’s famous proposition “I think, therefore I am,” of World War II, a period of relative stability thanks only to the fearful nominally Christian, would resonate with the atheist philosopher consensus of the Cold War. In 1959, the exhibition New Images of Man at Jean-Paul Sartre, who celebrated the 350th anniversary of Descartes’s The Museum of Modern Art in New York explored this humanism unbirth in 1946.3 To rethink the “I” in a period of mourning and psychic disarray was Sartre’s challenge. der pressure. It was the last great muse Existentialism’s influence expand­um exhibition of the twentieth century in ed to Eastern Europe and the Unitthe United States to unite European with ed States, while Sartre and Simone de American artists. Alberto Giacometti’s Beauvoir, writing in the heart of SaintTall Figure (1949) was the show’s emblem. Germain-des-Près in Paris, were the Many of the same key figures—such doyens of a movement whose appeal as the Americans Jackson Pollock and substantially impacted upon popular Willem de Kooning, Europeans Francis culture. It offered the possibility for Bacon and Jean Dubuffet, as well as influself-reinvention: man is not only “what ential though lesser-known players such he conceives himself to be” but “what he as Karel Appel—have been brought towills,” Sartre wrote, an appealing prosgether again, along with Tall Figure, in the pect to those with dreadful memories current exhibition, Postwar. or to the young born in the aftermath In Europe following the war, civof war. 4 Sartre gave his lecture “Exisilization had devoured itself: millions tentialism Is a Humanism” in October of human bodies had been physically 1945 as a riposte to the French Commudestroyed. With the dropping of atomnists against charges of individualism ic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and despair, and to the Catholics who in August 1945, mass civilian deaths accused him of irresponsible nihilism. from a devastating new breed of weapHe acknowledged a Christian strand ons joined the genocidal legacy of Nazi Fig. 1 Cover of the exhibition catalogue New Images of Man with Alberto Giacometti's sculpture Tall Figure (1949), 1959 in his thought (originating in Søren concentration camps. Realpolitik; arms Kierkegaard’s attack on Hegel) and a dealing; the desire for conquest; nastrain of existential atheism via Martin Heidegger. “Existentialism is tional, international, and supranational antagonisms—all continued not a humanism,” retorted the Communists in 1947.5 throughout the atomic age. The complex origins of humanism were The Americans, wary of the Soviet threat, began pouring money spelled out clearly in 1949 at a conference in Geneva: “There are two into Western Europe for reconstruction. The Truman Doctrine was sources of humanism: on the one hand antiquity, Greco-Roman cullaunched, followed by the Marshall Plan in 1948; the battle to discredit ture, and on the other, Christianity. In Greece, in art and thought, it Communism intensified; France would choose U.S. and NATO prois the image of man which emerged. In Christianity, man was recogtection. In contrast, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, joint editor with Sartre of nized as the image and semblance of God. And God himself became 2 Les Temps Modernes, would attempt to rationalize the Soviet system as a man.” The material fabric of Europe reflected both sources, and now the emblems of both—whether classical and neoclassical buildings “means justifying the end” in Humanism and Terror. 6 In 1946, Paris became the headquarters of the United Nations or the gothic heritage of medieval cathedrals—had been reduced to Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), estabruins or rubble. Architectural modernism banished references to lished to foster peace via transnational exchange in the three broad the past, but painting and sculpture responded to ruins and wounds

Sarah Wilson


areas that constituted the organization’s name. At its inaugural conference there was a split between “Latin” and “Anglo-Saxon” clans, with the French ideal of elite intellectual cooperation clashing immediately with the American preoccupation with the masses, with radio and television (Theodor Adorno’s despised “culture industry”).7 Meanwhile, the desire for a “unique world culture” and universal “rights of man” sat uncomfortably with UNESCO's de facto acceptance of

Linked to UNESCO, a series of conferences in Geneva debated urgent matters, notably “A New Humanism” in 1949. Here the origins of humanism were expanded beyond ancient Greek philosophy and Christianity to reference Confucian, Buddhist, and Brahmanistic thought, and contemporary constructs were brought to bear as well: structuralism, anthropology, psychoanalysis, Marxist biology, mathematics, and physiology. In the wake of the Nuremberg trials and

Fig. 2. Germain Richier. L'Eau (Water). 1953–54. Dark patinated bronze, 146 × 63 × 101 cm. Private Collection. Courtesy Dominique Lévy Gallery, New York

“non-autonomous territories”—that is, dependent colonies. Despite this tension, UNESCO's new director, the Mexican statesman and poet Jaime Torre Bodet, declared in 1948, “The Chinese and Peruvians, Arabs and the French, Australians and Turks, the Czechs and the Polish, Anglo-Saxons from Great Britain and Anglo-Saxons from America [sic], Negroes [sic] from Liberia or Indians from Mexico, Bolivia or the Equator: all have a distinctive and original voice here.” 8


speaker Karl Jaspers’s Question of German Guilt (1946), the debate was remarkably abstract. 9 The Geneva delegates were well intentioned, conservative, middle-aged, competitive in regard to their rhetorical performances, and, of course, entirely male. In contrast, the painting and sculpture produced in the postwar period, transcending language barriers, was capable of a far more powerful dialogue of forms.

3. New Images of Man

The focus on the body was crucial. For Sartre, Giacometti’s human figures embodied the relationship between base matter (clay or bronze) and the notion that one’s identity is constituted by the gaze of an “Other” (l’Autre). The noncorresponding gazes of the male bust and female figure in Giacometti’s Cage (1950) emphasize their solitude and entrapment— and the absurd, Sartre’s crucial complement to “anguish.” Sartre also articulated the disturbing continuity of primitive instincts, between the prehistoric “man of Altamira” and the “martyrs of Buchenwald.” 10 The unleashing of killer and survival instincts in war set against the rational response—choice, engagement, altruism, even suicide—rhyme Sartre’s plays. And beyond “the gaze,” the sight of distorted, pierced, or charred sculptures provoked feelings of identification, instinctual and empathic. De Beauvoir, author of The Second Sex, declared the “Other” to be Woman (challenging Sartre). French sculptor Germaine Richier was proud of her links to Auguste Rodin, Émile-Antoine Bourdelle, and the classical tradition. Her work embodies the hybrid classical/Christian sources of humanism. Ismail Fatah’s seated female bronze figure from 1965 recalls Richier’s Water (1953–54; fig.2), incorporating a classical amphora. Richier’s well-known insect sculptures, however, looked to medieval gargoyles; her “existentialist” crucifix caused an international scandal.11 Conversely, Alina Szapocznikow was Jewish, a Holocaust survivor. Is her memorial to the Warsaw ghetto, Hand. Monument to the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto II (1957; plate 8), her own left hand or a gesture toward Christ’s tortured fingers nailed to the cross à la Grünewald? The work of contemporary sculptors cast in bronze necessarily implied a relationship to history and to masterpieces of the past, the sort that might feature (in photographic reproduction) in what France’s first Minister of Culture, André Malraux, famously called the musée imaginaire, or the “imaginary museum.” 12 The brutalized surfaces of postwar sculptures found an equivalent in art informel painting. Jean Fautrier’s "Otages" (Hostages) paintings originated in his sculpture: features obliter­ated, except for a crested profile, were repeated like bloody scars in the painted series. Fautrier’s surfaces refer to cave painting and prehistoric art—the discovery of the Lascaux caves in France in 1940, and the Stone Age Venus of Lespugue.13 A featureless body is all that is left in La Juive (1943; plate 1), which recalls Watteau’s fêtes galantes in its delicate pastoral palette. Painting conceals the horror of the act: the Nazi rape of a Jewish female hostage in the woods. Like Giacometti, Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze) also developed an intense relationship with Sartre; he demonstrated that art informel painting, with its traces of the hand and perceptual ambiguities, was as inscribed with the human as any figurative art.14 Wols’s painting recalls both the bomb and the body’s viscera. He asked Camille Bryen to write his 1945 catalogue; Bryen would initiate what he called the peinture-cri, shouting as he attacked the canvas, and abhumanisme, a supra- and infrahumanism “without man as we know him.”15 This inside-­ outside reading of art informel spread throughout Europe, becoming even bloodier in the liquid traces by Czech artist Vladimír Boudník. It reached farther east across Asia, to the Gutai movement in Japan and to

Korea—a nation especially prominent in the Paris Biennales of the 1960s, after the Korean War. A reaction to the “virility” of Jackson Pollock’s drip painting, art informel becomes paysagisme abstrait (abstract landscape painting) in the works of Joan Mitchell, the American artist who chose to live near Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny. The energy and open remit of the informel explains its crucial position in Umberto Eco’s Open Work of 1962, comparable to Stéphane Mallarmé or James Joyce in literature, or to Karlheinz Stockhausen’s new music: it offered an “epistemological metaphor” of being itself.16 Jean Dubuffet adapted Fautrier’s dense pictorial matter but meta­ phorically started from scratch with his violent, graffiti-based art. He collected art brut: the work of naive artists, schizophrenics, and “outsiders.”17 In the misogynistically pink Woman’s Body—Butcher’s Slab (1950; plate 132), the nude stretches out as body, liquid, orifices, filling the oblong of the canvas; compare Full Mother (1951; plate 137), the work of Dubuffet’s Filipino friend Alfonso Ossorio, or, from London, Magda Cordell’s figure with its skeleton drawn in red-hot orange onto the skin.18 Dubuffet was now exhibiting in New York while Ossorio and Pollock were showing in France, thanks in part to Michel Tapié, the critic who coined the term informel and later art autre: an “other” kind of art.19 Pablo Picasso, once the staple of the pre- and postwar Museum of Modern Art, now caused major problems for curators—and for the FBI—as the most famous Communist in the West.20 His Massacre in Korea (1951; plate 117) became a European icon. With sources in Poussin, Manet, and Degas’s Young Spartans Exercising (1860), it was not explicit or “socialist realist” enough for the Communist apparatchiks in Paris, but in a reversal of its initial pro-Communist intent, it proved perfect for Polish anti-Communist protests against the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.21 The ground was laid for New Images of Man at MoMA. Curator Peter Selz had grown up in Europe, then fled Nazi Germany for America in 1936. He spent 1949–50 in Paris and 1953 in Brussels—hence the concept of exhibiting art from both sides of the Atlantic. He chose Protestant theologian Paul Tillich to write the preface to the catalogue, a text that, while a powerful plea for reconciliation under the aegis of humanism, did not mention the Holocaust. But Rico Lebrun’s Buchenwald Pit (1955) and Study for Dachau Chamber (1958) were paintings in which discernible body parts and skulls demonstrated an unresolved, displaced mourning.22 Abstraction was on display, as in the five black-and-white works by Pollock, but Selz’s choices were mostly figurative; the fact that these all were from American collections signaled a major change of taste and the enthusiastic commitment of dealers. The sole European loan, Reg Butler’s Woman (1949), a “geometry of fear” sculpture, came from London’s Tate Gallery, to accompany his Unknown Political Prisoner (Project for a Monument) (1951–53).23 New Images of Man followed the triumphant return to MoMA of The New American Painting (1958–59), the exhibition whose eight-country tour exemplified the devastatingly effective push of American “soft power” into Europe.24 “The Unknown Political Prisoner”

Sarah Wilson


competition in London similarly reflected the CIA’s (covert) investment in anti-Soviet propaganda. While the competition itself exposed the argument between pierced sculptures of the human form and abstract works, Butler’s winning entry was remarkable precisely because of its “inhuman,” quasi-totalitarian surveillance aerial. 25 This challenge to humanist pathos in New Images of Man signaled the end of an era, as did H. C. Westermann’s Neo-Dada assemblages, anticipating Pop, including the one-eyed Memorial to the Idea of Man If He Was an Idea (1958). 26 In Europe, the charismatic neo-Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser displaced Sartre; his texts on the Italian painter Leonardo Cremonini marked the passage to what he called “a radical antihumanism.”27 These followed a so-called “humanism quarrel” in the French

Fig. 3. Atelier of Alina Szapocznikow on Brzozowa street, Warsaw, 1965.

Communist Party in the context of Nikita Khrushchev’s Soviet thaw. It was in 1965, however, and in America—in the midst of war against Communist Vietnam—that the German émigré Erich Fromm’s international symposium Socialist Humanism managed to pierce the Iron Curtain, inviting many philosophers from Eastern Europe but also Léopold Sédar Senghor, president of Senegal, and Raya Dunayevskaya, author of Nationalism, Communism, Marxist Humanism, and the Afro-Asian Revolutions (1961).28 Forgotten in the MoMA-driven twentieth-century conception of the Western museum of modern art, artists from the East and the South now come to rejoin the humanist conversation in the current exhibition. Sartre’s 1948 text Black Orpheus, celebrating the poetry of Négritude, transposed the discourse of Self and Other onto the colonial paradigm.29 Subsequently, Martinique-born Frantz Fanon published Peau noir, masques blancs (Black Skin, White Masks) in 1952, reconfiguring the insights of ethnopsychiatry within the discourse of the Other. Fanon spoke at the First Congress of Black Writers and Artists—inconceivable in a still-segregated America—held in Paris in September 1956, with a follow-up in Rome three years later.30


Let us return to Jaime Torre Bodet’s global aspirations for UNESCO in 1948. Throughout the 1950s and after, Paris experienced a focused internationalist dialogue in its art world, one where people came together from all countries and then stayed or returned to their homelands, enriched with the very spirit of “universalism” that the cultural diplomats and bureacracies of UNESCO found difficult to achieve: witness, for example, the international community represented by a slim book of 1956 on the “new school of Paris.” 31 Zao-Wou Ki from China, Avigdor Arikha from Israel, and, later, African American sculptor Barbara Chase-Riboud followed this path of intellectual discovery, fueled by artistic conviviality and personal passions.32 So did many of the artists who would ultimately appear in Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945-1965: Gerard Sekoto, the artist and jazz musician, friend of Ernest Mancoba, who left the Transvaal for Paris in 1947; Iba N’Diaye from Senegal, protégé of sculptor Ossip Zadkine, jazz aficionado and student at the École des Beaux-Arts; Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, who moved from Tehran to Paris in 1961. And the mission of Malraux was to bring the art of India to Paris on a grand scale in 1960; the art of Iran in 1961; the art of Africa, historical and contemporary, from the festival he originated in Dakar in 1966; and of Tutankhamun’s Egypt in 1967, making his “imaginary museum” a contemporary reality. The “humanism debate” became scholastic and then was eclipsed. The commodity-based imagery of Pop, geometric abstraction, Op, and kinetic art corresponded more vitally to early-1960s optimism and space-race competition. The 1959 “Kitchen Debate” in Moscow between Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon has a place in history more prominent than New Images of Man. Yet the power of this art, and the global aspirations of humanist thought implicit in its forms, are given a new life and context in the current exhibition, and are all the more relevant today in contradistinction to postmodernism’s culture of instantaneity and the insatiable appetite for kitsch.

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2 Nikolai Berdyaev, Rencontres Internationales de Genève (Neuchâtel: Éditions de la Baconnière, 1948), 2:85. 3 See Jean-Paul Sartre’s introduction and selection of texts in Descartes, 1596–1650 (Geneva: Traits, 1946). 4 Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism, trans. Philip Mairet (London: Methuen, 1948), p. 28. 5 Jean Kanapa, L’Existentialisme n’est pas un humanisme (Paris: Éditions Sociales, 1947). 6 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Humanisme et terreur. Essai sur le problème communiste (Paris: Gallimard, 1947). 7 Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialektik der Aufklärung (Amsterdam: Querido, 1947). 8 Jaime Torre Bodet, quoted in Chloé Morel, Histoire de Unesco. Les Trente Premières Années, 1945–1974 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2010), p. 55. 9 See Karl Barth et al., Pour un nouvel humanisme, Rencontres Internationales de Genève (Neuchâtel: Éditions de la Baconnière, 1949), with contributions by the theologian Barth as well as Marxist Henri Lefebvre and orientalist René Grousset. 10 Sartre, “The Search for the Absolute,” in Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat. (New York: Pierre Matisse Gallery, 1948). 11 See Sarah Wilson, “A Very Great Sculptor: Germaine Richier,” in Wilson, Anna Swinbourne, and André Pieyre de Mandiargues, Germaine Richier: Sculpture, 1934–1959, exh. cat. (New York: Dominique Lévy and Galerie Perrotin), pp. 10–17. 12 See André Malraux, Museum without Walls (London: Secker and Warburg, 1965). 13 See Robert Ganzo, Lespugue (Paris: Durand, 1942), with eleven lithographs by Fautrier. 14 See Sartre, “Doigts et non-doigts,” in Wols en personne, acquarelles et dessins (Paris: Delpire, 1963), pp. 10–21. 15 Camille Bryen and Jacques Audiberti, L’Ouvre-Boîte. Colloque abhumaniste (Paris: Gallimard, 1952) 16 Umberto Eco, “The Open Work in the Visual Arts,” in The Open Work, 1962, Eng. trans. Anna Cancogni (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 84–104. 17 For further contextualization of Jean Dubuffet’s art brut see Wilson, “From the Asylum to the Museum: Marginal Art in Paris and New York, 1938–1968,” in Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art, ed. Maurice Tuchman and Carol S. Eliel (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1992), pp. 120–49. 18 Jean Dubuffet, Peintures initiatiques d’Alfonso Ossorio (Paris: La Pierre Volante, 1951). Ossorio wrote the preface for Jackson Pollock’s first show in Paris and later housed Dubuffet’s art brut on Long Island. 19 Michel Tapié, Un Art autre, où il s’agit de nouveaux dévidages du réel (Paris: Giraud, 1952). 20 See Wilson, “Loyalty and Blood: Picasso’s FBI File,” in Picasso and the Politics of Visual Representation, ed. Jonathan Harris and Richard Koeck (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013), pp. 110–24. 21 See Wilson, Picasso/Marx and Socialist Realism in France (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013), pp. 154–61, 174–75. 22 Rico Lebrun, artist’s chapter, in Selz, New Images of Man, pp. 96–101. Naples-born, Lebrun emigrated to the United States in 1924. 23 For “geometry of fear” see Herbert Read, New Aspects of British Sculpture, exh. cat. (Venice: XXVI Venice Biennale, British Pavilion, 1952), n.p. 24 The New American Painting, as Shown in Eight European Countries 1958–1959 (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1959). 25 Reg Butler also references the Crucifixion, however. See Robert Burstow, “The Limits of Modernist Art as a ‘Weapon of the Cold War,’” The Oxford Art Journal 20, no. 1 (1997): 68– 80, and Axel Lapp, “The Freedom of Sculpture–The Sculpture of Freedom …,” The Sculpture Journal 2 (1998): 113–22. 26 H. C. Westermann, artist’s chapter, in Selz, New Images of Man, pp. 141–45. 27 Louis Althusser, “Cremonini, peintre de l’abstrait” [1964–66], in Écrits philosophiques et politiques (Paris: Stock/IMEC, 1997), pp. 592–609. 28 Léopold Sédar Senghor, “Socialism Is a Humanism,” in Socialist Humanism, ed. Erich Fromm (New York: Doubleday, 1965–66), pp. 53–67; and Raya Dunayevskaya, “Marx’s Humanism Today,” in ibid., pp. 68–83. 29 Senghor, ed., Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malagache de la langue française, précédé d’ “Orphée noir” de Jean-Paul Sartre (Paris: PUF, 1948). 30 “Présence Africaine,” Le 1er Congrès international des écrivains et artistes noirs, Paris, Sorbonne, 19–22 septembre 1956, nos. 8–10 (June–November, 1956). 31 Hubert Juin, Seize peintres de la jeune école de Paris (Paris: Georges Fall, 1956), featured artists from Algieria, Belgium, France, Holland, Japan, Poland, Switzerland, and the United States. 32 See Jean-Hubert Martin and Thierry Raspail, eds., Partage d'exotismes: 5e. Biennale d'art 1 Paul Tillich, “A Prefatory Note by Paul Tillich,” in Peter Selz, New Images of Man, exh. cat.

contemporain de Lyon, 2 vols. (Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2000), and Martine

(New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1959), p. 9.

Franck and Germain Viatte, From Other Lands, Artists in Paris (Arles: Actes Sud, 2011).

Sarah Wilson



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O my body, make of me always a man who questions! —Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 1952


emories of Frantz Fanon tend to the mythical. He is either revered as the prophetic spirit of Third World liberation or reviled as an exterminating angel, the inspiration to violence in the Black Power movement. Despite his historic participation in the Algerian revolution and the influence of his ideas on the race politics of the 1960s and ’70s, Fanon’s work will not be possessed by one political moment or movement, nor can it be easily placed in a seamless narrative of liberationist history. Fanon refuses to be so completely claimed by events or eventualities. It is the sustaining irony of his work that his severe commitment to the political task in hand never restricted the restless, inquiring movement of his thought. It is not for the finitude of philosophical thinking nor for the finality of a political direction that we turn to Fanon. Heir to the ingenuity and artistry of Toussaint L’Ouverture and Léopold Sédar Senghor, as well as to the iconoclasm of Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and JeanPaul Sartre, Fanon is the purveyor of the transgressive and transitional truth. He may yearn for the total transformation of Man and Society, but he speaks most effectively from the uncertain interstices of historical change: from the area of ambivalence between race and sexuality; out of an unresolved contradiction between culture and class; from deep within the struggle of psychic representation and social reality. To read Fanon is to experience the sense of division that prefigures—and fissures—the emergence of a truly radical thought that never dawns without casting an uncertain dark. His voice is most clearly heard in the subversive turn of a familiar term, in the silence of a sudden rupture: “The Negro is not. Any more than the white man.” The awkward division that breaks his line of thought keeps alive the dramatic and enigmatic sense of the process of change. That familiar alignment of colonial subjects— Black/White, Self/Other—is disturbed with one brief pause and the traditional grounds of racial identity are dispersed, whenever they are found to rest in the narcissistic myths of Négritude or white cultural supremacy. It is this palpable pressure of division and displacement that pushes Fanon’s writing to the edge of things, the cutting edge that reveals no ultimate radiance but, in his words, “exposes an utterly naked declivity where an authentic upheaval can be born.” […] As Fanon attempts such audacious, often impossible transformations of truth and value, the jagged testimony of colonial dislocation, its displacement of time and person, its defilement of culture and territory, refuses the ambition of any “total” theory of colonial oppression. The Antillean evolué cut to the quick by the glancing look of a frightened,

confused white child; the stereotype of the native fixed at the shifting boundaries between barbarism and civility; the insatiable fear and desire for the Negro: “Our women are at the mercy of Negroes. ... God knows how they make love”; the deep cultural fear of the black figured in the psychic trembling of Western sexuality—it is these signs and symptoms of the colonial condition that drive Fanon from one conceptual scheme to another, while the colonial relation takes shape in the gaps between them, articulated in the intrepid engagements of his style. As Fanon’s text unfolds, the “scientific” fact comes to be aggressed by the experience of the street; sociological observations are intercut with literary artifacts, and the poetry of liberation is brought up short against the leaden, deadening prose of the colonized world … . What is this distinctive force of Fanon’s vision that has been forming even as I write about the division, the displacement, the cutting edge of his thought? It comes, I believe, from the tradition of the oppressed, as Walter Benjamin suggests; it is the language of a revolutionary awareness that “the state of emergency in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a concept of history that is in keeping with this insight.” And the state of emergency is also always a state of emergence. The struggle against colonial oppression not only changes the direction of Western history but challenges its historicist “idea” of time as a progressive, ordered whole. The analysis of colonial depersonalization not only alienates the Enlightenment idea of “Man” but challenges the transparency of social reality as a pregiven image of human knowledge. If the order of Western historicism is disturbed in the colonial state of emergency, even more deeply disturbed is the social and psychic representation of the human subject. For the very nature of humanity becomes estranged in the colonial condition, and from that “naked declivity” it emerges, not as an assertion of will nor as an evocation of freedom, but as an enigmatic questioning. With a question that echoes Freud’s What does woman want?, Fanon turns to confront the colonized world. “What does a man want?” he asks, in the introduction to Black Skin, White Masks, “What does the black man want?” To this loaded question where cultural alienation bears down on the ambivalence of psychic identification, Fanon responds with an agonizing performance of self-images: I had to meet the white man’s eyes. An unfamiliar weight burdened me. In the white world the man of color encounters difficulties in the development of his bodily schema. ... I was battered down by tom-toms, cannibalism, intellectual deficiency, fetishism, racial defects. ... I took myself far off from my own presence. ... What else could it be for me but an amputation, an excision, a hemorrhage that spattered my whole body with black blood? From within the metaphor of vision complicit with a Western metaphysic of man emerges the displacement of the colonial relation. The black presence ruins the representative narrative of Western personhood: its past tethered to treacherous stereotypes of primitivism and

Homi K. Bhabha


degeneracy will not produce a history of civil progress, a space for the Socius; its present, dismembered and dislocated, will not contain the image of identity that is questioned in the dialectic of mind/body and resolved in the epistemology of “appearance and reality.” The white man’s eyes break up the black man’s body and in that act of epistemic violence its own frame of reference is transgressed, its field of vision disturbed. “What does the black man want?” Fanon insists, and in privileging the psychic dimension he changes not only what we understand by a political demand but transforms the very means by which we recognize and identify its human agency. Fanon is not principally posing the question of political oppression as the violation of a human essence, although he lapses into such a lament in his more existential moment. He is not raising the question of colonial man in the universalist terms of the liberal-humanist (“How does colonialism deny the Rights of Man?”); nor is he posing an ontological question about man’s being (“Who is the alienated colonial man?”). Fanon’s question is not addressed to such a unified notion of history nor such a unitary concept of man. It is one of the original and disturbing qualities of Black Skin, White Masks that it rarely historicizes the colonial experience. There is no master narrative or realist perspective that provide a background of social and historical facts against which emerge the problems of the individual or collective psyche. Such a traditional sociological alignment of self and society or history and psyche is rendered questionable in Fanon’s identification of the colonial subject, who is historicized as it comes to be heterogeneously inscribed in the texts of history, literature, science, myth. The colonial subject is always “overdetermined from without,” Fanon writes. It is through image and fantasy—those orders that figure transgressively on the borders of history and the unconscious—that Fanon most profoundly evokes the colonial condition. […] For Fanon such a myth of man and society is fundamentally undermined in the colonial situation where everyday life exhibits a “constellation of delirium” that mediates the normal social relations of its subjects: “The Negro enslaved by his inferiority, the white man enslaved by his superiority alike behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation.” Fanon’s demand for a psychoanalytic explanation emerges from the perverse reflections of “civil virtue” in the alienating acts of colonial governance: the visibility of cultural “mummification” in the colonizer’s avowed ambition to civilize or modernize the native, which results in “archaic inert institutions [that function] under the oppressor’s supervision like a caricature of formerly fertile institutions”; or the validity of violence in the very definition of the colonial social space; or the viability of the febrile, fantasmatic images of racial hatred that come to be absorbed and acted out in the wisdom of the West. These interpositions, indeed collaborations of political and psychic violence within civic virtue, alienation within identity, drive Fanon


to describe the splitting of the colonial space of consciousness and society as marked by a “Manichean delirium.” The representative figure of such a perversion, I want to suggest, is the image of post-Enlightenment man tethered to, not confronted by, his dark reflection, the shadow of colonized man, which splits his presence, distorts his outline, breaches his boundaries, repeats his action at a distance, disturbs and divides the very time of his being. This ambivalent identification of the racist world—moving on two planes without being in the least embarrassed by it, as Sartre says of the anti-Semitic consciousness—turns on the idea of man as his alienated image, not self and other but the “otherness” of the self inscribed in the perverse palimpsest of colonial identity. And it is that bizarre figure of desire, which splits along the axis on which it turns, that compels Fanon to put the psychoanalytic question of the desire of the subject to the historic condition of colonial man. “What is often called the black soul is a white man’s artefact,” Fanon writes. This transference, I’ve argued, speaks otherwise. It reveals the deep psychic uncertainty of the colonial relation itself: its split representations stage the division of “body” and “soul” that enacts the artifice of “identity”; a division that cuts across the fragile skin—black and white—of individual and social authority. What emerges from the figurative language I have used to make such an argument are three conditions that underlie an understanding of the process of identification in the analytic of desire. First: to exist is to be called into being in relation to an otherness, its look or locus. It is a demand that reaches outward to an external object, and, as J. Rose writes, “it is the relation of this demand to the place of the object it claims that becomes the basis for identification.” This process is visible in the exchange of looks between native and settler that structures their psychic relation in the paranoid fantasy of boundless possession and its familiar language of reversal: “when their glances meet [the settler] ascertains bitterly, always on the defensive, ‘They want to take our place.’ It is true for there is no native who does not dream at least once a day of setting himself up in the settler’s place.” It is always in relation to the place of the other that colonial desire is articulated; it is, in part, the fantasmatic space of “possession” that no one subject can singly occupy that permits the dream of the inversion of roles. Second: the very place of identification, caught in the tension of demand and desire, is a space of splitting. The fantasy of the native is precisely to occupy the master’s place while keeping his place in the slave’s avenging anger. “Black skins, white masks” is not, for example, a neat division; it is a doubling, dissembling image of being in at least two places at once, which makes it impossible for the devalued, insatiable evolué (an abandonment neurotic, Fanon claims) to accept the colonizer’s invitation to identity: “You’re a doctor, a writer, a student, you’re different, you’re one of us.” It is precisely in that ambivalent use of “different”—to be different from those that are different makes you the same—that the unconscious speaks of the form of otherness, the

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tethered shadow of deferral and displacement. It is not the colonialist self or the colonized other but the disturbing distance in-between that constitutes the figure of colonial otherness—the white man’s artifice inscribed on the black man’s body. It is in relation to this impossible object that emerges the liminal problem of colonial identity and its vicissitudes. Finally, as has already been disclosed by the rhetorical figures of my account of desire and otherness, the question of identification is never the affirmation of a pregiven identity, never a self-fulfilling prophecy—it is always the production of an “image” of identity and of the transformation of the subject in assuming that image. The demand of identification— that is, to be for an other—entails the representation of the subject in the differentiating order of otherness. Identification, as we inferred from the illustrations above, is always the return of an image of identity that bears the mark of splitting in that “other” place from which it comes. For Fanon, as for Jacques Lacan, the primary moments of such a repetition of the self lie in the desire of the look and the limits of language. The “atmosphere of certain uncertainty” that surrounds the body certifies its existence and threatens its dismemberment.

narrative of fulfilment or an imaginary coincidence between individual interest or instinct and the general will. […]

In his more analytic mode Fanon can impede the exploration of these ambivalent, uncertain questions of colonial desire. The state of emergency from which he writes demands more insurgent answers, more immediate identifications. At times Fanon attempts too close a correspondence between the miseen-­scène of unconscious fantasy and the phantoms of racist fear and hate that stalk the colonial scene; he turns too hastily from the ambivalences of identification to the antagonistic identities of political alienation and cultural discrimination; he is too quick to name the other, to personalize its presence in the language of colonial racism—“the real Other for the white man is and will continue to be the black man. And conversely.” These attempts, in Fanon’s words, to restore the dream to its proper political time and cultural space can, at times, blunt the edge of Fanon’s brilliant illustrations of the complexity of psychic projections in the pathological colonial relation. Jean Veneuse, the Antillean evolué, desires Look, a Negro! … Mama, see the not merely to be in the place of the Negro! I’m frightened! … I could white man but compulsively seeks no longer laugh, because I already to look back and down on himknow there were legends, stories, self from that position. The white history and above all historicity … man does not merely deny what he Then, assailed at various points, fears and desires by projecting it on Fig. 1. Marc Riboud. Algiers, July 1st 1962 (Women in Algiers stand in front of a the corporal schema crumbled, its “them”; Fanon sometimes forgets wall painted with the word “oui” [“yes”] on the day of the Algerian independence referendum). 1962. Photography place taken by a racial epidermal that paranoia never preserves its poschema … It was no longer a quessition of power, for the compulsive tion of being aware of my body in the third person but in a triple peridentification with a persecutory “They” is always an evacuation and son … I was responsible for my body, for my race, for my ancestors. emptying of the “I”. Fanon’s sociodiagnostic psychiatry tends to explain away the In reading Black Skin, White Masks it is crucial to respect the difambivalent turns and returns of the subject of colonial desire, its masference between “personal identity” as an intimation of reality, or an querade of Western man and the “long” historical perspective. It is intuition of being, and the psychoanalytic problem of identification as if Fanon is fearful of his most radical insights: that the space of the that, in a sense, always begs the question of the subject—“What does body and its identification is a representational reality; that the polia man want?” The emergence of the human subject as socially and tics of race will not be entirely contained within the humanist myth psychically authenticated depends upon the negation of an originary of man or economic necessity or historical progress, for its psychic

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affects question such forms of determinism; that social sovereignty and human subjectivity are only realizable in the order of otherness. It is as if the question of desire that emerged from the traumatic tradition of the oppressed has to be denied, at the end of Black Skin, White Masks, to make way for an existentialist humanism that is as banal as it is beatific: Why not the quite simple attempt to touch the other, to feel the other, to explain the other to myself? … At the conclusion of this study, I want the world to recognize, with me, the open door of every consciousness. Such a deep hunger for humanism, despite Fanon’s insight into the dark side of man, must be an overcompensation for the closed consciousness or “dual narcissism” to which he attributes the depersonalization of colonial man: “There one lies body to body, with one’s blackness or one’s whiteness in full narcissistic cry, each sealed into his own particularity—with, it is true, now and then a flash or so.” It is this flash of “recognition”—in its Hegelian sense, with its transcendental, sublative spirit—that fails to ignite in the colonial relation, where there is only narcissistic indifference: “And yet the Negro knows there is a difference. He wants it … . The former slave needs a challenge to his humanity.” In the absence of such a challenge, Fanon argues, the colonized can only imitate, never identify, a distinction nicely made by the psychoanalyst Annie Reich: “It is imitation … when the child holds the newspaper like his father. It is identification when the child learns to read.” In disavowing the culturally differentiated condition of the colonial world—in demanding Turn White or disappear—the colonizer is himself caught in the ambivalence of paranoic identification, alternating between fantasies of megalomania and persecution. However, Fanon’s Hegelian dream for a human reality in itself-for-itself is ironized, even mocked, by his view of the Manichaean structure of colonial consciousness and its nondialectical division. What he says in The Wretched of the Earth of the demography of the colonial city reflects his view of the psychic structure of the colonial relation. The native and settler zones, like the juxtaposition of black and white bodies, are opposed, but not in the service of “a higher unity.” No conciliation is possible, he concludes, for of the two terms one is superfluous. No, there can be no reconciliation, no Hegelian “recognition,” no simple, sentimental promise of a humanistic “world of the You.” Can there be life without transcendence? Politics with­out the dream of perfectibility? Unlike Fanon, I think the nondialectical moment of Manichaeanism suggests an answer. By following the trajectory of colonial desire—in the company of that bizarre colonial figure, the tethered shadow—it becomes possible to cross, even to shift the Manichaean boundaries. Where there is no human nature, hope can hardly spring eternal; but it emerges surely and surreptitiously in the strategic return of that difference that informs and deforms the image of identity, in the margin of otherness that displays identification. There may be no Hegelian negation but Fanon must sometimes be reminded that the disavowal


of the other always exacerbates the “edge” of identification, reveals that dangerous place where identity and aggressivity are twinned. For denial is always a retroactive process; a half acknowledgment of that Otherness which has left its traumatic mark. In that uncertainty lurks the white-masked black man; and from such ambivalent identification—black skin, white masks—it is possible, I believe, to redeem the pathos of cultural confusion into a strategy of political subversion. We cannot agree with Fanon that “since the racial drama is played out in the open the black man has no time to make it unconscious,” but that is a provocative thought. In occupying two places at once—or three, in Fanon’s case—the depersonalized, dislocated colonial subject can become an incalculable object, quite literally, difficult to place. The demand of authority cannot unify its message nor simply identify its subjects. For the strategy of colonial desire is to stage the drama of identity at the point at which the black mask slips to reveal the white skin. At that edge, in between the black body and the white body, there is a tension of meaning and being, or some would say of demand and desire, which is the psychic counterpart to the “muscular tension” that inhabits the native body: The symbols of social order—the police, the bugle calls in the barracks, military parades and the waving flags—are at one and the same time inhibitory and stimulating: for they do not convey the message “Don’t dare to budge”; rather, they cry out “Get ready to attack.” It is from that tension—both psychic and political—that a strategy of subversion emerges. It is a mode of negation that seeks not to unveil the fullness of man but to manipulate his representation. It is a form of power that is exercised at the very limits of identity and authority, in the mocking spirit of mask and image; it is the lesson taught by the veiled Algerian woman in the course of the revolution as she crossed the Manichaean lines to claim her liberty. In Fanon’s essay “Algeria Unveiled” the colonizer’s attempt to unveil the Algerian woman does not simply turn the veil into a symbol of resistance; it becomes a technique of camouflage, a means of struggle—the veil conceals bombs. The veil that once secured the boundary of the home—the limits of woman—now masks the woman in her revolutionary activity, linking the Arab city and the French quarter, transgressing the familial and colonial boundary. As the “veil” is liberated in the public sphere, circulating between and beyond cultural and social norms and spaces, it becomes the object of paranoid surveillance and interrogation. Every veiled woman, writes Fanon, became suspect. And when the veil is shed in order to penetrate deeper into the European quarter, the colonial police see everything and nothing. An Algerian woman is only, after all, a woman. But the Algerian fidai is an arsenal and in her handbag she carries her hand grenades. Remembering Fanon is a process of intense discovery and dis­ orientation. Remembering is never a quiet act of introspection or retrospection. It is a painful remembering, a putting together of the

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dismembered past to make sense of the trauma of the present. It is such a memory of the history of race and racism, colonialism and the question of cultural identity, that Fanon reveals with greater profundity and poetry than any other writer. What he achieves, I believe, is something far greater: for in seeing the phobic image of the Negro, the native, the colonized, deeply woven into the psychic pattern of the West, he offers the master and slave a deeper reflection of their interpositions, as well as the hope of a difficult, even dangerous freedom: “It is through the effort to recapture the self and to scrutinize the self, it is through the lasting tension of their freedom that men will be able to create the ideal conditions of existence for a human world.” Nobody writes with more honesty and insight of this lasting tension of freedom in which the self—the peremptory self of the present—disavows an image of itself as an orginary past or an ideal future and confronts the paradox of its own making. For Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks, there is the intricate irony of turning the European existentialist and psychoanalytic traditions to face the history of the Negro, which they had never contemplated—to face the reality of Fanon himself. This leads to a meditation on the experience of dispossession and dislocation—psychic and social—that speaks to the condition of the marginalized, the alienated, those who have to live under the surveillance of a sign of identity and fantasy that denies their difference. In shifting the focus of cultural racism from the politics of nationalism to the politics of narcissism, Fanon opens up a margin of interrogation that causes a subversive slippage of identity and authority. Nowhere is this slippage more visible than in his work itself, where a range of texts and traditions—from the classical repertoire to the quotidian, conversational culture of racism—vie to utter that last word which remains unspoken. In the case of display … the play of combat in the form of intimidation, the being gives of himself, or receives from the other, something that is like a mask, a double, an envelope, a thrown-off skin, thrown off in order to cover the frame of a shield. It is through this separated form of himself that the being comes into play in his effects of life and death. —Jacques Lacan The time has come to return to Fanon; as always, I believe, with a question: how can the human world live its difference? How can a human being live Other-wise?

A longer version of this essay was published initially as a foreword to: Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 1952, Eng. trans. Charles Lam Markmann (London: Pluto Press, 1986), pp. vii-xxvi.

Homi K. Bhabha



Affandi Fateh Al-Moudarres Frank Auerbach Francis Bacon Georg Baselitz Magda Cordell Willem de Kooning Alén Diviš Jean Dubuffet Ibrahim El Salahi

Ben Enwonwu Ismail Fattah Alberto Giacometti Leon Golub Philip Guston Maqbool Fida Husain Asger Jorn Marwan Kassab-Bachi Ivan Kožaric´ Wifredo Lam

Maria Lassnig Luis Felipe Noé Colette Oluwabamise Omogbai On Kawara Alfonso Ossorio A. R. Penck Pablo Picasso Gerhard Richter Gerard Sekoto

Jewad Selim David Alfaro Siqueiros Lucas Sithole Francis Newton Souza Alina Szapocznikow Rufino Tamayo Tony Tuckson Jack Whitten

117 Pablo Picasso Massacre en Corée (Massacre in Korea) 1951 oil on plywood Musée national Picasso, Paris



Ibrahim El Salahi Funeral and the Crescent 1963 oil on hardboard Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca


Ibrahim El Salahi Self-Portrait of Suffering 1961 oil on canvas Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth


120 Francis Bacon Pope 1955-56 oil on canvas Brooklyn Museum, New York

121 Alberto Giacometti La cage (première version) (The Cage [first version]) 1949-50 bronze Fondation Giacometti, Paris


Alberto Giacometti La Clairière (The Clearing) 1950 bronze Fondation Giacometti, Paris


Alberto Giacometti Grande figure II (Tall Figure II) 1948-49 plaster Fondation Giacometti, Paris


Alberto Giacometti Femme de Venise IX (Woman of Venice IX) 1956 (cast 1958) bronze with black patina North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

124 367

Lucas Sithole Lazarus I 1961 bronze Laurie Slatter





Ismail Fattah

Ismail Fattah

Ismail Fattah

Reclining Man and Shield 1960 bronze with brown patina on natural bronze base QM/QF - Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

Untitled 1965 bronze with brown patina on natural bronze base QM/QF - Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

Untitled 1965 bronze sculpture Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah


Ben Enwonwu Anyanwu 1954-55 bronze Private Collection



Willem de Kooning Woman 1953-54 oil on paper board Brooklyn Museum, New York


Willem de Kooning Woman 1952 pastel and pencil on paper Glenstone Museum, Potomac



Jean Dubuffet Corps de dame – Pièce de boucherie (Woman’s Body – Butcher’s Slab) 1950 oil on canvas Fondation Beyeler, Basel


Jean Dubuffet La dame au Pompon 1946 mixed media, oil on canvas National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


134 Wifredo Lam Lunguanda Yembe 1950 oil on canvas Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon

135 Wifredo Lam Seated Woman 1955 oil and charcoal on canvas Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.


Magda Cordell Figure 59 c. 1958 oil and acrylic on Masonite Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo



Alfonso Ossorio Full Mother 1951 oil and enamel on canvas Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York



Asger Jorn Il Delinquente (The Delinquent) 1956 oil on canvas Galerie van de Loo, Munich


Asger Jorn De gule Øjne (Yellow Eyes) 1953 oil on Masonite Galerie van de Loo, Munich



Frank Auerbach E.O.W. Looking into the Fire I 1962 oil on paper board Walker Art Center, Minneapolis


Fateh Al-Moudarres Untitled 1962 mixed media on canvas QM/QF - Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha



Rufino Tamayo Terror cósmico (Cosmic Terror) 1947 oil on canvas INBA/Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City


Philip Guston The Tormentors 1947-48 oil on canvas San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


144 Georg Baselitz Große Nacht im Eimer (Big Night down the Drain) 1962-63 oil on canvas Private Collection

145 Georg Baselitz Der Soldat (The Soldier) 1965 oil on canvas Kunstmuseum Bonn, Permanent loan from a Private Collection


Gerhard Richter Neger (Nuba) (Negroes [Nuba]) 1964 oil on canvas Larry Gagosian




Jack Whitten Head I 1964 acrylic on canvas Collection of the Artist, New York


Jack Whitten Head IV 1964 acrylic on canvas Collection of the Artist, New York



Jack Whitten Head VII 1964 acrylic on canvas Collection of the Artist, New York


Jack Whitten Head VIII 1964 acrylic on canvas Collection of the Artist, New York



A.R. Penck Umsturz (Coup d'Etat) 1965 oil on canvas


152 Leon Golub L´Homme de Palmyre 1962 lacquer on canvas Hauser & Wirth, New York



Francis Newton Souza Head of a Man Thinking 1965 oil on canvas Collection Amrita Jhaveri


Francis Newton Souza Two Saints (After El Greco) 1965 oil on canvas Grosvenor Gallery, London


155 Maqbool Fida Husain Man 1951 wood, metal, Masonite, oil Peabody Essex Museum, Salem



Alén Diviš Maska ticha (Mask of Silence) 1947 oil on canvas National Gallery in Prague


On Kawara Thinking Man 1952 oil on canvas Chiba City Museum of Art


159 158

Maria Lassnig

Maria Lassnig

Selbstporträt mit Ordenskette (Self-portrait with Livery Collar) 1963 oil on canvas Klewan Collection, Munich

Schwarzer Kopf des Vaters (Black Head of the Father) 1956/57 oil on fiberboard Maria Lassnig Foundation, Vienna


Alina Szapocznikow Head VII 1961 Lead The Estate of Alina Szapocznikow, Paris



Tony Tuckson Black Woman, Half Length 1956 oil on paperboard Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney


Marwan Kassab-Bachi Das Bein 1965 oil on canvas Collection of the Artist



Luis Felipe Noé ¿A donde vamos? O presente (Where Are We Going? Or Present) 1964 oil, paper collage, synthetic on canvas and wood Collection of the Artist


David Siqueiros Cain in the United States 1947 pyroxlin on Masonite Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil – Secretaria de Cultura – INBA, Mexico City



A.R. Penck Elektrischer Stuhl (Electric Chair) 1959-60 oil on Masonite Private Collection


Affandi Pengemis Cirebon (Beggar in Cirebon) 1960 oil on canvas Museum Lippo, Jakarta



Gerard Sekoto Prison Yard 1944 oil on canvas Gordon Schachat Collection, Johannesburg



Jewad Selim

Gerard Sekoto

Untitled 1951 oil on canvas Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah

Head of a Man 1962 watercolor on paper Grosvenor Gallery, London


Ivan Kožari c´ Figura (Figure) 1956 bronze Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb



Colette Oluwabamise Omogbai Agony 1963 oil on hardboard Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth


Section Introduction Alejandro Anreus Ekaterina Degot Anneka Lenssen Gao Minglu Nikolas Drosos and Romy Golan Plates




n important aesthetic feature of the Cold War binary was the Socialist Realism of the Soviet Union, China, and Eastern and Central Europe. Here, to a greater extent than in the Western countries, institutional appropriation came before artistic production, not after it. Yet accounts of this category are often narrow. Even in the heyday of its governmental enforcement, Socialist Realism was not a single style. Under Mao Zedong, Chinese artists produced large official portraits of the chairman and scenes depicting model workers, but they also made traditional ink paintings, if adding appropriate symbols of the new order, such as the red flag. In the Soviet Union, art from the 1940s to Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953 is primarily characterized by affirmative images of labor and, especially, by heroic images of party leaders. During the post-Stalinist thaw, genre work influenced by the nineteenth-century “Wanderers” school of Russian painting became more prominent, as well as the “severe” style, influenced by Soviet art of the 1920s and early ’30s. Outside the Soviet Union there was considerably more latitude for officially sanctioned artists, and their works, while depicting authorized subjects, introduced personal drawing styles and Surrealist elements. The “Realisms” section of the exhibition also features the similarly ideological and popular work of artists in other parts of the world and from different points on the political spectrum, from the United States to Mexico, Western Europe, and the Middle East. Along with some works of moderate size intended for museums, this section emphasizes enormous public works, popular prints, and documentation.




4. Realisms


n the early 1920s the Mexican muralists José Clemente Orozformal experimentation. If in 1932 Siqueiros had defined his realism as co, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and others created a “dialective-subversive” painting rooted in an antianecdotal formalfigurative language that was monumental, narrative, and pubism,5 after World War II he began to utilize the terms “critical realism,” “new integral formalism,” and “new realism”6 to define his production. lic. Their styles had certain visual connections with European At the same time, he began to critique apolitical artists like Rufino trends associated with the “return to order” in art after World Tamayo and the academic Socialist Realism of the USSR and its allies. War I, and shared an ideological agenda fueled by the evolving Ironically, while Siqueiros’s mural work became a parody of itself politics following the consolidation of the Mexican Revoluin the 1950s, his easel pictures from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s tion in the early 1920s. In the period between the two Eurocontinued to be engaging in their formal concerns while their content pean world wars, Mexican muralism was one of the most influential acquired a powerful symbolic dimension. Even so, the postrevolutionary avant-garde movements in the Western hemisphere, affecting artists in 1 Mexican state that had stabilized its identity and power after World War both Latin America and the United States. The height of the presence and influence of Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros among the internationII was cleverly able to co-opt the formal vocabulary of both Siqueiros and al avant-garde coincided with the antifascist and Popular Front poliRivera while divesting it of its original revolutionary content. When the tics of the 1930s. After the war, however, their place in the discourse of novelist José Revueltas, in 1967, accused both the late Rivera and the still modern art dramatically shifted: they went from key avant-garde artactive Siqueiros of having painted murals that functioned as ideological 2 ists before 1945 to ideological and aesthetic casualties of the Cold War. fetishes and deformed concepts serving the “national myth of Mexico” By the late 1940s, Rivera’s art had promoted by the Mexican state, settled into a mannered and sentiRevueltas was lucidly framing the conmental vocabulary that bordered on tinuity of Mexican muralism after 1945.7 Photography became a source the folkloric. This was not the case of imagery for Siqueiros; in the years with either Orozco or Siqueiros. In from 1945 to 1956, he came to believe 1944 Orozco began the easel work that photography could replace drawLa victoria (Victory; fig. 1), a violently ing as the primary preparatory medipainted piece depicting a grotesque um for painting, and he himself would female nude waving a flag. She is surpose and set up the shots. 8 A work like rounded by a burning ocean with exNuestra imagen actual (Our Current plosions on the distant horizon, while Image, 1947), which is based on a phoa horde of skeletal Holocaust survivors tograph of the artist, manifests a trougesticulates and screams to her lowbling combination of force (the muscuer right. The overall palette is of reds, lar body) and alienation (a dense stone oranges, purples, and dirty browns. for a head, container of both the intelOrozco, a former anarchist, saw the lect and the senses). Thus Siqueiros emerging postwar world as fraught Fig. 1. José Clemente Orozco. La victoria (Victory). 1944. Oil on canvas, 51 × 62 cm. Collection Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, INBA, Mexico City represents the West as a powerful monwith new holocausts, atomic exploster whose redemptive option may be a sions, and a noxious Pax Americana. Communist revolution. Caín en los Estados Unidos (Cain in the United Two years before his death, in 1949, he completed a series of large panStates, 1947; plate 164) takes up a theme Siqueiros had depicted earlier: el paintings titled “Los teules” (The White Gods). Superficially about the the lynching of African Americans. A white mob, with strong white brutal encounter between the Spanish conquistadors and the natives bodies but the heads of birds of prey, forms a unit that drags a tied-up of Mexico, they are also about empire and colonialism, as ruthless in black man from a jail cell. In such a work Siqueiros is not just referencthe late 1940s as in the 1500s. Toward the end of Orozco’s life, his reing the continuing reality of lynching in the world’s leading capitalist alism had evolved into a language where bold drawing and an acidic democracy but possibly also reflecting the brutality of colonialism for palette served an enraged expressionism. people of color. In 1946, Siqueiros was readmitted to the Mexican Communist Party. 3 In the 1950s, Siqueiros’s life became a kind of road movie throughExpelled from it in 1930, he had remained a vociferous theorist of mural painting and a hardline Stalinist throughout the 1930s and early out the Third World—he visited China, India, Egypt, and Cuba, arguing ’40s. In 1944, back in Mexico after a period of exile, he created the Centro for a kind of realism that had a social function but did not degenerate into de Arte Realista, a platform for his definition of a politically charged, non­ Soviet Socialist Realism, which was academic, formulaic, and mechaniillustrative realism. 4 The following year he received a mural commission cal.9 His visit to Egypt seems to have impacted the early work on paper of Inji Efflatoun, with its massive forms and social content. In India he was from the Mexican government wherein he continued his technical and

Alejandro Anreus


feted and embraced by the government of Jawaharlal Nehru, but artists such as the Progressive Artists Group preferred the mythic and painterly work of Rufino Tamayo.10 In Europe, Siqueiros's efforts to propose an alternative to Socialist Realism found common ground with fellow Communist painters like Renato Guttuso and Júlio Pomar. Yet where their paintings became more expressive in the 1960s, and politically embraced Euro-Communist positions by the 1970s, the Mexican could not evolve and grow. Paradoxically, Siqueiros’s attempt to practice and promote a realism that had social agency, pictorial rigor, and ran counter to Soviet officialdom, was critically absorbed by artists who embraced an irreverent figuration in the early 1960s, such as Argentina’s Antonio Berni (1905–1981) and Carlos Alonso (b. 1929).11 After the end of Juan Perón’s dictatorship in

collage and depicting butchers at work, the kitchens and bedrooms of working-class people, and solitary children playing in abandoned urban parks. The works took on the rough, ragged surface of arte povera to communicate a harshness akin to Italian neorealism in all its mediums. Rejecting sentimentality for a kind of brutalism, Alonso’s realism is charged with an existentialist despair that could be the grounding of political rebellion. Marta Traba, an art critic very much associated with the rise of the New Left, would see Alonso’s work, and particularly his drawings, as “a critical eye, a brave deformer, an inventor capable of interminable transpositions. … When Argentinean art loses all meaning, Alonso dives into the abyss of the human condition, he becomes temporal, historical, critical, ethical.” 14 Between 1966 and the mid-’70s, Alonso’s drawings and paintings would echo the loud colors, flatness, and collage

Fig. 2. Antonio Berni. La gran tentación o La gran ilusión (The Great Temptation or the Great Illusion). 1962. Oil, wood, burlap, canvas, paper, ornaments, iron, cardboard, plastic, glass, glue, lithographic image and feathers on plywood, 245 × 241.5 cm. Collection MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires

Argentina, Berni’s work began to emerge from a barren and mechanical period; while remaining grounded in the principles of his essay “Nuevo realismo” of 1936, he adapted formal strategies from both Abstract Expressionism and Pop.12 Recycling the detritus of consumer society as the pictorial matter of his paintings, he told the telenovela-like stories of the slum boy Juanito Laguna and the seamstress-turned-prostitute Ramona Montiel. In the world of these personages, atomic explosions, environmental degradation, and the pursuit of materialism à la U.S.A. are everyday threats. Through formal disruptions and narrative parody Berni renewed realism with a certain tongue-in-cheek ferocity. Alonso, a Communist from 1945 to late 1967, has always believed in the human figure as the vehicle through which “we can, with an incorruptible memory, fix the wounds that reality leaves on us.” 13 Between 1960 and 1965 he produced an extraordinary group of works combining drawing and


strategies of Pop art, yet since then, and up to the writing of this essay, he has been painting and drawing with a realism that simultaneously converses with the realist tradition and collects the fragmentation and emptiness of contemporary life.15 In 1959, the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, and its eventual self-definition as Marxist-Leninist, brought forth polemics among artists and intellectuals in favor of either realism or formal experimentation. Fidel Castro put an end to these polemics in a speech to intellectuals at the Biblioteca Nacional in June 1961, rejecting Socialist Realism and allowing experimentation unless it was critical of the revolution: “Within the revolution everything, against the revolution nothing.” 16 By 1965, “the real” as expressed through realism had long left behind Siqueiros’s strategies. The realities of a postatomic, consumerist world bursting with anticolonial revolutions had found a more convincing

4. Realisms

1 Latin American artists as diverse as Eduardo Abela (Cuba), Antonio Berni (Argentina), Candido Portinari (Brazil), and José Sabogal (Peru) were influenced by Mexican muralism. In the United States their impact is visible in the work of John Biggers, Jacob Lawrence, Ben Shahn, and Charles White, the early work of Jackson Pollock and Clyfford Still, and the post–World War II work of both Leon Golub and Rico Lebrun. 2 Not only was entry to the United States denied to both Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, but their works and José Clemente Orozco’s in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art were moved from the main galleries to marginal spaces like hallways, next to the restrooms, etc. The panel depicting Lenin in Orozco’s mural at The New School for Social Research was covered throughout the 1950s. Their mention in the literature became minimal. See Alejandro Anreus, Orozco in Gringoland (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001), pp. 110–11. 3 Siqueiros’s expulsion from the Communist Party was due to his chaotic personal life and inability to follow orders in that regard, not to policies or aesthetics. Interview between the author and Raquel Tibol, May 27, 1995, Mexico City. 4 In May of 1940, Siqueiros and a number of his assistants attempted an assassination of Leon Trotsky in his Coyoacán home. Siqueiros was arrested and questioned; eventually, with help from the poet Pablo Neruda, he fled to Chile and spent the years 1941–43 traveling, lecturing, and painting in South America and Cuba. Trotsky was assassinated by Stalinist agent Ramón Mercader on August 20, 1940. 5 See Siqueiros, Palabras de Siqueiros, ed. Tibol (México, DF: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1996), pp. 62–78. He first used this term in a lecture at the John Reed Club, Los Angeles, on September 2, 1932. This and all translations from the Spanish by the author. 6 He uses these terms in pamphlets, articles, and lectures such as No hay más ruta que la nuestra (1945), Hacia una nueva plástica integral (1948), and La crítica de arte como pretexto literario (1948), in ibid., pp. 252–57, 287–92, 293–307. 7 José Revueltas, “Escuela mexicana de pintura y novela de la revolución,” in Cuestionamientos e intenciones, vol. 18 of Revueltas’s Obras Completas (México, D.F.: Era, 1978), pp. 241–74. 8 See Siqueiros, “La función de la fotografía,” initially published in the magazine Hoy, August

Fig. 3. Carlos Alonso. Carnicero Nº 2 (Butcher No. 2). 1965. Crayon, graphite, ink, and collage on paper, 150 × 100 cm. Collection of the Artist.

4, 1945, repr. in Palabras de Siqueiros, pp. 227–31. 9 Politically Siqueiros remained a rigid Stalinist until his death in 1974, supporting the invasions of both Hungary and Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops. Unlike his fellow Stalinist and friend

representation in a brutalist neo-figuration.17 It would take artists like Argentina’s Luis Felipe Noé, Cuba’s Antonia Eiriz, and others to redefine “the real” as tattered, bloated, and ragged human images. With his usual intellectual clarity, Berni would write that the new and most realistic art to emerge in the 1960s would need to partake of and critique “a world of imported aesthetic chewing gum or of drinking a Coca-Cola type of universalism,” where artists “aren’t as alienated as the rest by the publicity of the mass media controlled by transnational monopolies.” 18 An art like Berni’s, made materially of recycled garbage and from the perspective of the disempowered and the marginal, who nevertheless are drowning in Coca-Cola and chocolate candy bars, would be the most realistic representation of the world that emerged after World War II.

the poet Pablo Neruda, he was unable to reinvent himself through the New Left in the 1960s. 10 See Siqueiros, Me llamaban el coronelazo (México, D.F.: Grijalbo, 1977), pp. 447–60. In his posthumously published memoirs Siqueiros describes these stops in his “road movie” as not simply triumphs but instances of confrontation with the new formalism promoted by the United States and the “retardaire” naturalism of Soviet Socialist Realism. In a sense, he was reviving his many travels of the 1930s, when he acted as an “evangelist” for muralism in both the United States and Latin America. From the mid-1950s to the early 1960s he was paradoxically both a cultural ambassador for the Mexican culture industry and an avowed Communist. Although jailed from August 9, 1960 to July 13, 1964 for his involvement in an unauthorized strike by railroad workers, once released he would assume his “representation of the Mexican Mural movement” for the state. 11 As a former Communist but active fellow-traveler, Berni exhibited his work in the Warsaw Pact nations at the height of the Cold War. His prints in particular were well received by young artists in Czechoslovakia in 1959 and Poland in 1966 and 1968. 12 Berni, “El nuevo realismo,” Forma (Buenos Aires) no. 1 (August 1936): 8, 14. In this key text Berni called for a realism that was not “a simplistic imitation of the style of Cézanne or Picasso, but an interpretation of one’s own era with its new phenomena and realities, the spirit and originality of the moment.” 13 Carlos Alonso, in a questionnaire from the author, December 3, 2009. On Alonso’s history see Alejandro Anreus, “Carlos Alonso’s Anatomy Lesson,” Third Text 24, no. 3 (May 2010): 353– 60. Alonso’s slow but steady disillusionment with the Argentinean Communist Party reflects his responses to Stalinism, the repression of workers in East Berlin in 1953, and the invasions of Hungary in 1957 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. 14 Marta Traba, Dos décadas vulnerables en las artes plásticas latinoamericanas: 1950–70, (México, DF: Siglo Veintiuno, 1973), pp. 77–78. 15 In July 1977, Alonso’s daughter Paloma, a university student and activist, was “disappeared” by the military junta that was ruling the country with the support of the U.S. government. The artist and the rest of his family had to flee the country for their own safety, living in exile in Italy and Spain until returning in 1981, two years before democracy was restored through the election of Raúl Alfonsin in 1983. This personal tragedy recharged Alonso’s commitment to a political realism. 16 See Robert E. Quirk, Fidel Castro (New York: Norton, 1993), pp. 381–85. 17 The work of the Otra figuración group in Argentina, Antonia Eiriz in Cuba, and Jacobo Borges in Venezuela are prime examples of this neo-figuration. 18 Berni, Escritos y papeles privados (Buenos Aires: Tema Grupo Editorial, 1999), pp. 137, 140.

Alejandro Anreus



Chapter 4. 2Realisms · Form Matters


ussia’s October Revolution of 1917 may have announced itself to the world with a blare of brand-new abstract geometrical shapes, but it was in figurative images with a classical pedigree that the new society recognized itself, and it would maintain this commitment to realism as its main visual and epistemological tool until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, in 1991, and beyond. Discussions in the early 1930s canonized the formula “Socialist Realism,” even if the radical left-wing scene preferred “proletarian realism,” “dialectical-materialist realism,” and other terms.1 In any case, “realism” marked the difference from the previous dominant tendency in Russian art. Futurism, insofar as it was deemed that the future anticipated by the Futurists, had now become everyday. “Socialist” was meant to demarcate this new realism from bourgeois nineteenth-century realism, thought to have betrayed itself and started the descent into modernist formalism—the main adversary of Socialist Realism for many years to come. By the 1930s, the Soviet avant-garde had grown dissatisfied with modernist art, which they saw as translating social alienation into its symbolic representation through flatness and fragmentation. Instead, Communist artists gravitated toward holistic, synthetic forms that defied social alienation rather than mimicking it. The radical left shifted toward various forms of documentary, photomontage, and film (a tendency they called “factography”), but also toward politically engaged figurative painting. In its violent rejection of autonomous art, seen as a comfortable bourgeois institution, this postabstract propagandistic realism set out to be destructive rather than descriptive. The new institutional system stood almost unchanged from the 1930s to the early 1990s. In an unprecedented challenge to earlier patterns of individual production, division of labor, and the market, the new art positioned itself as an element of the new, noncapitalist public sphere. Artworks were ideally to be produced collectively (or at least, more realistically, through advance collective discussions among producers) and were intended for a mass audience that, also ideally, would engage with them through political debate. In the total absence of a private market, production would rely on state commissions, which in turn were distributed through artists’ unions and cooperatives. Murals, public sculptures, illustrated books, film, and photography allowed access to the masses, but easel painting was also integrated into this system through a vital emphasis on distribution through the media: publishing houses issued art magazines and postcards by the millions of copies, constituting the staple of the Soviet art system alongside traditional museums. To some extent, originals kept in museums were seen as master copies for further reproductions, whether mechanical or, more often than not, manual. During the Stalinist period—that is, until 1953—the initial egalitarian impulse of this system was violently repressed. Debates within artists’ unions, once to some extent democratic, stopped. A politically servile artistic bureaucracy emerged, negotiating enormous fees that made its members extremely well off in comparison to an average worker

or an artist in the provinces. No independent art criticism was possible, corrections to dominant aesthetic paradigms were imposed by party decree, and the stakes were high: an attack on an artist in the central press would almost certainly lead to expulsion from the artists’ union, a loss of commissions, exclusion from teaching positions, and ultimately a kind of social death.



mmediately after World War II (which in the Soviet Union was given the deeply felt name the “Great Patriotic War”), in party decrees and in the public sphere, the rhetorics of class struggle and internationalism disappeared and resistance to the bourgeois order received a cultural interpretation. The Soviet victory over Nazism (Japanese imperialism was too far away from Moscow to be acknowledged), achieved through Joseph Stalin’s tactical reconciliation with the Russian Orthodox Church, among other things, was seen as a victory over Western colonial dominance. (To some extent this may have been justified, since Hitler’s policies in Eastern Europe were implicitly colonial.) The cultural war on the West became intense after 1946, when campaigns against so-called “rootless cosmopolitanism” and “kowtowing to the West” were declared. In 1948, an aggressive press campaign ostracized dozens of theorists and critics, almost exclusively of Jewish descent. Basically, internationalism and modernism were stigmatized as Jewish. Victors over the West took classical Western art as booty both literally and metaphorically. Vasiliy Yakovlev’s Portrait of Georgy Zhukov (1946; plate 172), a neoacademic tour de force, shows Marshal Georgy Zhukov, a Russian commander during the battle for Berlin, riding on a mighty white stallion. He triumphs not just over Nazi Germany and German culture—both swastika banners and medieval churches are shown falling behind him—but over the whole European tradition of neo-baroque portraiture, which Yakovlev proudly appropriates and tames just as Zhukov tames his horse. (Besides being a painter, Yakovlev ran the restoration department of Moscow’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, where he specialized in restoring paintings by Rubens. Secular painting was imposed on Russia in the eighteenth century by Peter the Great; some 200 years later, in a triumphalist justification of ancient self-colonization, Yakovlev was claiming the right to the Western style because the West had now betrayed its true “westernness,” having embraced modernism. In a different but related dynamic, this antiinternationalist decolonization was accompanied by colonization of the Soviet Union’s own margins, called “national republics” in an assumption that Russia was not one. The artists of the non-Russian republics were expected to represent their region’s life in a style bearing no resemblance to its traditional art, since the decorative qualities of traditional arts were

Ekaterina Degot


Fig. 1. Semyon Chuikov. Daughter of Soviet Kirgizia. 1948. Oil on canvas, 120 x 95 cm. The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow


4. Realisms

seen as a kind of formalism. In 1947, the Ilya Repin Leningrad Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture set up a “studio of nationalities” to prepare young artists from outside the European tradition for the vicissitudes of drawing from nature. Semyon Chuikov’s Doch’ Sovetskoi Kirgizii (Daughter of Soviet Kirgizia, 1948; fig. 1), for example, was praised as a successful example of the cultural awakening not just of a girl from the steppes, who prioritized study over tending sheep, but of Kirgiz national realist painting, a previously unknown genre. The republics were forced to embrace a high culture represented by a generic realist visual language interpreted as the national Russian style. Russian culture, understanding itself as supranational, was spread abroad, too: in the 1950s, the painter Konstantin Maksimov was sent to China to teach the methods of realist art there.

REALISM OF THE POSSIBLE Soviet realist aesthetics were heavily influenced by Vladimir Lenin’s famous essay “Leo Tolstoy as the Mirror of the Russian Revolution” (1908), in which Lenin praised Tolstoy as a “genius who has … drawn incomparable pictures of Russian life.”2 This pictorial metaphor brought the narrative and the visual into a dialectical embrace that later critics had in mind when they tended to evaluate each art through the criteria of the other. A realist text had to be as vivid as a painting, while a realist painting, without losing its sensuous credibility, had to encompass the whole range of reality, the fullness of its connections and relations, past and future—something that only a novel could perhaps have at least hoped to offer. One new genre promised just that: “thematic painting,” a political statement embedded in a visual narrative. A paradigmatic example is Fyodor Shurpin’s Utro nashei rodiny (Morning of our Motherland, 1946– 48; plate 173), a portrait of Stalin significantly never positioned as a portrait of Stalin: it claimed a higher ambition. The narrative here, however, is minimalist to say the least: there is almost nothing to be seen but the indirect glow of the sun and the figure of Stalin. Yet the viewer is asked to imagine a magnificent future. In 1946, in a country devastated by the recent war, to ask for that sort of imagination was to ask for the superlative public-spirited exertion that in the Soviet Union would come to be called shock work. One can, and probably should, dismiss this painting for its utter glorification of the tyrant, but it also marks an important shift in Soviet realism from the actual to the potential. A later Soviet dictionary of aesthetics would argue that “artistic reflection is high aesthetic selectiveness, orientation to the possible and the probable.”3 For Soviet critics, realism had to represent not so much the current reality as hopes for a better one; this sort of realism “presupposes possibility beyond already existing reality,” as Ernst Bloch put it, describing the “warm movement in Marxism.”4 The haunting of the real by the possible also challenges the normative idea of quality. If the audience had to discern a Communism yet to

come in a still imperfect reality, why would it not “foresee” painting itself in its different state—better, stronger, closer to the ideal, as if created by one of the classic humanist painters, realists avant la lettre, whom Soviet painters and art historians idolized during the entire Soviet period. If, through their painterly style, artists expressed the ambition to be a Rembrandt or a Velázquez, a Zurbarán or a Chardin (and many did), they were showing themselves at their best not just in an aesthetic but in an ethical sense. And since they knew they were not Velázquez after all, they also demonstrated humility. The viewer might then give them the benefit of the doubt—Bloch’s “principle of hope”—by looking at what the painting might have been, might still become, rather than at what it was and at the limitations it had. The theory of Socialist Realism as an epistemological tool was based on Lenin’s theory of reflection, which stated the correlation between objective reality and cognition, but in both directions: according to Lenin, cognition mirrors reality in an active, transformative way, bringing out the best of it (and that, one can deduce, works better than cognition per se, only possible through a process of necessarily limited approximations).5 Slavoj Žižek is right to see Lenin’s theory as implicitly idealistic, since the very idea of mirroring divides objective reality and consciousness.6 Marxism and Questions of Linguistics, signed by Stalin (but not necessarily written by him) and published in 1950, goes still farther, proclaiming the relative independence of society’s superstructure from its base—something that was never contested, even during the years of de-Stalinization, and became the most important ideological platform for arts seeking the ideal.

THE POWER OF TRUTH On March 5, 1953, Stalin died; in February 1956, the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union condemned his “cult of personality” and called for a “return to Leninist norms of party life.” That opened the short period of “socialism with a human face,” which ended in 1968 when an even more humanly faced socialism in Prague was crushed by Soviet tanks. The party’s greeting to the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Artists, in 1957, called for works providing “a feeling of genuine aesthetic pleasure and joy for millions, which enrich their spiritual world, which ennoble and elevate man.”7 The assumption that “rich” and “noble” were positive qualities was rather unexpected. In the same way, the autonomy of art was partly rehabilitated, insofar as artists gained it de facto. Artists’ unions now controlled media distribution and museum acquisitions, and by the 1960s, at least in Moscow and Leningrad, had turned into a relatively privileged caste of professionals isolated from the rest of society. For the artists of the “austere style” of the early 1960s, as well as for the first generation of conceptualists later in the decade, this autonomy enabled a self-reflexive process: both groups were reflecting on the choices made in the 1920s, the figurative turn in the first place.

Ekaterina Degot


“Austere style” (surovyj stil) was a term invented by critics to describe the work of young artists of the time (Pavel Nikonov, Viktor Popkov, Tahir Salahov and others) who developed a sober and monumental visual language and linked the sensuous to the political. 8 Their protagonists—everyday heroes, workers, almost exclusively

representation, i.e., less idealization, but rather a more rhetorical presence of Communist ideals in everyday life. This is what is at stake in Popkov’s Builders of Bratsk Hydro-Electric Power Station (1960–61; plate 175), which stages an artificial, theatrical mise-en-scène. This limelight composition is rooted in a Brechtian alienation effect and the breaking of the fourth wall, but also, digging deeper, in the famous Hegelian idea that “the essence reveals itself,” which remained central to Soviet realism. The artists of the austere style were supported by the critic Nina Dmitrieva, who herself was influenced by Mikhail Lifshitz, the main Marxist theorist of realism. Lifshitz, who in the 1930s had worked closely with György Lukacs and published an important anthology of early Marxist literature on the role of art, was committed to the idea of real-

Fig. 3. Geliy Korzhev. Raising the Banner. 1960. Oil on canvas, 156 x 290 cm. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Fig. 2. Geliy Korzhev. Homer. 1960. Oil on canvas, 290 x 140 cm. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

male—are represented as anti-Stalinist political subjects who do not just follow orders but are architects of their own destiny, who combine physical strength with independent minds, and whose labor on behalf of society allows them time for their own intellectual development. In contrast to the mythomaniac art of the Stalinist period, artists of the “austere style” insisted on truthfulness. That did not mean more credible


ism as a cognitive tool and sensuous instrument in the search for truth. Truthfulness for Lifshitz was the representation of what, after Hegel, he called veritas rei—the truth of things, the best in them, their ideal projection. The very fact of revealing something in sensuous form was already considered aesthetic, but the highest form of this revelation would be the revelation of the universal inside and through the unique. The idea of the hard ascension, physical as well as spiritual, toward the ideal, the universal, toward something that transcends even the notion of class, is at the core of Geliy Korzhev’s iconic triptych Communists (1957– 60). In the central panel a worker raises a heavy flag that has fallen from the hands of a dead comrade (fig. 3); to the right, The Internationale, two brave horn-players raise their instruments and defy death in a battle in the Russian Civil War (fig. 4). In the lefthand panel, Homer, we see what all this was for: in a studio after the war, two former soldiers copy, meticulously and modestly, a bust of Homer, elevating themselves above their own background and past to the universalist and classless level of the humanist culture of European antiquity (fig. 2). This ennoblement and elevation is achieved, notably, through mimetic copying, an activity a dedicated realist like Korzhev identified with. And it was precisely this copying that, for him, opened the door to the immensity of the “absolute truth” that transcends any categorization, be it epistemological or sociological.

4. Realisms

The category of the general—vseobschchee, a term that can also be translated as “universal,” “overall,” “generic” in the sense of going beyond divisions, or “common” in relation to property—was extremely important for Soviet Marxists (Lifshits, Evald Iljenkov) as well as for literary and art criticism. The general is the abstract that has overcome

though it might exist within the harsh conditions of class society or might be produced by the bourgeoisie, exists and realizes itself as art regardless of this class society, albeit under its influence. According to this standpoint, shared by many Soviet aestheticians, all art must be potentially proto-communist.”9 Only through a specific Soviet attitude to copying and reproduction, however, could this potential be fulfilled. In the bourgeois institution of art, the classical heritage is instrumentalized as the mechanism of the production of elites, but what Korzhev assumes, in his own work as well as in antique sculptures, is not a unique object for individual consumption, rare, expensive, and hard to find, but a potential for immediate mass reproduction, reaching millions. The “true” character of these reproductions, however, directly correlates with the degree of realism of the original. Abstract painting is easily reproducible, but this reproduction has no value; the truth of the reproduction can only be guaranteed by the memory of the “primal scene” of an artist copying from nature.

1 See Matthew Cullerne Bown, Socialist Realist Painting (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1998), pp. 140–41. 2 The essay is available online at (accessed May 2016). 3 Estetika. Slovar’ (Moscow: Izdatelstvo politicheskoe literatury, 1989), p. 246. Fig. 4. Geliy Korzhev. The Internationale. 1957–58. Oil on canvas, 285 x 128 cm. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

4 Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope, 1954–59, excerpted in Richard Noble, ed., Utopias, Documents of Contemporary Art (London: Whitechapel Gallery, and Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2009), p. 44. 5 Vladimir Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, 1915.

its abstractness, the concrete that is deeply reflected in its concreteness, the realistic that is more than just representation, the proper and unique that opens up toward a higher level of generalization. It is high culture and philosophical thinking that have freed themselves from their historical limitations and joined the common, classless future. The contemporary theorist Keti Chukhrov points out that in Soviet aesthetics, “art, even

6 Slavoj Žižek, “Afterword: Lenin’s Choice,” in Lenin, Revolution at the Gates: A Selection of Writings from February to October 1917, ed. Žižek (London: Verso, 2002). 7 Iskusstvo no. 4 (1957): 3. 8 The translation “severe style” is common, but has a punitive note absent from the original Russian term, which rather stresses asceticism. 9 Keti Chukhrov, “Classical Art and Human Resignation in Soviet Marxism,” in Georg Schöllhammer and Ruben Arevshatyan, eds., Sweet Sixties: Specters and Spirits of a Parallel Avant-Garde (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014).

Ekaterina Degot



Chapter 4. 2Realisms · Form Matters


ne September evening in 1959, a large crowd filled Cairo’s el-Gomhoreya Square in protest against the recently announced French plan to conduct nuclear-weapons testing in the Algerian Sahara. Their group contained many students from the decolonizing nations of the Third World, present in Cairo to attend an Afro-Asian Youth Conference. Delegations of young Somalis, Indonesians, and others had gone to the square holding signs reading “No to de Gaulle” and “No to nuclear bombs in Africa.” 1 There they heard both students and Egyptian government officials deliver speeches denouncing imperialism from a central stage decorated with the image of a mushroom cloud exploding over the African continent and flanked by a doubled “No!” in

Nasser. Egypt had already claimed military leadership of the Arab bloc, a position of influence that, as of February 1958, included a complete but ultimately temporary political union with Syria as the United Arab Republic (UAR).3 By also taking a lead in Afro-Asian solidarity, the critical geopolitical entity inaugurated at the Bandung Conference in 1955, Egypt claimed still greater bargaining power. 4 All this played out as Nasser pursued increasingly repressive security measures at home, carrying out mass arrests of Communist Party members, including Egyptian artist Inji Efflatoun (in Cairo) and Syrian artist Nazir Nabaa (in Damascus). To interpret artistic realism in the United Arab Republic, or in another of the Arab countries pledged to the antiimperialist cause in 1959, is to negotiate the paradoxes of an international system of self-representation that turned upon matters of moral fortitude

Fig. 1. “La! Ya Di-jawl” (No! Oh, De Gaulle). Editorial feature in the Egyptian magazine al-Musawwar, September 11, 1959

English and in Arabic. The event’s National Union organizers had succeeded in staging a photogenic rally. The Egyptian magazine al-Musawwar printed a stunning full-spread image showing the protesters facing off against the motifs of industrial warfare, thereby conceptually linking the cause of Algeria’s active struggle for independence from France to the collective fate of the Arab countries, the African continent, and the entirety of the colonized world (fig. 1).2 The Afro-Asian liberation struggle so pictured would have real historic consequences. And yet, like any show of solidarity, its images also worked to sustain a number of simulations, including, in this case, promotion of the moral authority of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel

and human goodness, often in tension with actual policies or experiences. Many Arab art critics called for an art that engaged reality, but the works of art they prized typically drew their authority not from conformity to observable appearances but rather from the authenticity of the artist’s intentions and capacities.5 As the young Syrian artist Ghazi al-Khaldi put it in March 1959, it was impossible to separate the artist from his production, for both emerged from the same experience of life.6 To al-Khaldi, a painting or other art object would need to be evaluated in an organic continuum with social and physical forces, which made an artist’s sovereign expression less important than his or her demonstration of humanity.7

Anneka Lenssen


These realist expectations would increasingly find sustenance in a developing circuitry of government exchange programs that kept artists and artworks mobile across the Second and Third Worlds, thereby demonstrating the universal exchangeability of the cause. Syrian artists, for example, began to study in the Eastern bloc in addition to the Italian academies they had once preferred, with Elias Zayyat going to Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1956 and Abdul Manan Shamma to Moscow in 1958. In 1959, the Moroccan artist Farid Belkahia, who had been studying in Paris, left for Prague, where he hoped to observe a Communist approach to culture and where he was able to mix with left-wing writers and artists passing through on their way to Beijing or Moscow. 8 That same year, Egypt sent Hamed Owais—a consummate painter of the worker and of populist causes—to Poland to stage two exhibitions, and the Moroccan artist Ahmed Cherkaoui undertook a year’s study in Warsaw beginning the following year. Exchanges of collective exhibitions proliferated at the same time. Poster art by Eastern European designers became a fixture in the National Museum of Damascus, with Syria returning the favor with touring exhibitions of painting, sculpture, and folk arts. In Baghdad, an exhibition of watercolors, woodcuts, and antique masterpieces sent from Beijing impressed students with its technical virtuosity.9 Given the diversity and volume of these artistic exchanges, it is instructive to consider the nature of the training offered to those who took fellowships abroad. Notably, the positive character of the realist paradigm hinged upon the cultivation of recognized skill, typically via the highly structured environment of a national academy. From the memoirs of Iraqi artist Rafa al-Nasiri, for example, we learn that the Chinese exhibit in Baghdad motivated him to pursue a four-year fellowship at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, where he immersed himself in a refined tradition of master printmaking.10 His time at the academy, 1959–63, coincided with the extreme hardships of the Great Leap Forward, but his recollections focus on the estimable skill of instructors such as Li Hua and his own student work attends to the quotidian and the wholesome. His woodcut Chinese Girls (1961), for example, depicts two figures lacing ice skates, preparing to enjoy Kunming Lake in the wintertime (fig. 2). From the progress reports submitted for Egyptian students, who also went to Beijing, it is possible to glean further detail about intended outcomes. Heba Enayat and Tomader Turki (a married couple) attended the Central Academy in 1957–62, completing sequences of training—one year of “national painting,” twenty-six months of woodcut, thirty-four months in studio workrooms, and nine months of study tours in the countryside—that resulted in the ability to, among other skills, depict different Chinese minorities, render figures, landscape, flowers, and birds in national styles, and print woodcuts in both the Western and the Chinese manner.11 The final year of degree study included individual work and an exhibition, but even these fell under a single, shared framework of evaluation. Enayat and Turki earned nearly identical commendations, having each “succeeded in extracting something nutritive from Chinese traditional art” and


having applied it to their own creative work. 12 The sheer iterability of these exchanges gave them an ideological power. Within this circuit of ongoing and collective effort, Egyptian, Iraqi, and Chinese artists alike might take “something nutritive from Chinese traditional art.” Artists worked synthetically, acting as sensitive instruments for conveying the vitality of cultural inheritance. Back in Cairo, the College of Fine Arts was admitting increasing numbers of students from other Arab states, including a large contingent from Syria, which did not yet have its own degree-granting art school. The curriculum, in accordance with the populist emphases of Nasser’s government, brought field observation of Egypt-in-construction to the fore, sending art students to depict the Aswan High Dam

Fig. 2. Rafa Al-Nasiri. Chinese Girls. 1961. Woodcut print, 15 × 20 cm. Courtesy Rafa Nasiri Studio

project (it would be launched officially in 1960, with the help of Soviet financial credits, expertise, and equipment) and to produce portraits of members of the urban proletariat.13 The Syrian contingent included al-Khaldi, who in 1959 wrote a charming article on life in Cairo to be published back home in al-Jundi, the cultural magazine of the Syrian military.14 Al-Khaldi’s essay is particularly concerned with conveying the esprit de corps between himself and his roommates, fellow Syrians Burhan Karkutli and Hisham Zamriq, and provides detailed accounts of each one’s routines and personality quirks. Zamriq, we learn, awoke at sunrise, took a cigarette and coffee, and went to the college to paint, then returned at noon to prepare a meal and nap, followed by work at home on still life or portrait exercises and nights devoted to listening to classical music. Karkutli, by contrast, preferred to fill his days conversing with the neighborhood children. So anchored in the dailiness of artistic life, al-Khaldi’s article helps to point to one other crucial aspect of the realism produced by this international circuitry of studentship, which is that it needed to continue moving and undergoing exchange. Neither Cairo nor Damascus could contain the work that these artists hoped to do. Al-Khaldi tells his

4. Realisms

Fig. 3. Hamed Owais. At the Aswan Dam. 1965. Oil on canvas, 99 × 85 cm. State Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow

Anneka Lenssen


readers how he and Zamriq daydreamed about escaping aristocratic Cairo and going to Mexico to study its school of “humanist realism.”15 They had come to imagine a future world order in which a youthful artist needed only his or her talent to flourish, not permission or financing from the authorities. Al-Khaldi’s article even concludes with a glimpse of that very future, reporting that Karkutli had just left Egypt for Spain, where he would try to use his humanity as currency. Carrying no money, the Syrian artist instead held a sign announcing, “I am an Arab student continuing my study at my own expense. I paint pictures for five piasters.” 16 If these young Syrian artists hoped to find ways to mobilize themselves and their work more directly, then others in the system would continue to pursue the calm realism of observation rooted in shared humanity. Owais is the exemplary figure in this regard. Nearly twenty years older than the College of Fine Arts students, he had been formed by the upward-mobility discourses of the 1930s and ’40s and had then come into professional prominence after the 1952 revolution as a visual interpreter of a strong and populist Egypt.17 His oeuvre includes grand visions of Nasser in his role as a great leader, as in the well-known 1957 painting Nasser and the Nationalization of the Canal, which places the president in the center of the lucrative Suez trade nexuses he had reclaimed for Egyptian control, buttressing him with a sea of expectant though not yet exultant citizens (plate 191). But Owais’s revolution was almost always an anticipatory rather than a finished one; his subjects appear wary, and even consumed by the precarity of their lives. In Peasant Family (1959), for example, we see both father and mother scowl with anxiety—an emotion Owais recognized as universal to any working family—on their move toward an unknown future. Even paintings ostensibly devoted to solidarity, such as We—The People (1960), cast the faces of the participant types—urbanized builder, agricultural worker, and peasant mother—in gray shadow, as if to foreclose the possibility of an allegorical reading. 18 Because Owais maintained such a principled commitment to the quality of immediacy in his pictures, his occasional deviance from this norm becomes all the more compelling as his testimony shifts to the larger system of exchange. Consider, for example, his 1965 painting of the Aswan High Dam, now in the collection of the State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow (fig. 3). Tucked into a riveted contraption high above the newly created Lake Nasser reservoir, men work on the construction of transmission towers and power grids. Here Owais depicted a vertiginous space of labor, bringing together several perspectival modes, from a bird’s-eye view of the barges to an assembly of cascading pipes and braces. And, unusually for him, he opted to denote his human actors by means of abstract geometry, giving the two hard hats the perfect circular shape of cogs. Presumably, Owais intended to convey the awesome power of human and nonhuman collaboration in the painting, linking flesh to steel and water to electricity. Yet in using this schematic shorthand, he also left the immediacy of his realism behind, signaling submission to industrial power.


This is not to suggest that Owais had lost faith in the necessity of national development (indeed, in this work he would seem to be interested in conveying a technological sublime). Rather, it is to note that the ostensible subject of Owais’s painting—a triumphant model of state-led development—had begun to slip from grace. As Owais well knew, the same art students who had formed their political consciousness in the heyday of Afro-Asian solidarity had, by 1965, grown impatient with the bureaucracy that once had promised to liberate them. Before the end of the decade, many would come to seek immediacy in direct action, embracing the “new man” heroism of guerrilla resistance and embedding their work in armed struggle.19

4. Realisms

1 “La! Ya Di-jawl,” al-Musawwar, September 11, 1959. 2


3 I thank Nalini Sairsingh and Allison Gordon for their assistance in tracking imagery of Afro-Asian solidarity produced in the UAR, 1958–61. 4 For discussion of how Bandung articulated a “critical geopolitical entity” see Anthony Gardner and Charles Green, “Biennials of the South on the Edges of the Global,” Third Text 4, no. 123 (July 2013): 446. 5 See Clare Davies, “Arts Writing in 20th-Century Egypt: Methodology, Continuity, and Change,” ARTMargins 2, no. 2 (June 2013): 19–42. 6 Ghazi al-Khaldi, “Sanna Kamila fi al-Qahira min Rassamayn min al-Aqlim al-Suri,” al-Jundi, March 31, 1959, p. 34. On similar qualities in literary realism see Fredric Jameson, “A Note on Literary Realism in Conclusion,” in Matthew Beaumont, ed., Adventures in Realism (London: Blackwell, 2007), p. 261. 7 I explore this organic mode of nationalist aesthetics in greater detail in my forthcoming book Being Mobilized, a study of painting and populist politics in Syria and the Arab East, 1930–67. 8 See Kenza Sefrioui, La revue Souffles, 1966–1973. Espoirs de révolution culturelle au Maroc (Casablanca: Éditions du Sirocco, 2012), p. 339. 9 See Rafa Nasiri: 50 Years of Printmaking, ed. Vincenza Russo (Milan: Skira, 2013), p. 25. 10 Ibid. 11 Egyptian National Archives (Dar al-Watha’iq al-Qawmiyya), Delegations file, 4031-103334. 12 Ibid. 13 See Khaldi: 50 Years of Painting, 1950–2000 (Paris: Union of Plastic Artists/Unesco, 2000), and Nazeer Nabaa: An Eye on the World … An Eye on the Soul (Damascus: Tajalliyat Gallery, 2009). 14 Al-Khaldi, “Sanna Kamila fi al-Qahira.” 15 Ibid. 16 Ibid. Burhan Karkutli would go from Spain to Morocco, where he lived for several years, working as a graphic designer for the Union nationale des étudiants du Maroc, among other activist groups. 17 On pedagogical attitudes before 1952 see Dina A. Ramadan, “Cultivating Taste, Creating the Modern Subject: Sawt el-Fannan and Art Criticism in 1950s Egypt,” MESA Bulletin 42, no. 1/2 (Summer/Winter 2008): 26–31, and Patrick Kane, “Egyptian Art Institutions and Art Education from 1908 to 1951,” The Journal of Aesthetic Education 44, no. 3 (Fall 2010): 43–68. 18 The painting is reproduced in Galina Lassikova, Contemporary Painting and Graphic Works of Arab Countries in the Collection of the Moscow State Museum of Oriental Art: Catalogue (Moscow, 2007), p. 30. 19 On this subsequent phase see Kristin Ross, “New Men,” in Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1994), pp. 155–96; Anneka Lenssen, “The Plasticity of the Syrian Avant-Garde,” ARTMargins 2, no. 2 (June 2013): 43–70; and Davies, “Decolonizing Culture: Third World, Moroccan, and Arab Art in Souffles/Anfas, 1966–1972,” Essays of the Forum Transregionale Studien (February 2015).

Anneka Lenssen



4. Realisms


n twentieth-century Chinese art history, the years from 1945 The second decade of the century, following the establishment to 1965 were the first two phases of Mao’s “revolutionary mass of the ROC in 1911, saw a series of movements in art and literature first art.” The third phase, from 1966 to 1976, was the Cultural advocated not by artists and writers but by influential Chinese thinkers Revolution. Although the year 1945 fell under the calendar and philosophers such as Chen Duxiu, Cai Yuanpei, Kang Youwei, Liang of the Republic of China (ROC), ruled by Chiang Kai-Shek’s Qichao, and Lu Zheng. In 1918, Chen, a leader of the New Culture MoveKuomintang (KMT) government, it had a dual historical meanment and, in 1921, the first chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, ing, marking both the end of World War II (and the beginning was explicit in his call for a “revolution in literature” (wenxue geming) and of the Cold War) and the beginning of the year full-scale Civil a “revolution in art” ( yishu geming).3 The revolutionary change he sought in art was to abandon the traditional style of ink painting known as “Four War (quanmian neizhan or jiefang zhanzheng) between Mao’s CommuMasters” (Si Wang) and find a modern Western form suitable to the funist army and the KMT (1946–49). Mao’s army ultimately defeated the ture establishment of a modern Chinese art. The primary demand was KMT, allies of the United States, and the aftermath of the victory was the for a Chinese art and literature that would be as rational and modern as establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. science and would create an “art for people’s life” ( yishu wei rensheng). From 1949 to the end of the Cultural Revolution, in 1976, revolu Although this movement was still intrinsically born of an elite tionary mass art, or Socialist Realism, was the dominant and official modern culture, it shifted the direction of art from a traditional, cultiart form. Although this art was highly influenced by Soviet Socialist Revated art of and for the literati to an art that, although elite, was aimed alism, it cannot be considered only an import from the Soviets; it also at enlightening the masses. Eventually, because of the continuing inarose out of China’s own historical legacy from the late Qing dynasty, fluence of Marxism, the dynamic activity of the Association of Left which ended in 1911, and the early ROC period (1912–49), and specifically Wing Writers (zuoyi zuojia of “Revolution in Art,” a Chilianmeng) and the Association nese intellectual movement of Left Wing Artists (zuoyi that emerged in the first two meishujia lianmeng, both esdecades of the twentieth tablished in Shanghai in century and was strongly 1930), and the outbreak of antitraditional and rationthe Second Sino-Japanese alist. Mao had never given War in 1937, this “revoluup his ambition to establish tion in art” ( yishu geming) China’s nationalistic realism was transformed into Mao’s as a realism “combining rev“revolutionary art” (geming olutionary realism as well as de yishu). Further manifested revolutionary romanticism.”1 We can trace the beginning as “making art for the enof this nationalist realism lightenment of the masses” to 1942, and it peaked dur( yishu hua dazhong), it finaling the Cultural Revolution. ly became Mao’s “popular Mao’s realism pushed art to art for and by the masses” serve people and the masses (dazhonghua yishu). 4 Fig. 1. Shi Lu. Beyond the Great Wall. 1959. Ink and color on paper, 91.5 × 132.5 cm. National Museum of China, Beijing The humanist conas he always claimed, but in cerns of the early 1930s an extremely popular way. were further developed by the left-wing art movement, including the In the early twentieth century, when many European modernists Woodcut Movement and the group known as Street Art (Zouxiang shiconsidered realism a dead genre, their Chinese counterparts saw it as the zi jietou de yishu). Both were based in Shanghai, the former being led by force that could rescue them from “literati art” (wenren hua), a conservLu Xun, one of the most influential modern Chinese writers, and the ative style dating back to the tenth century. Literati art required a high latter favoring literature and art, including music, film, and graphics, level of technique. Focusing on landscape (shanhui) and “birds-flower” that represented the life of the urban working class.5 The proletarian (huaniao) painting, it dealt with neither court politics nor social comsympathies of the Woodcut Movement ultimately led these artists to mentary, instead valuing contemplative, meditative self-expression. For consider art more a moral instrument than their contemporaries did, late-Qing reformers such as Kang Youwei, literati art was “ridiculous”: for example a modernist group led by Lin Fengmian, Shanghai’s Storm “How can those who paint just for fun in their spare time capture the Society, and a group of traditional ink painters including Qi Baishi, Pan true character of all things on earth? It is totally wrong to regard the lite2 Tianshou, and Chen Shizeng, who viewed their art as a locus of tradition. rati spirit as the orthodox school of painting.”

Gao Minglu


Consequently, the Woodcut Movement and other left-wing artists converted to Mao’s revolutionary art principles and distinguished themselves as a radical avant-garde force. After the Long March (1934–35), many artists from this group traveled to Yan’an, the headquarters of the Communist Party. This was when this previously elite avant-garde turned to Mao’s “proletarian mass art” (wuchanjieji dazhong yishu). This transition was accomplished under Mao’s 1942 Great Rectification in Yan’an (Yan’an zhengfeng yundong), where he gave a speech, the “Speech on Literature and Art at the Symposium in Yan’an” (zai yan’an wenyi zuotanhui shangde jianghua; widely known as the “Yan’an Talk”), that is undoubtedly the most concentrated and comprehensive expression of his thoughts on art.6 It was in the Yan’an Talk that he first clearly asserted that “we are advocates of Socialist Realism.” Mao’s proletarian mass art was obviously influenced by Soviet Socialist Realism, which had been formally established as an artistic method at the First Congress of Soviet Writers, in Moscow in 1934. Like Joseph Stalin’s theory then, the Yan’an Talk argued that art should serve the worker, the peasant, the soldier, and the revolution. But Mao’s mass art went farther than Soviet Socialist Realism: in particular, art was to carry “a Chinese nationalistic style” (zhongguo qipai) and it was to be

Fig. 2. Quan Shanshi. Heroic and Indomitable. 1961. Oil on canvas, 233 × 217 cm. National Museum of China, Beijing

popular, was to make the masses “happy to hear and see” (xiwen lejian).7 Rather than transform the revolutionary masses, art was to be received by them in this particular popular way; it was the artists themselves who were to be reeducated by the masses, eventually becoming proletarianized. The purpose of revolutionary art, then, was not only to change the point of view on revolutionary reality, the way of thinking about and


representing it, but also to convert the artists’ identities. This was to be a thorough transformation: Mao said, “If you want to merge with the masses, you have to make up your mind to undergo torturous longterm temptation and endurance.” 8 For him, “popularization” or mass style (dazhonghua) meant that intellectuals needed to abandon their bourgeois visual language and to adopt the language of peasants and workers. Otherwise they were engaging in mere “popularlessness” or “small circles” (xiaozhonghua). 9 After the Yan’an Talk was published in 1942, Mao’s slogan “Art shall serve the worker, the peasant, and the soldier” became a guideline for artists. From the mid-1940s to 1965, Mao’s revolutionary mass art went through two phases. The first—the phase discussed above, from an elite avant-garde art influenced by European expressionism, especially the German woodcut, and manifesting a bourgeois sympathy for the proletariat, to a proletarian revolutionary art embodied by a folk/realistic style, still mainly in woodcut—lasted until the early 1950s. The art was simple, economical, and made to serve not only the peasants but war propaganda. The second shift took place between the early 1950s and the start of the Cultural Revolution. This phase saw a shift from a propagandistic art characterized by folk simplicity to a propagandistic art in a refined, academic style influenced by the Soviets: in the early 1950s, Soviet and Chinese artists visited each other often to exchange ideas and exhibit their work. From 1953 to 1956, twenty-six significant Chinese artists studied at the Repin Institute of Art in Leningrad, and in 1955 the Soviet painter Makchmobk.M held a training class in the Chinese Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, which some of China’s most promising artists attended during this period.10 The impact of the Soviet influence was not really felt, however, until the late 1950s, and particularly around 1959, the ten-year anniversary of the founding of PRC. In the first half of the 1950s, early in the second phase of Mao’s art, two phenomena—the New Year Painting Movement (xinnianhua yundong) and the debates on the reformation of traditional ink painting—demonstrated the newly founded nation’s need for a renewal of nationalist identity. For a thousand years, the Chinese had enjoyed buying and hanging “new year paintings” (nianhua) in their homes at the Chinese New Year. These pictures were mainly colorful woodcuts, showing images and subjects of good omen. After Mao’s Yan’an Talk they became effective revolutionary media and were widely produced in the Communistcontrolled Liberation Area ( jiefang qu). After the founding of the PRC, the Chinese government immediately launched the New Year Painting Movement to develop this legacy for purposes of national propaganda. On November 23, 1949, the official newspaper People’s Daily published a mandate promoting new year painting. In the early 1950s, the genre was developed on a large scale to eulogize Mao, the Communist Party, and the new life through which the working people would become masters of the country. Since the early 1950s, artists had grappled with the problem of how to represent this new life under the Communist party and to integrate a distinctly Chinese style with Western realism. Jiang Feng and others

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advocated transforming traditional Chinese painting through the integration of Western techniques of sketching and drawing from life. Although some Chinese traditional artists opposed this idea, many did make life drawings, a technique never previously applied to traditional ink painting. The use of a traditional style of landscape painting to describe the industrial landscape ( gongye shanshui) also became fashionable. The works of Li Keran, Fu Baoshi, Shi Lu, and other artists had far-reaching effects during this innovative era. In his ink painting Beyond the Great Wall (1954; fig. 1), for instance, Shi Lu used railroad tracks cutting through the Great Wall, along with an unseen train, its presence indicated through the presence of a Mongolian family watching it come, as metaphors for the effects of industrialization and socialist modernization on the new nation. The painting also involved another metaphor, one of unification, in the form of the Mongolian family gazing at the out-of-frame train. Although the Great Wall was a symbol of the past, when it had blocked the nomad people beyond it from approaching Han society, it was in transition to join the new. A parallel approach appears in an early oil painting by Dong Xiwen, Spring Comes to Tibet (1954), in which a group of Tibetan women watch the approaching bus connecting Tibetan and Han people. Like the railroad in Shi Lu’s painting, the bus was a symbol of modernization. Meanwhile, regardless of the painting’s political subject matter, its color, composition, and historical topic all reveal the early-1950s pursuit of an original model for a nationalist style. Even later, when the Soviet-influenced Socialist Realist style reached its peak, the art of the early period of the People’s Republic of China retained a strong tendency toward nationalism. In fact the greatest influence on the Chinese artists of the 1950s was not Soviet Socialist Realism but the art of the nineteenth-century Peredvizhniki (Wanderers), notably Ilya Repin and Vasili Surikov. Chinese artists of course learned of the school through the Soviets, who had begun to advocate for it in the early 1930s. There were several reasons why these Russian painters affected the Chinese so deeply. First, most of the Peredvizhniki painters came from the lower class, and so were inclined to feel that art should serve the needs of the people and should align itself with their emotions and sentiments. Second, these painters paid attention to national traditions in their choices of both artistic language and topic. Third, they were essentially romantic. Chinese artists long misunderstood them as critical realists, but the critical realists were really the previous generation of Russian artists, who had exposed the dark side of society and held an elite view of social inequality. The Wanderers instead expressed their own feelings in their paintings, affirming the masses’ hopes for the future by depicting their daily lives. Fourth, Chinese artists admired and emulated the skillful academic techniques of the Peredvizhniki.11 Before this time in China, artists such as Xu Beihong, Wu Zuoren, and others had studied in France and been exposed to European academic art, but they were few in number and had no major influence during this period. Most Chinese artists had no opportunity to view European academicism directly, they could learn

some aspects of it from the Peredvizhniki. This accumulation of academic skills, combined with a romantic approach, paved the way for the advancement and refinement of Maoist art in the late 1950s and the first half of the 1960s. In the burst of nationalism at the time of the Great Leap Forward, in 1958, Mao replaced the slogan “Socialist Realism” with “Combining revolutionary realism with revolutionary romanticism.” This had two implications. First, it reflected Mao’s nationalist consciousness and his desire to distinguish China from the Soviet Union. This tendency had manifested previously; in 1956, for example, Lu Dingyi, Mao’s

Fig. 3. Sun Zixi. In Front of Tiananmen Gate. 1964. Oil on canvas, 153 × 294 cm. National Museum of China, Beijing

head of propaganda, had stressed an opposition to “national nihilism” and wholesale Westernization, terms used in the 1950s to warn artists not to follow the Soviet example unquestioningly.12 Second, it reflected Mao’s approach to proletarian art, more romantic and utopian than the art of any other national ideology. It is clear that Mao’s ultimate model of art combined a nationalist style with a peasant’s distaste for elite expression and academicism. From the late 1950s until 1966, however, art practice seemed oriented against Mao’s ideas, especially after the political changes incurred when he resigned as national chairman and was replaced by Liu Shaoqi, in 1959. The change was a result of the failure of Mao’s Great Leap Forward policy the previous year. In comparison with Mao’s radical revolutionary sentiment, Liu took a more realistic, constructive, and professional approach to national affairs. Under his leadership, art moved toward a more academic socialist model. A number of the finest Maoist popular artworks created in this style appeared between 1958 and 1964, after several years of Sovietization. These pictures used academic realist techniques to depict romantic and symbolic themes. Works portraying models of heroism, for example, include Zhan Jianjun’s Five Warriors on Langya Mountain (1959) and Quan Shanshi’s Heroic and Indomitable (1961; fig. 2). These oil paintings, by artists who had trained either in the Soviet Union or under Soviet artists in the 1950s, produced a number of what I call “academic Socialist Realist works” (xueyuan shehuizhuyi xianshizhuyi). Sun Zixi’s painting In Front of Tian’anmen Gate (1964; fig. 3) is another

Gao Minglu


such piece. The large clay sculpture Rental Collection Yard (1965; fig. 4), too, made by a team of sculptors at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts, highlighted conflicts in the class-struggle drama but was cast with academic realistic techniques that had never been achieved before. Works with a monumental symbolic significance were gradually replacing plotted storylines. Their styles are quite different from the simple narration of Yan’an woodcuts and the works sometimes called tu youhua (folk oil paintings) produced in the early 1950s by artists such as Dong Xiwen. The folk oils continued to be made, however, often depicting the happy lives of the people and usually focusing on peasant topics.

Extremely dissatisfied, Mao finally launched the Cultural Revolution against the “capitalist headquarters” (zichanjieji silingbu) that he alleged Liu represented within the Party. The goal was to “liquidate seventeen years” (pipan shiqinian), the years from 1949 to 1966. Mao also negated the direction of the Cultural Ministry by giving it a new name, “Ministry of bel-esprit and beauty” (Caizi jiaren bu). For more than twenty years, from the 1940s to the ’60s, he had undertaken a campaign of rectification to reeducate the leftists and early avant-gardists, but it ended in frustration and disappointment. In 1966, he finally abandoned the avant-garde artists of the time by launching the proletarian Cultural Revolution. Meanwhile, on the global level, Mao’s extreme nationalism during the Sovietization period to a certain degree planted an antagonism against the older Soviet brother, which grew until the early 1960s, the lead-up to the Cultural Revolution, when the two nations’ cordial relationship ended. Finally, during the period of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), the Red Guard launched a violent attack on Soviet-influenced academic Socialist Realism. It is the art of the Cultural Revolution, in particular Red Guard art, that defines the uniqueness of Mao’s art, which can be considered a perfect synthesis of revolutionary and mass art. At this point Chinese art history returned to the original thesis of the “revolutionary masses” or “Red pop” from the Yan’an Talk. The difference was that the proletarian masses were no longer the objects served by art; instead they became the masters of art. Workers and peasants could be artists, as exemplified by Luda and Yangquan’s workers’ art and the peasants’ pictures of Huxian county. In giving the lower classes the right not only to appreciate art but also to maintain their own discourse in the creation and interpretation of art, Mao rejected and undermined all modernist and elite socialist theories of popular culture.

Fig. 4. Ye Yushan and sculptors from the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts. Rental Collection Yard (detail). 1965. Clay. Liu's Manor Museum, Dayi County

In 1963, a movement to “rectify” literature and art began and seemed to interrupt this peak of aestheticized Socialist Realism. In terms of cultural ideology, this reflected the final confrontation between the concepts of Maoist mass art and 1930s left-wing art and literature. Within the previous decade, Mao had launched several political and literary rectification movements to criticize and remove certain intellectuals, including well-known representatives of the 1930s left wing. They were punished because, despite their efforts at accommodation, they could not abandon the idea of the autonomy of art, and the creation of art according to superior professional standards, in contradiction of Mao’s theory that art should serve as a tool reflecting the thoughts of the masses.


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Author's Note: Parts of this essay previously appeared in my book Total Modernity and the Avant-Garde in Twentieth-Century Chinese Art (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2011). 1 In his talk at the Second Conference of the Eighth National Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, in 1958, Mao Zedong said, ”The methodology of our proletarian literature and art is the combination of revolutionary realism and revolutionary romanticism.” This principle was later officially conveyed through leading members of the Chinese Writers Association, such as Zhou Yang. See Mao Zedong Sixiang Dacidian (Shanghai: Shanghai Dictionary Press, 1993), p. 804. 2 Kang Youwei, Travels in Eleven European Countries, quoted in Lawrence Wu, “Kang Youwei and the Westernisation of Modern Chinese Art,” Orientations, March 1990, pp. 47–48. 3 Chen Duxiu, “Meishu geming,” in Xinqingnian 6, no. 1 (January 1918): 85–86. 4 See Gao Minglu, “Lun Mao Zedong de dazhongyishu moshi,” Ershiyi shiji (Hong Kong Chinese University) no. 20 (December 1993): 61–73. 5 For more on the Woodcut Movement see Shirley Sun, “Lu Xun and the Chinese Woodcut Movement, 1929–1935,” PhD diss., Stanford University, 1974, and Tang Xiaobing, Origins of the Chinese Avant-Garde: The Modern Woodcut Movement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). 6 Mao Zedong, Zai yan’an wenyi zuotanhui shangde jianghua (Talks on the Yan’an forum on literature and art), in Selected Works of Mao Zedong (Mao Zedong Xuanji) (Beijing: People’s Press, 1967), 4:804–35. Available in Eng. trans. online at archive/mao/selected-works/volume-3/mswv3_08.htm (accessed June 2016). The speech has two parts: an introduction, given on May 2, 1945, in Yan’an, and a conclusion on May 23. 7 Ibid. Mao first mentioned “xiwen lejian” in 1938, after he watched a Shanxi opera (qinqiang) with some villagers. See Ai Sike, Yan’an wenyi yundong jisheng (Beijing: Culture and Art Press, 1987), pp. 77–78. 8 Mao, “Speech on Literature and Art at the Symposium in Yan’an,” in Selected Works of Mao Zedong (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1967), 3:73. 9 Mao, “Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing” (Fandui dangbagu, February 8, 1942), Selected Works of Mao Zedong (Beijing: People’s Press, 1967), 3:798. Also in English version Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung, 3:63, where “dazhonghua” is translated as “mass style” and “xiaozhonghua” as “small circles.” 10 Of the twenty-six artists, Qian Shaowu, Li Tianxiang, Chen Yongjiang, and Chen Zunsan went in 1953; Xiao Feng, Lin Gang, Quan Shanshi, Qi Muer, and Zhou Zheng in 1954; Deng Shu, Guo Shaogang, Wang Baokang, Ji Xiaoqiu, Ma Yuanhong, Zhou Benyi, Shao Da Zhen, Xi Jingzhi, Chen Peng, and Luo Gongliu in 1955; and Zhang Huaqing, Xu Minghua, Feng Zhen, Li Jun, Dong Zuyi, Tan Yongtai, and Wu Biduan in 1956. Xiao Feng, interview with the author, 2008. Xiao was the previous president of the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. 11 On the Peredvizhniki see Elizabeth Valkenier, Russian Realist Art (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), pp. 76–97. My argument here is also inspired by Marian Mazzone, “China’s Nationalization of Oil Painting in the 1950s: Searching Beyond the Soviet Paradigm,” graduate seminar paper, History of Art 976 (Modern Chinese Art), Ohio State University, 1991. 12 Lu Dingyi, “Baihua qifang, baijia zhengming,” People’s Daily, June 13, 1956.

Gao Minglu



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asiliy Yakovlev’s Portrait of Georgy Zhukov (1946; plate 172) and Andrzej Wróblewski’s Rozstrzelanie z Gestapowcem (Executed Man, Execution with a Gestapo Man, 1949; plate 10) represent the split aftermath of the war. The Soviet marshal is depicted on horseback against the ruins of conquered Berlin, replete with crushed Nazi emblems and an apocalyptic sky, in an infinite quotation of equestrian portraits, from Jacques-Louis David back to the Romans. Against this public display of triumph, Wróblewski’s private picture is a flashback to 1939, when, as a boy in Wilno, Poland (today Vilnius, Lithuania), the artist had his life turned upside down by a double invasion—first by the Nazis, then by the Soviet army, within one month. The Nazis’ summary executions of civilians gave way to more violence when the country was soon “liberated” by the Red Army. Wróblewski shows a young man the upper half of whose body is capsized and trapped inside the lower half, a cadavre exquis of Poland’s wounded body politic. Between him and the viewer is a Nazi executioner in jodhpurs, seen from the back. Rozstrzelanie z Gestapowcem ghosts one brand of realism—one strangely akin to Ma­g ritte’s “realist Surrealism”—inside another one: Soviet Socialist Realism as it was being solidified and exported to the Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe. There had in fact been a previous ghosting: a few months earlier, Wróblewski had painted an abstract image on the recto of the canvas.1 In the Soviet Union, the first years after the war were marked by the final triumph of Socialist Realism. Known as zhdanovshchina after its architect, Andrei Zhdanov, a prominent member of the Politburo and founder of Cominform (the organization created in 1947 to coordinate among international Communist parties), this was the culmination of a process formally begun in 1934 at the First Congress of Soviet Writers, in which Zhdanov had been a protagonist. Contrasted with naturalism, which was seen as a disinterested and therefore ideologically suspect form of mimesis, Socialist Realism in essence involved an affirmative aesthetic judgment. It involved clearly defined criteria codified by several, often interchangeable and overlapping terms: narodnost’, for example, a “people-ness” that conveyed nationally and ethnically specific forms as well as “popular” artistic sensibilities. Others were typichnost’ (the focus on typical situations in order to supersede the depiction of superficial phenomena and explore essential truths) and ideinost’ (ideological content), or more specifically klassovost’ (class consciousness). Most consequential, even among fellow travelers beyond the Iron Curtain, was partiinost’ (party-mindedness), a key Leninist principle that stipulated partisanship as an antidote to the objectivity that the bourgeoisie claimed to employ to mask its interests. If art was to be realist, it had to take a firm political stance. Dutifully following such prescriptions, Dmitrii Mochal’skii’s Vozvrashchenie z demonstratsii (Oni videli Stalina) (Return from the Demonstration [They’ve Seen Stalin], 1949; fig. 1) manages to transform even a saccharine genre painting of cheerful children into a clear political statement.

Fyodor Shurpin’s Ytro nashei Rodiny (Morning of our Motherland, 1946–48; plate 173) combines the traditional academic genres of landscape and portraiture into an ideologically unequivocal image. The war is over and an aged Joseph Stalin has removed his khaki military overcoat and contemplates the vastness of the Soviet empire. Punctuated by transmission towers, the landscape alludes to Lenin’s famous dictum that “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.” The same trope of vastness appears in Young America (1950; plate 185), by Andrew Wyeth, who stated in an interview that it represents “the vastness of America and American history.”2 The Soviets and their allies did not own realism; Wyeth’s brand, although increasingly marginalized by the triumph of abstraction at the time, had a native pedigree in the American Regionalist school of the 1930s, whose populism can be seen as a home-bred narodnost’. Shurpin’s celebration of electrification, though, contrasts sharply with Wyeth’s pastoral mood. The ubiquitous cars on the new American highways are banished from Wyeth’s painting in favor of a singular bike, whereas the Soviet landscape exaggerates

Fig. 1. Dimitri Mochalski. Vozvrashchenie z demonstratsii (Oni videli Stalina) (Return from the demonstration [They’ve seen Stalin]). 1949. Oil on canvas, 69 x 131 cm. The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

a mechanization that was actually still lagging. Belonging to parallel universes, these paintings share an affirmative, triumphant approach to reality, fittingly for the superpowers, arguably the only ones to emerge truly victorious from the war.

CULTURE WARRIORS AND FELLOW TRAVELERS The death of Zhdanov, in 1948, fell in the same timeframe as the establishment of the people’s republics of Eastern Europe in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania, as well as of the People’s Republic of China. This initiated a Soviet cultural rayonnement and the exportation of a mature, highly crystallized Socialist Realism to this newly formed bloc. A spectacular case of technical transfer took place when the quintessentially Western medium of

Nikolas Drosos und Romy Golan


oil painting was eagerly adopted by Mao’s party officials. As they well PAINTINGS IN CIRCULATION understood, no medium could better deliver both the pictorial eviUntil the mid-1950s, Soviet paintings barely circulated outside the dentiary detail necessary for what Roland Barthes called the “reality Communist bloc, leading André Breton to ask in 1952, “Why is contemeffect” and the aura necessary to sanction a rewriting of China’s his3 porary Russian painting being hidden from us?”6 Yet this was also a time tory. Konstantin Maksimov’s Warrior of the Chinese Revolution (1955) is a token of this artistic exchange. Maksimov was a respected Soviet acadof increasing traffic of realist paintings across the Iron Curtain. In a oneemician whom the Chinese government beckoned to teach the pictoway pilgrimage that aimed at Moscow but did not reach it before the end of rial formulas of Socialist Realism in their country. Since he assumed the decade, Western Communist painters exhibited systematically in the an active role in the spread of Socialist Realism beyond Soviet borders, Soviet satellite countries of Eastern Europe.7 This is how paintings from André Fougeron’s cycle “Pays des mines,” his 1951 tribute to the striking coal his painting can be read as the self-portrait of an artist enlisted in the miners of northeast France, are to be found today in collections in Olocultural wars of the time. mouc, Warsaw, and Bucha While China aimed to rest (fig. 2). Similarly, Renato be more Zhdanovist than Guttuso’s marching peasthe Zhdanovists, in France ants in Occupazione delle terre and Italy, the two Western incolte in Sicilia (Occupation nations with the largest of Uncultivated Land in Communist parties, realSicily, 1949–50), a denunism was one option among ciation of the perennially many, and the term served impoverished condition of more as a marker of politItaly’s South, ended up in ical engagement than as a the Akademie der Künste strict stylistic category. If in East Berlin. 8 the Soviets purged all signs Against these ideologof “formalism,” holding ical alignments, the Polish the horizon of reference to artist Wojciech Fangor’s sanctioned nineteenth-cenPostaci (Figures, 1950; plate tury precursors such as 178) occupies a more ambigIlya Repin, the French and uous territory. Unlike Sovithe Italians were open to a Fig. 2. André Fougeron. Terres cruelles from “Pays des mines” series. 1951. et counterparts that never modicum of stylization, Oil on canvas, 170 × 250 cm. Muzeum ume�ní Olomouc (Olomouc Museum of Art) quite depict the capitalist namely the “Picasso-isms” other, this painting interinherited from the Spanish nalizes the binary logic of the Cold War, playing out the East/West artist’s immensely influential Guernica (1937). Operating within capiconfrontation both in clothing and in different pictorial modes of retalist societies, Western Communist artists swapped the affirmative alism: the affirmative Soviet and the critical and in this case almost Soviet model for a critical stance toward life in the West, focusing on 4 parodic Western. The result is a tongue-in-cheek picture that strikscenes of class struggle. Boris Taslitzky’s Riposte, dating from 1951 and shown at the Paris Salon d’Automne the same year, depicts a riot in 1949 ingly breaks with orthodox realism, staging an unlikely encounter when police unleashed dogs on dock workers near Marseille who had between a proletarian couple and a smartly dressed Western womrefused to load arms on ships bound for France’s neocolonial war in an. The couple are construction workers standing in front of a monIndochina (plate 182). umental building typical of Stalinist Poland; she wears a little sum The United States had its own contingent of fellow travelers. As mer dress decorated with words such as “Wall Street,” “London,” and Alice Neel, considered by many a pioneer of Socialist Realism in Amer“Coca-Cola,” as well as the spectacular sunglasses made famous by ican painting, declared in 1951, “I am against abstract and non-objecPeggy Guggenheim, who emerged as the doyenne of American and tive art because such art shows a hatred of human beings. East Harlem European abstraction at the 1948 Venice Biennale. is like a battlefield of humanism, and I am on the side of the people The year 1950, when Postaci was painted, was in fact the only year here, and they inspire my paintings.” 5 The dandyish pose struck by the during the postwar period when Poland did not participate in the young Georgie Arce in his portrait by Neel is but a thin veneer over the Biennale. It was also the year of a backlash against the victory of abviolent life of teenagers of color in Spanish Harlem. straction at the previous Biennale: what attracted critics’ attention this time was the Mexican Pavilion, which featured realist works by Diego


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of Socialist Realism and an increased circulation of Soviet and Eastern Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, the tres European art in the West. In the 1956 Biennale, the Soviet Pavilion includgrandes of Mexican muralism. With works like Siqueiros’s Madre camped many iconic works, such as Semyon Chuikov’s Doch’ Sovetskoi Kirgizii esina (Peasant Mother, 1929), El Sollozo (The Sob, 1939), and Cain en los (Daughter of Soviet Kirgizia, 1948). An emblem of Socialist Realism’s Estados Unidos (Cain in the United States, 1947; plate 164), politically enexpansion into the various Soviet republics, as well as of the imperative gaged realism gained center stage. As Rivera boasted back home, “It is for “national character” in art, the painting showed a Central Asian girl in an important victory over art purism in a place that had been until 9 on her way to school. As such, and fittingly exhibited in the most internow the shrine of this tendency.” Emboldened by their success, Guttuso’s envoi to the following, 1952 Biennale was a huge history painting, national of art exhibitions, it symbolized both the global aspirations of La battaglia di Ponte dell’Ammiraglio (The battle of Ponte Ammiraglio, the Soviet system and its purported respect for cultural difference. En1951–52) depicting scores of red-shirted Garibaldini disembarking in visioned as a method adaptable to all cultures, Socialist Realism was Parlermo in 1860 to spearhead thus presented as always althe Italian Risorgimento.10 ready global. The Pavilion’s Stalin’s death in the curator, German Nedoshivin, spring of 1953 ushered in a remarked, “We are inclined to moment of confusion. The consider our art as an initial negative attitudes toward stage on a long road turned abstraction in Stalin’s time toward the future. Now, in take on a tone of quasi-panic many countries, art passionin Guttuso’s Boogie-Woogie ately seeks to return to real(1953; plate 181), his conism. Soviet Art also follows tribution to the 1954 this road.” 12 Lo and behold, the Soviets had now become Biennale. It depicts a group of fellow travelers! Yet arguably teenagers dancing freneticalthey had arrived in Venice too ly in front of Piet Mondrian’s late, at the end of the political Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942– system that had sustained 43), its neoplasticist language Socialist Realism, and against of right angles and primary a growing network of realist colors mimicked by their works in which Siqueiros and garishly colored, checkered Guttuso were central nodes, clothes. Guttuso’s visual pun overshadowing their Soviet demotes one of Mondrian’s Fig. 3. Fernand Léger. Les Constructeurs. 1951. Oil on canvas, 160 × 200 cm. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow comrades. best-known works to the sta While the fortunes of a tus of disco decoration. Ironglobal abstraction not necessarily aligned with the United States is now ically, in Venice it hung in the Giardini’s Central Pavilion, just a few steps well documented, that of a global realism independent of Moscow’s comfrom the American Pavilion, which that year was acquired by New York’s mand remains elusive. A case in point is the Egyptian artist Hamed Museum of Modern Art, the proud owner of Mondrian’s painting. (The Owais, who exhibited in Venice in 1952, the year of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Museum would retain ownership of the Pavilion until 1986.) And yet, in a Egyptian Revolution. Owais’s encounter with left-wing artists such as curious mirror effect, a similar jousting between realism and abstraction Guttuso and the Mexican muralists had taken place in Venice earlier unfolded in the American Pavilion itself that year, with the odd curatorial on, and was formative for his socially engaged realism, already influpairing of the Social Realist Ben Shahn with the Abstract Expressionist enced by Egypt’s Group of Modern Art.13 His Nasser and the NationalizaWillem de Kooning.11 Meanwhile the Soviet Pavilion stood empty, as it had been since tion of the Canal (1960; plate 191) depicts a foundational moment for the 1934, the year Socialist Realism was adopted as the Soviet Union’s modern Egyptian state, and one that led to the Suez Crisis of 1956, official style. Soviet art would not return to the Biennale until 1956, with a setback for France and Britain in the Middle East but a success for an ambitious retrospective of about 160 works from three generations the Soviet Union and its relationship with Egypt. Exalting and affirmof artists. A few months earlier, Nikita Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” of ative in the Soviet mode and probably based on a photograph, the February 25 had denounced Stalin and his crimes in a closed-door session painting is nonetheless executed in the faux-naïf manner of Rivera’s of the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The murals. Owais’s work is an example of an increasingly global realist ensuing “Khruschev Thaw” brought a loosening of the strict formulas mode, this time committed to a nationalist and anticolonial cause.

Nikolas Drosos und Romy Golan


With decolonization and the emergence of new states, realism’s twin functions of affirmation and critique operated in an increasing variety of political contexts. The long pictorial tradition of a victimized yet heroic peasantry continued to empower artists to voice a strong “J’accuse!” against regimes of political domination. The Portuguese artist Júlio Pomar thus painted the monumental female rice-pickers in Etude para Ciclo do Arroz II (Study for Rice Cycle II, 1953; plate 183) under the dictatorship of António Salazar, while Ismail Shammout’s scenes of fleeing peasants in Beginning of the Tragedy and A Sip of Water, also of 1953, voiced the calamity of the unfulfilled national aspirations of the Palestinians (plates 286, 287).14

UNFINISHED BUSINESS Chuikov’s prominent acknowledgment of the Kirghiz girl’s race is significant within the Cold War context. In the early 1950s, Soviet propaganda often contrasted the rampant racial segregation in the United States with the equality afforded—in theory, at least—to all the races and nationalities of the Soviet Union.15 In both cases access to education was crucial. In his History of Negro Education in Morris County, Texas (1955; plate 176) John Biggers adapts the idioms of Rivera and Thomas Hart Benton, which he had encountered while studying at the Hampton Institute, Virginia, in the 1940s, to produce a mural on the history of the first black school in the area.16 Replete with portraits of contributors to the school’s history, Biggers’s realism is a thoroughly engaged one. This particular work was made a year after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, a key moment in the civil rights movement. Almost a decade later, school desegregation in the South was still lagging. Norman Rockwell, hitherto known for saccharine illustrations of wholesome American life, faced the problem head-on in his first assignment for Look magazine, producing a foldout commemorating the tenth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The Problem We All Live With (1964) depicts Ruby Bridges, the first African American girl to be integrated into a white school in New Orleans, escorted there by U.S. marshals for her protection. Heavily reliant on John Steinbeck’s detailed description of the incident in his Travels with Charlie (1962), Rockwell’s meticulously rendered painting is a transcription of a textual realism into a pictorial one.17

DIVERGENT REALISMS In the early 1960s the internal reforms of the Soviet system during the Thaw eventually led to the revision of high Socialist Realism into a new form of painting, alternatively called “severe” or “contemporary” style. 18 While still fitting the established prescriptions for realism,


works such as Viktor Popkov’s Stroiteli Bratskoy GES (The Builders of Bratsk Hydro-Electric Power Station, 1960; plate 175) and Tahir Salahov’s Remontniki (Maintenance Workers, 1961) rejected the unfettered optimism of their predecessors in favor of a more somber, introverted reflection on labor. Standing on the construction site of a hydroelectric power station in Irkutsk or the oil rocks of Baku in Azerbaijan, these workers toiling on the periphery of the Soviet Empire come closer to non-Soviet forms of realism in other media, such as the depictions of the working class in Italian neorealist cinema during the preceding decades. Arbeitpause (Break, 1959; plate 177), by the East German Willi Sitte, further updates the representation of labor by shifting the focus to rest and leisure. His construction worker sits on scaffolding high in the sky, relaxed, legs crossed, a cigarette between his fingers, absorbed in a book. The lightheartedness of this painting may have owed a debt to Fernand Léger’s series Les Constructeurs (Construction Workers; fig. 3), which had circulated east of the Iron Curtain in the previous years.19 Chinese Communism, on the other hand, remained entrenched, resistant to the pressures of de-Stalinization. Quan Shanshi’s Unyielding Heroism (1961), painted at the apex of the Sino-Soviet split, embodies China standing its ground. Shanshi had studied at the Repin Institute of Art in Leningrad. This work, executed in the painterly late Socialist Realist style, is one of the most famous among those selected by the party for display in the National Museum of China. In Jia Youfu’s Marching across the Snow-Covered Mount Minshan (1965; plate 188) a Socialist Realist image of Mao leading his Long March is superimposed on a monochromatic mountain landscape, signaling a new direction in the 1960s, that of a fusion of traditional and Western techniques. While the medium and technique are Western, the flat bright colors and the graphic ornamental pattern of the mountain peaks aim to evoke Chinese New Year prints.

BEYOND THE FRAME When Siqueiros completed De Porfirismo a la Revolución (From the Dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz to the Revolution, 1957–65; plate 186), his vast, undulating mural for the Castillo de Chapultepec in Mexico City, the mural had already been a “native” format for decades. Siqueiros heightened the drama by compressing his multifigure composition around a specific, explosive historical event. The year is 1906, when Mexican workers went on strike to demand equal pay with American miners working alongside them at the Canadea Consolidated copper mines, a scene that typifies the exploitation of Mexico’s natural resources by foreign powers during the Díaz regime.20 Glorifying the anti-imperialism of the early years of the Mexican Revolution at a time of continuing neocolonial American involvement in Latin America, Siqueiros’s mural has implications both specific and global. Simultaneously a style, a method, and a political stance, realism always carried an intrinsic mandate: to point to social and geopolitical realities beyond the frame. Its global ambition was unmatched in the postwar period.

4. Realisms

1 See Éric de Chassey and Marta Dziewan´ska, eds., Andrzej Wróblewski: Recto/Verso (Warsaw: Museum of Modern Art, 2015). 2 Andrew Wyeth, quoted in “American Realist,” Time 58, no. 3 (July 16, 1951): 72, 75, cited in Francine Weiss, “Kindred Spirits: Robert Frost and Andrew Wyeth,” in David Cateforis, ed., Rethinking Andrew Wyeth (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), p. 145. 3 See Chang-Tai Hung, “Oil Paintings and Politics: Weaving a Heroic Tale of the Chinese Communist Revolution,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 49, no. 4 (October 2007): 783–814, and Mao’s New World: Political Culture in the Early People’s Republic (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011). 4 See Jeannine Verdès Leroux, “L’art de parti. Le parti communiste français et ses peintres 1947–54,” Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales 28 (June 1979): 33–55, Sarah Wilson, “‘La Beauté Révolutionnaire’? Réalisme Socialiste and French Painting 1935–1954,” Oxford Art Journal 3, no. 2 (October 1980): 61–69, Wilson, Picasso/Marx and Socialist Realism in France (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013), and Nicoletta Misler, La via italiana al realismo. La politica culturale artistica del PCI dal 1944 al 1956 (Milan: Mazzotta, 1973). 5 Alice Neel, quoted in Andrew Hemingway, Artists on the Left: American Artists and the Communist Movement, 1926–1956 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), p. 248. 6 André Breton, “Pourquoi nous cache-t-on la peinture russe contemporaine?” Arts, January 11, 1952. 7 See Antoine Baudin, “Why is Soviet Painting Hidden From Us?: Zhdanov Art and Its International Relations and Fallout, 1947–53,” in Thomas Lahusen and Evgeny Dobrenko, eds., Socialist Realism Without Shores (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997), pp. 227–56. 8 See Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius, “How the West Corroborated Socialist Realism in the East: Fougeron, Taslitzky, and Picasso in Warsaw,” Biuletyn Historii sztuki 65, no. 2 (2003): 303–29, and “Remapping Socialist Realism: Renato Guttuso in Poland,” in Jérôme Bazin, Pascal Dubourg Glatigny, and Piotr Piotrowski, eds., Art Beyond Borders: Artistic Exchange in Communist Europe (1945–1989) (Budapest: Central University Press, 2016), pp. 139–50. 9 Diego Rivera, quoted in El Nacional, June 18, 1950, and quoted here from Philip Stein, Siqueiros: His Life and Works (New York: International Publishers, 1994), p. 187. 10 See John Berger, “A Socialist Realist Painting at the Biennale,” The Burlington Magazine 94, no. 595 (October 1952): 294, 296–97. 11 Francis K. Pohl, “An American in Venice: Ben Shahn and the United States Foreign Policy at the 1954 Venice Biennale or Portrait of the Artist as American Liberal,” Art History 4, no. 1 (March 1981): 80–113. 12 German A. Nedoshivin, “U.R.S.S.,” in XXVIII Biennale di Venezia (Venice: Alfieri Editore, 1956), pp. 508–9. 13 See Liliane Karnouk, Contemporary Egyptian Art (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1995). 14 See Júlio Pomar, Alexandre Pomar, and Natalía Vital, Júlio Pomar. Catalogue raisonné (Paris: Différence, 2001), and Gannit Ankori, Palestinian Art (London: Reaktion Books, 2006). 15 In response to this pressure, the U.S. Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World Fair contained an exhibit on civil rights Unfinished Business. See Michael L. Krenn, “Unfinished Business”: Segregation and U.S. Diplomacy at the 1958 World’s Fair,” Diplomatic History 20, no. 4 (Fall 1996): 591–612. 16 See Ollie Jensen Theisen, Walls That Speak: The Murals of John Thomas Biggers (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2010). 17 See Karal Ann Marling, Norman Rockwell (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997), and Maureen Hart Hennessey and Anne Knutson, eds., Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999). 18 See Matthew Bown and Matteo Lafranconi, eds., Socialist Realisms: Soviet Painting 1920– 1970 (Milan: Skira, 2012). 19 See Antoine Baudin, “Les Constructeurs de Fernand Léger. De la Place Smolensk à la Vallée de la Chevreuse, ou quelques tribulations d’un chantier pictural,” Matières no. 2 (1998): 68–75, and Jérôme Bazin, “Le réalisme socialiste et ses modèles internationaux,” Vingtième siècle. Revue d’histoire 109 (January–March 2011): 73–87. A prominent painting in the series was donated to the Soviet Union in 1969 by Léger’s widow, Nadia Khodasevich, and is now in the collection of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. 20 See Mary K. Coffey, How a Revolutionary Art Became Official Culture: Murals, Museums, and the Mexican State (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012).

Nikolas Drosos und Romy Golan



John Biggers Beauford Delaney Inji Efflatoun Wojciech Fangor Renato Guttuso

Vasiliy Yakovlev Jia Youfu Gelij Korschew Li Xiushi Alice Neel

Hamed Owais Júlio Pomar Viktor Popkov Fjodor Schurpin David Alfaro Siqueiros

Willi Sitte Boris Taslitzky Chua Mia Tee Andrew Wyeth


Vasiliy Yakovlev Portrait of Georgy Zhukov, Marshal of the Soviet Union 1946 oil on canvas The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow


Fyodor Shurpin The Morning of our Motherland 1948 oil on canvas The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow



Geliy Korzhev Raising the Banner 1957-60 oil on canvas The State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg


Viktor Popkov The Builders of Bratsk Hydro-Electric Power Station 1960 oil on canvas The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow



John Biggers The History of Negro Education in Morris County, Texas 1955 conté crayon and gouache on paper Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York


Willi Sitte Arbeitspause (Break) 1959 oil on hardboard Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig



Wojciech Fangor Postaci (Figures) 1950 oil on canvas Museum Sztuki, Łodz



Beauford Delaney Portrait of James Baldwin 1945 oil on canvas Philadelphia Museum of Art


Alice Neel Georgie Arce 1953 oil on canvas The Estate of Alice Neel, New York


Renato Guttuso Boogie-Woogie 1953 oil on canvas Mart, Museo di arte contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto



Boris Taslitzky Riposte 1951 oil paint on canvas TATE, London





Júlio Pomar

Júlio Pomar

Étude para Ciclo do Arroz II (Study for Rice Cycle II) 1953 oil on Masonite Private Collection, Lisbon

Resistência (Resistance) 1945 oil on Masonite Câmara Municipal de Lisboa / Museu de Lisboa, Lisbon


Andrew Wyeth Young America 1950 egg tempera on gessoed board (“Renaissance Panel”) Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia



David Alfaro Siqueiros From the Dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz to the Revolution - The People in Arms (detail) 1957–65 mural Reproduction authorized by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historiar, Mexico City


Inji Efflatoun Portrait of a Man 1958 oil on canvas Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah



Jia Youfu Marching Across the Snow-Covered Mount Minshan 1965 ink and color on paper CAFA Art Museum, Beijing



Li Xiushi Morning 1961 oil on canvas CAFA Art Museum, Beijing



Chua Mia Tee Epic Poem of Malaya 1955 oil on canvas National Gallery Singapore


Hamed Owais Al Zaim w Ta'mim Al Canal (Nasser and the Nationalisation of the Canal) 1957 oil on canvas QM/QF - Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha


Section Introduction Pedro Erber Andrea Giunta Mari Carmen Ramirez Plates




hile the abstract style that dominated the postwar international world was primarily materialist and gestural, prewar geometric abstraction did persist, albeit with an impetus quite distinct from that of European prewar artists. In South America, Neoconcrete art united the vitalism of Joaquín Torres García with European modernism and became an entirely independent phenomenon. Modernist forms were adopted early on, in parallel to a nationalist developmentalism that did not simply stand against Western capitalism but figured in competition with it. Concrete art in Latin America—by the Madí group, for example—was quickly followed by Neoconcretism, its forms apparently similar but quite different in spirit. As Lygia Clark said, “We use the term ‘neoconcrete’ to differentiate ourselves from those committed to nonfigurative ‘geometric’ art and particularly the kind of concrete art that is influenced by a dangerously acute rationalism … none of which offers a rationale for the expressive potential we feel art contains.” Instead, South American Neoconcrete art was imbued with an antirational vitalism, made socially specific, physically participatory, and psychologically liberating. In this sense, it rhymes with the nonprogrammatic, everyday formalism of artists around the world whose “geometric” art eschewed the rationalism and, still more broadly, the authority and dogmatism of earlier avant-garde movements.




5. Concrete Visions


ygia Pape’s Livro da criação (Book of creation, 1959–60) is a set of fifteen three-dimensional geometric compositions, made in gouache on cardboard, intended to be handled and interacted with by viewers, and entirely without words. It can at first be hard to think of each of the individual compositions as pages of a book. If anything it may be the work’s title—and perhaps some knowledge of Pape’s creative trajectory and aesthetic affiliations—that first suggest to the viewer its identity as a (very special) kind of artist’s book and its place within the context of the experimental poetry practiced by members of the Rio de Janeiro–based Neoconcrete group. In its absence of words and letters, Livro da criação is not alone among book works of Pape’s such as Livro da arquitetura (Book of

commentary on the suspicion and paranoia that dominated the early days of Brazil’s military dictatorship. In Japan during the same period, the avant-gardist Kitasono Katue published “plastic poems” composed of photographed newspaper cutouts, some of them including foreign (mostly French) writing and others containing no writing at all (fig. 2). But can such works still be called poetry? If they are entirely without words, what would make them belong to the realm of poetic experimentation rather than to that of the plastic arts? Suspending for a moment any verdict on the poetic identity of such works, it is worth examining how they came to be designated as poems: that is, through their continuity and dialogue with a certain trajectory in the materialization of poetic language, a trajectory seen in a significant share of avant-garde poetry in the postwar era. If, following the critics

Fig. 1. Lygia Pape. Livro do tempo (Book of Time). 1961–63. Tempera and acrylic on wood, 365 parts, 16 × 16 × 3 cm (each). Courtesy Projeto Lygia Pape

Architecture, 1959–60; plate 240) and the monumental Livro do tempo (Book of Time, 1961–65; fig. 1), in which she stretched the concept of the book even further by attaching its 365 compositions to the wall, eliminating the interactive aspect of the previous pieces. Indeed, some of the most radical poetic experiments of the postwar years in Brazil and beyond lack verbal language. In 1964, working with photographs cut from printed media, the São Paulo–based concrete poet Augusto de Campos produced Olho por olho (Eye for eye), a poignant

Lucy Lippard and John Chandler, the Conceptual art of the late 1960s and 1970s has been repeatedly described in terms of the “dematerialization” of the art object, postwar avant-garde poets performed the opposite operation.1 Emphasizing the visual and vocal aspects of verbal language, they pursued a radical materialization of the poetic word, a process that culminated, in some cases, in the disappearance of verbal language from poetic composition.

Pedro Erber


Fig. 2. Kitasono Katsue. Prospérité solitaire. 1974. Gelatin silver print, 15.5 x 13 cm.


5. Concrete Visions

The search for a concrete form of poetic expression—for poems that could not just create but be their own objects, rather than representing external reality through what was often described as the partial or abstract means of communication characteristic of verbal discourse—was one of the strongest and most original marks of postwar experimental poetry. It also gave poetry an unheard-of proximity to, indeed an overlap with, the visual arts. As Kitasono, quoting the French art historian Michel Ragon, put it in his 1966 essay “A Note on Plastic Poetry,” “The era of the spoken word is past and the era of the written word is ended. We have reached the era of image.”2 A widespread sense of the limitations of verbal language, particularly as it is phonetically represented in modern Western script, and an attempt to overcome those limitations emerged contemporaneously in the work and programmatic writing of poets throughout the world. But not by chance, it was concrete poetry—a transnational

poetic practice and in dialogue with a carefully chosen set of texts from a wide range of literary traditions—the time and space (or “spacetime,” as they termed it, after James Joyce) of poetry and, more generally, of art in all its diverse forms. As Augusto de Campos elaborated elsewhere, the concrete poets took seriously—indeed almost literally—Jean-Paul Sartre’s claim that while prose understands words as signs, poetry must understand them as things. 4 The Noigandres group were certainly not the first to incorporate graphic space as a meaningful element of poetic expression. In fact these poets were keen on acknowledging their predecessors, regarding their experiments as part of a lineage that extended back to Guillaume Apollinaire’s Calligrammes and, most significantly, to Stéphane Mallarmé’s Coup de dés. Even further back, it is possible to trace the origins of visual poetry in European languages to at least the Hellenistic peri-

Fig. 3. Ferreira Gullar. Onde. 1959. Acrylic on wood and vinyl, 40 × 40 cm. Collection Ferreira Gullar

avant-garde movement started by the Brazilian poets Décio Pignatari and the brothers Haroldo and Augusto de Campos, together with Ulm-based Swiss-Bolivian poet Eugen Gomringer—that most characteristically embodied such aspirations, to the point of becoming nearly synonymous with postwar visual poetry. “Concrete poetry: tension of word-things in spacetime,” reads the “Plano-piloto para poesia concreta” (Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry), the movement’s manifesto, which was signed by Pignatari and the Campos brothers and published in 1958 in the fourth issue of the group’s journal, Noigandres.3 One of many definitions of the scope of their endeavor provided in this brief text, the sentence introduces not only a convergence between word and thing but an attempt to theorize—through

od, with Simias of Rhodes’s axe-shaped poem from the third century B.C .5 Yet it was precisely because of its historical consciousness, and its self-reflective and explicitly theoretical attitude toward the literary tradition and toward poetic composition itself, that concrete poetry came to occupy a hegemonic position in postwar visual poetry and poetics. Borrowing the adjective “concrete” from music and the visual arts, the Noigandres group proposed to bring poetic technique up to date, to “synchronize” it with other realms of artistic creation. On the one hand, they argued, in the work of Piet Mondrian, Josef Albers, and others, time had intervened in painting, an art of space par excellence; on the other, Anton von Webern and his followers had introduced space into music, which is fundamentally an art of time. 6 Meanwhile,

Pedro Erber


poetry occupied a more ambivalent position, since both its spatial and its temporal aspects could be taken as crucial depending on whether its written or its recitative form were privileged. Since its historical origins lay in spoken words, though, its temporal aspect could fairly be said to have predominated, and the mobilization of space for communicative potential is accordingly what first and most clearly distinguished concrete poetry (a quality that resonated with a number of contemporaneous poetic trends, notably Pierre Garnier’s spatialisme). Yet this emphasis on space was coupled with a heightened focus on the poem’s vocal, recitative element. Borrowing again from Joyce, the Noigandres poets referred repeatedly to the “verbivocovisual” essence of poetic composition. Indeed, in emphasizing space, it was ultimately the temporal aspect of poetry that their poems most deeply challenged and transformed. A clear example appears in the poems collected in Augusto de Campos’s volume Poetamenos (Minuspoet, 1953), such as “lygia fingers” and “dias dias dias” (days days days), in which the use of graphic space and different-colored types was also meant to function as a guide for recitation in multiple voices. The concrete poets were fascinated with Sino-Japanese ideographic script. Through the work of Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenollosa, they discerned in the ideogram a model for poetic composition that could “share the advantages of nonverbal [visual] communication without giving up the word’s virtuality.” 7 What interested them, more than the actual role of the ideogram as an element of Chinese and Japanese writing systems, was its function “as a method of composition based on direct—analogical, not logical-discursive—disposition of elements,” in brief, as the “other” of Western linear script. 8 In opposition to the linear succession of apprehensive acts prescribed by phonetic script, the ideogram model was thought to allow for the synchronous apprehension of multiple meanings in a single act. The project of concrete poetry might sound like a rather formalistic utopia but it is worth emphasizing that what was at stake here was also to some extent a geopolitical endeavor. In the ideographic model of composition the concrete poets envisioned the basis for a new mode of transnational, translingual communication based on the “lowest common denominator of language”—a mode that could almost dispense with the need for translation.9 In challenging linguistic borders they sought to establish a universal poetic syntax and ultimately a new kind of poetic universalism. Indeed, the Campos brothers’ dedication to the theory and practice of translation from a wide range of languages was an aspect of their conscious effort both to overcome the supposedly peripheral position of Brazilian culture in the global panorama of cultural exchange and to challenge the center/periphery model in general. Transnationalism was an important feature of postwar artistic culture, but few artists were more actively engaged than the concrete poets in creating connections across national borders and in establishing an international community around an artistic ideal. In this context “synchronization” also implied the establishment of transnational contemporaneity by creating direct ties with artists in distant locales,


including periphery-to-periphery connections that could (ideally, at least) dispense with mediation by the center. One example of such periphery-to-periphery connections was the long exchange between Brazilian and Japanese avant-garde poets during the 1950s and ’60s. For the most part, the Noigandres poets’ relationship to ideographic writing remained on an ideal and ideological level. Considering their strong interest in non-Western scripts, their failure to mention previous examples of visual poetry written in non-Western scripts, or of contemporary visual poets writing in Chinese and Korean, would be remarkable were it not an omission they shared with most European writers and scholars at the time.10 But they did forge a connection with Japanese poets that left an enduring mark on the panorama of avant-garde poetry in both countries. Introduced by Pound, Haroldo de Campos and Kitasono corresponded for years, and translated and published each other’s poems. In 1960, the poet L. C. Vinholes, stationed in Tokyo as a Brazilian diplomat and well acquainted with the Japanese poetic avant-garde, organized an exhibition of Brazilian concrete poetry at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, further facilitating this exchange. Later on, the Japanese poet Niikuni Seiichi allied himself with the concrete movement, publishing a Japanese translation of the Noigandres poets’ “Plano-piloto.” 11 Even today, the resonance of Brazilian concretism can be spotted in the work of Gōzō Yoshimasu, one of Japan’s most important contemporary poets. Temporality, a fundamental issue for concrete poetry from its earliest stages, was also a crucial site of dissent between the Rio-based poet and critic Ferreira Gullar and the Noigandres poets of São Paulo, a dissent that culminated in Gullar’s publication of the Neoconcrete Manifesto in 1959.12 For Gullar, the synchrony envisioned by the Noigandres group was a useless pursuit. The concrete poem, he claimed, could at most provide the illusion of such simultaneity, since reading, unlike the act of viewing a painting, inevitably implies a succession of instants; it cannot take place in a single apprehensive act.13 In lieu of the search for synchrony, for the embodied, material relationship with the poem as a concrete thing Gullar proposed a poetics of duration, and he created devices to return the act of reading to its fully embodied essence. Since his first book-poems of 1956, he had been experimenting with the embodied temporality of the act of reading. With odd-sized pages containing as little as one single word, the book-poem calls attention to the act of reading as a participatory activity entailing as much bodily as intellectual praxis. Later on, in his spatial poems, words were hidden beneath a sort of wooden lid, and revealed only upon the lid’s removal by the reader/participant (fig. 3). With their increased emphasis on the bodily character of the act of reading, first in the simple act of turning pages and later in more complex ways to uncover writing—such as by lifting objects and even walking down stairs—Neoconcretism brought poetry closer to things and, to some extent, farther from words. Gullar’s “Poema enterrado” (Buried Poem, 1960), in which the viewer must literally enter the “poem” and remove several objects in order to unveil a single word, can be regarded as the climax of this process. Yet Pape’s books bring concrete poetry to an even

5. Concrete Visions

more radical level, insofar as they entirely eliminate verbal discourse from poetic composition. While Gullar put a sudden end to his Neoconcrete poetic experiments, afraid of having wandered too far from the poetic field and into the realm of the plastic arts, Pape refused to give up on the poetic identity of her wordless books. In their ambiguous position between poetry and the visual arts, between artistic practice and theoretical speculation, such works remain as open questions, both shortening and expanding the distance between words and things in the spacetime of concrete poetry.

1 See Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, 1973 (reprint ed. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997), also Lippard and John Chandler, “The Dematerialization of Art,” in Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson, eds., Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1999), pp. 46–51. 2 Kitasono Katue, “Zo¯kei-shi ni tsuite no no¯to [A Note on the Plastic Poem],” Kaban no naka no getsuya: Kitasono Katue no zo¯kei-shi [Moonlight in a bag: The plastic poems of Kitasono Katsue] (Tokyo: Kokusho, 2002), p. 61. 3 Augusto de Campos, Haroldo de Campos, and Décio Pignatari, “Plano-pilôto para poesia concreta,” Noigandres 4  (1958), Eng. trans. as “Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry” in Haroldo de Campos, Novas. Selected Writings (Evanson: Northwestern University Press, 2007), p. 218. 5 Augusto de Campos, “Poesia Concreta,” in Augusto de Campos, Haroldo de Campos, and Pignatari, Teoria da Poesia Concreta. Textos críticos e manifestos (1950–1960) (São Paulo: Edições Invenção, 1975), p. 34. 6 On Simias of Rhodes’s “Axe” see Luis Arturo Guichard, “Simias’ Pattern Poems: The Margins of the Canon,” in Hellenistica Groningana: Beyond the Canon, ed. Annette Harder et al. (Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2006), p. 91. 7 Augusto de Campos, Haroldo de Campos, and Pignatari, “Pilot Plan for Concrete Poetry,” p. 218. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid., p. 217. 10 Ibid., p. 218. 11 On modernist visual poetry in Taiwan and its relationship to the transnational avant-garde see Andrea Bachner, Beyond Sinology: Chinese Writing and the Scripts of Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), pp. 74–91. On the political underpinnings of visual poetry in colonial Korea and the poetics of Yi Sang see Travis Workman, Imperial Genus: The Formation and Limits of the Human in Modern Korea and Japan (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016), pp. 240–48. 12 See L. C. Vinholes, “Intercâmbio, Presença e Influência da Poesia Concreta Brasileira no Japão,” available online at Artigos (accessed March 2016). 13 Ferreira Gullar et al., “Manifesto Neoconcreto [Neoconcrete Manifesto]” in Suplemento Dominical do Jornal do Brasil, March 22, 1959, repr. in Aracy Amaral, ed., Projeto Construtivo Brasileiro na Arte, exh. cat. (Rio de Janeiro: Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro, 1977), pp. 80–84. 14 Gullar, “Letter to Augusto de Campos,” in Gullar, Experiência neoconcreta: momento limite da arte (São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2007), p. 113.

Pedro Erber



Chapter 5. Concrete 2 · Form Visions Matters


he German occupation of Paris in 1940 shocked the international intelligentsia with the realization that the world as they knew it was coming to an end. The question arose of where the new center of modern art would emerge.1 Underlying this question was the construction of the logical narrative of modern art, whose crucial city was now plunged into a void. It was no longer possible to expect the next step to come from Paris; to go there to see its art was equally unthinkable. Europe was showing signs of defeat, but modern art remained absorbed by the idea of the future. The metropolises of South America, though involved in the war in different ways,2 had not experienced it directly. The artists and intellectuals of Europe’s desperate diaspora found new interlocutors in these cities. By then, the narrative of modern art as a succession of movements had been established and its lessons adopted all over the world. If art was to be defined by the impulse of innovation characteristic of the avant-gardes, its movement could be taken up anywhere. The sense of mission that permeated the avant-gardes was no longer an exclusively European matter. Journeys to new territories began to take place before the war and intensified once it began. In 1934, after a long absence in Europe and New York, Joaquín Torres-García had returned to his native city of Montevideo, Uruguay, intending to found a new school. The following year he gave a lecture proposing a “School of the South”: “I have said ‘School of the South’ because in reality our North is the South. There should be no North for us, except in opposition to our South … now we know what our true position is, and is not the way the rest of the world would like to have it.”3 The most eloquent aspect of this strategy of decentering was the inversion of the map of the South American continent with the south at the top, the north at the bottom, and Montevideo as the new center. Torres-García’s program of Universalismo constructivo (Universal constructivism) elaborated on and exceeded elements not only of European Surrealism and abstraction but of pre-Columbian art, and proposed a new model of abstraction. The young abstract artists of Buenos Aires, Argentina, across the Rio de la Plata from Uruguay, visited Torres-García to understand his program but soon excluded its symbolic elements. The exchange is noted not to suggest genealogy but to highlight the effects of the European diaspora, and its relationship to the young Latin American artists who looked at the cultural deposits of the European avant-garde as toolboxes. “Invention” was the word used to name their creative place in the new map of the world. The term appeared in the single issue of Arturo magazine, published in 1944 by the young Argentine artists Gyula Kosice, Tomás Maldonado, and Edgar Bayley and the Uruguayans Rhod Rothfuss and Carmelo Arden Quin. Its pages trace a regional map: Torres-García, the Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro (founder thirty years earlier of the literary movement Creacionismo, or Creationism), the Portuguese artist Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (in exile in São Paulo, Brazil), the Brazilian

poet Murilo Mendes, and the Argentine abstract artist Lidy Prati. They also reproduce works by Vasily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. After the war, visual artists, poets, and musicians moving between São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Santiago, Chile, created a regional formation around abstract aesthetic programs. In 1939 the Argentine artist and poet Godofredo Iommi had arrived in Chile, where he eventually joined the faculty of Valparaíso’s architecture school, the Escuela de Arquitectura y Diseño, and cofounded the Ciudad abierta (Open city), a utopian community in the countryside outside that city. In Buenos Aires abstract art was a symbolic capital in dispute, as the Arturo initiative broke into groups: Madí (which included Kosice, Arden Quin, Rothfuss, Martín Blaszko, and Diyi Laañ) and the Asociación Arte Concreto-Invención, or AACI (which included Maldonado, Alfredo Hlito, Raúl Lozza, Juan Melé, and others), from which Lozza separated in 1947 to create the Perceptismo group. Each group generated its own manifestos and magazines (Boletín Arte Concreto Invención, Madí, Perceptismo, Arte Nuevo, etc.). While the AACI focused on the rational principles of concrete art in the line initiated in Holland by Theo van Doesburg, Madí was closer to Dada in its introduction of games and its coexistence of different approaches. The poetics of the concrete artists are not understandable through the genealogy of Torres-García, earlier Buenos Aires abstract artists (Emilio Pettoruti, Juan Del Prete, Lucio Fontana), or the traditions of European abstraction. Their solutions came, more exactly, from the outbreaks and the dispersion of the principles of both historical and recent European abstract avant-gardes: Mondrian and de Stijl, French Art Concret, Kazimir Malevich, the Bauhaus, the Swiss Allianz group, and the Konkrete Kunst exhibition, organized by Max Bill in Basel in 1944. The South American artists understood these avant-gardes as repositories of ideas from which to create new visual concepts. Two such, in 1945, were the shaped canvas (explained by Rothfuss in Arturo), and the coplanar structure, in which interrelated elements activated the plastic relevance of the surrounding space. The artists were analyzing paintings by Europeans such as Malevich and Mondrian, subverting their postulates, and proposing the next step. They presented themselves as artists of the international abstract avant-garde. It is important to understand, however, that these young artists had not visited Europe and had not seen the original works. (The South American museums of the time had no European abstraction in their collections.) They extracted their conclusions and generated their solutions from a print culture made up of texts as well as of reproductions. To the extent that the printed images they saw flattened or eliminated texture and modified color, the available reproductions diverted the original programs. Years later Kosice remarked, “What I wanted was to be unlike anyone else.”4 From that perspective the art of the European avant-gardes was more loot than heritage. It is also important to understand that these artists were working to conceive a new society. In 1945, the Argentine Communist Party newspaper, Orientation, named Hlito, Maldonado, Manuel Espinosa, and Claudio

Andrea Giunta


Fig. 1. Grete Stern. Photomontage for Madí, Ramos Mejía, Argentina. 1946–47. Gelatine silver print, 59.8 × 49.4 cm. Courtesy Archivo Lafuente


5. Concrete Visions

Girola as artists of the concrete movement who adhered to the Party. It was the time of the populist democracy of Juan Domingo Perón, which the Buenos Aires intelligentsia associated with the fascist regimes that had been overthrown in Europe. Unlike the Nazis, Peron never persecuted abstract art, but it was not his regime’s preferred style.5 In response, the artists activated the oppositional and emancipatory meaning that abstraction had taken on in the context of the European war. The stance reinforced their representation of themselves as avant-garde both aesthetically and politically. They believed that it was possible to join Marxism with concrete art, which, however, the Communist Party condemned. Maldonado read the polemics between Elio Vittorini and Palmiro Togliatti in Milan and between André Breton and Tristan Tzara in Paris—debates over artistic independence in relation to the aesthetic choices of the Communist Party. Making a similar attempt to allow for an abstract alternative within the Argentine Communist Party, he failed and left the Party in 1948. Postwar abstract innovation spread in a complex network through Latin America. In Chile it reached its peak in Valparaíso’s Escuela de Arquitectura, the Ciudad abierta project to integrate architecture with landscape and with Latin American roots, and the development of the various abstract programs of artists such as Gustavo Poblete, Ramón Vergara Grez, and Matilde Pérez.6 Bayley and Arden Quin visited Brazil in 1942, establishing contacts reflected in Arturo. In 1947, the magazine Joaquim, produced in Curitiba, Brazil, published the AACI’s Invencionista manifesto along with reproductions of several Argentine works, among them Maldonado’s and Lozza’s shaped-canvas and coplanar structures. In 1950 the Argentine critic Jorge Romero Brest lectured in São Paulo and in 1951 he was a jurist in the first Bienal de São Paulo (where his support for abstract art allowed the main prize to go to Bill’s Tripartite Unity of 1948–49, a steel sculpture shaped as a Möbius strip). That same year, Maldonado and Prati visited the Brazilian critic Mario Pedrosa in Rio de Janeiro. Romero Brest’s magazine Ver y Estimar included collaborations with Bill and Mathias Goeritz, a German artist residing in Mexico. Brazil also developed its own chronology of postwar abstraction. In 1945, the Askanasy gallery in Rio de Janeiro presented the Exposição de arte condenada pelo III Reich (Exhibition of Art Condemned by the Third Reich);7 in 1947, the Prestes Maia gallery in São Paulo organized the exhibition 19 Pintores (19 painters), which included works by Luiz Sacilotto and Lothar Charoux. Here they came in contact with Waldemar Cordeiro, an Italian who had arrived in São Paulo in 1946. Abstraction was well installed in Brazil by 1949, when Cordeiro and Charoux published the single issue of the magazine Novissimos, including work by the poets (and brothers) Haroldo and Augusto de Campos. Cordeiro was the engine of the manifesto and exhibition Ruptura, which opened at the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo in 1952. In 1954, the artists’ group Grupo Frente exhibited at the Instituto Brasil-Estados Unidos in Rio de Janeiro. Led by Ivan Serpa, Frente included artists such as Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and (by its second exhibition, at the Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro in 1955) Hélio Oiticica.

In Brazil, Mondrian and Bill were also repertoires to explore. In 1957, when the strength of the concrete-art movement was waning, Clark wrote a fictional letter to Mondrian, asking the dead master whether she should break with the group. In 1958, her paintings began to question the boundaries of the frame, opening it to space (Unidades 1–7; fig. 2). The edge of the work became a living border, the line began to breathe; form activated space, and planes became a mobile, flexible structure whose shapes depended on the viewer’s decisions in manipulating them. (Kosice had explored this kind of mobility in works such as Royï, of 1944.) By 1963, form had dissolved in experience: Caminhando (1964), arising out of the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, asks us to cut a paper Möbius strip with scissors, generating knowledge through the experience of creating ephemeral forms.

Fig. 2. Lygia Clark. Unidade VI. 1958. Industrial paint on wood, 30 × 30 cm. Collection MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires

Oiticica likewise disturbed orthogonality in his Metaesquemas (1957–58; fig. 3, plate 207) and invaded space with his Relevo espacial (Spatial Relief, 1959; plate 226). Both he and Clark embarked on works involving textures, materials, movement, and the body: Oiticica investigated exterior space with his Parangolés, Clark explored inner perception with her therapies using perceptual objects. Oiticica’s Bólide vidro 05 “Homenagem a Mondrian” (Glass Fireball 05 “Homage to Mondrian”; plate 110), of 1965, subverted Mondrian. Visually it might almost have been a poetic version of a Molotov cocktail, appropriate in a climate of growing politicization under Brazil’s dictatorship, 8 yet the work was not a weapon but a texture empowered with color to impregnate the skin of the viewer who touched it. Clark and Oiticica can be seen as introducing a powerful critique of the evolutionary model of modernity, destabilizing its autonomy by inserting life itself (space, motion, bodies) into its abstract forms.

Andrea Giunta


It is important to remember the the second Bienal de São Paulo, in 1953, included a Mondrian exhibition. The presence of these paintings in Brazil allowed artists to discover that their surfaces were not homogeneous, as the Argentine concrete artists had understood them to be. These were not mere structures; between the lines it was possible to see underlying colors, to feel the artist’s hand moving over the canvas. The Neoconcrete Manifesto, written by Ferreira Gullar in 1959, which questioned rationalistic interpretations of Mondrian, was now seen as the destroyer of surface, plane, and line, the creator of a new space that surpassed rational readings of his works.9 Pape’s Livro da criação (Book of Creation, 1959–60) set shapes in motion: simple geometric figures, metaphors of a story (the creation, the first discoveries).

Breaking the limits of architecture, Goeritz activated the imaginary of the avant-garde. The European émigrés included two women artists who represent unique experiences, isolated from the avant-garde formations. Both developed self-contained bodies of work. Mira Schendel, born in Zurich and living in Milan, came to São Paulo in 1949. Escaping from the persecution of war and forced to change her country and her language, Schendel developed intimate, sober monochrome forms, barely distinguishable from their context. Born in Hamburg, Gertrude Goldschmidt (Gego) emigrated to Venezuela in 1939 to escape the Holocaust. Her three-dimensional drawings made of metal rods and wires seem to invade space through the use of lines and transparencies.

Fig. 3. Hélio Oiticica. Metaesquema. 1958. Gouache on cardboard, 39.5 × 57 cm. Collection MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires

Goeritz joined the faculty of the Universidad de Guadalajara’s Escuela de Arquitectura in 1949, organizing an exhibition and educational program there. He described the school to Romero Brest as a new Bauhaus. 10 Artistic abstraction was difficult to establish in Mexico, home of the figurative mural; Goeritz did so through an alliance with architecture. His Museo Experimental El Eco in Mexico City (1952–53) was conceived as an experimental museum; its courtyard, where Walter Nicks rehearsed a ballet with choreography by Luis Buñuel, contained a black serpent of welded metal. Thematic elements of Mexican culture—golden altarpieces, pumpkins, the snake, the use of colors derived from popular traditions—transformed Goeritz’s vocabulary.


Gego’s works, drawing in space while modeling the human milieu, led to a critique of the concept of sculpture.11 The repetition of lines and the reduction of visual resources in both her work and Schendel’s has parallels in the work of Agnes Martin in the United States and of Nasreen Mohamedi in India. Schendel, Gego, and Mohamedi also share an abstract repertoire that seems to be connected with the trauma of war and exile. In this sense, the abstraction of the postwar period constituted a language with which to imagine a future or a resource with which to investigate interiority and develop the trauma of desolation.12 The various bodies of abstract art in Latin America were not peripheral episodes of European modernity. Departing from similar

5. Concrete Visions

references, they carried out innovative strategies conceived from different contexts. In this regard, Latin American, European, and North American postwar avant-gardes were simultaneous—or, put differently, after 1945 they were all in a peripheral position toward the historical avant-gardes.13 These modern interventions established imaginaries that subverted the European traditions, whose projects of the future had exploded with the war. Latin American artists used their splinters as materials for reimagining the world.

1 See Harold Rosenberg, “On the Fall of Paris,” Partisan Review 7, no. 6 (December 1940): 440–48. 2 Brazil declared war on the Axis in 1942, Argentine in 1944, and Chile in 1945. 3 Joaquín Torres-García, speech delivered at the Asociación Cristiana de Jóvenes, Montevideo, February 1935, in Torres-García, Universalismo Constructivo (Buenos Aires: Poseidon, 1944), pp. 213–19. 4 Gyula Kosice, in Gyula Kosice in Conversation with Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro (New York and Caracas: Fundación Cisneros, 2012), p. 39. 5 In 1949, Juan Perón’s minister of education, Oscar Ivanissevich, called abstract art “perverse,” but abstraction was included in an exhibition on Argentine art at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, in 1952. Abstract artists were also in the Argentine representation at the second Bienal de São Paulo, in 1953. See my Avant-Garde, Internationalism and Politics: Argentine Art in the Sixties (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007), pp. 27–54, and María Amalia García, El arte abstracto. Intercambios culturales entre Argentina y Brasil (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2011). 6 María Berríos, “Invisible Architecture and the Poetry of Action,” in Erica Witschey (ed.), Drifts and Derivations: Experiences, Journeys and Morphologies, (Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2010), pp. 72–81; and Cristina Rossi, “Redes latinoamericanas de arte constructivo,” Cuadernos del Centro de Estudios en Diseño y Comunicación (Universidad de Palermo) 60, (2016): 103–125. 7 The exhibition included works by Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Alfred Kubin, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Lasar Segall, and Wilhelm Woeller. 8 The review of the exhibition Tucumán Arde (Rosario and Buenos Aires, 1968) in the French magazine Robho also connected the aesthetic and the political avant-gardes. See “Dossier Argentine: Les Fils de Marx et Mondrian,” Robho (Paris) no. 5–6 (1971): 16–22. 9 Ferreira Gullar, “Manifiesto neo-concreto,” Jornal do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro), March 22, 1959. 10 Mathias Goeritz and Jorge Romero Brest had met in Spain during the experience of the Escuela de Altamira (1948–49). See Andrea Giunta, Goeritz/Romero Brest. Correspondencias (Buenos Aires: Instituto de Teoría en Investigaciones Estéticas Julio E. Payró, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2000), p. 46. 11 See Catherine de Zegher, “Gego’s Traces of Traces,” in Gego: Between Transparency and the Invisible (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, and Buenos Aires: malba Colección Costantini, 2006), pp. 50–77. 12 See Abigail Winograd, “The Trauma of Dislocation and the Development of Alternative Abstractions in Latin America: Renegotiations of Space, Experience, and Self in the Work of Gego (Gertrud Louise Goldschmidt) and Mira Schendel,” in Transnational Latin American Art from 1950 to the Present Day (Austin: The Permanent Seminar in Latin American Art and Meeting Margins, 2010), available online at (accessed June 2016). 13 See Giunta, “Farewell to the Periphery: Avant-Gardes and Neo-Avant-Gardes in the Art of Latin America,” in Concrete Invention. Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. Reflections on Geometric Abstraction from Latin America and Its Legacy (Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2013), pp. 105–17.

Andrea Giunta



5. Concrete Visions



he end of World War II generated radical changes of unprecedented scale and intensity across the globe. In conferences in Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam, the planet was divided into areas or blocs encompassing everything from geopolitics to economics to art and culture. At the same time, the devastation produced by the destruction of urban centers and the generation of millions of victims (both dead and living) in Europe, Russia, and East Asia led to the decline of Europe’s civilizational prestige and world dominance and to the rise of the United States as a hegemonic superpower. Fueled by technology, unparalleled prosperity, and the assimilation of the consumeroriented “American way of life,” U.S. ascendancy ushered in a new era of rational planning and organization. Under the advertising image of the postwar reconstruction effort (the Marshall Plan, for example), an urban and industrial revolution of unrivaled scale provided the foundation for a postwar economic and military-industrial complex. Last but not least, the period also saw the displacement of traditional cities by large-scale preplanned models of suburban living and social organization.1 This tense dynamic of destruction and construction found powerful expression in everything from architecture to urban planning and the visual arts. In Europe, it became embodied in a new kind of figure emerging from the debris, inspiring the visceral humanism of a vital part of postwar painting and sculpture. Yet the postwar decades also produced forms of concrete and geometric art, linked to architecture and urban design, that reset the stage for a type of positivistic aesthetic rationalism moving from Russian Constructivism to the International Style (an offspring of World War I), from the Bauhaus to the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, the school’s postwar reincarnation. The ideas of precision, purity, and even an undeniable minimalism at play here were indicative of the urge to start anew by “constructing” the construct at stake: modern societies capable of erasing in a stroke the chaos generated by the six-year devastation. This overarching tendency toward rational organization—toward analytical and synthetic insight, farsighted cognitive approaches, and grid-based functionalism, as in the Bauhaus—I term the “necessity of concreteness.” Yet the rational impulse animating this project was not untouched by the humanism that was emerging from postwar circumstances. This drive manifested itself in the active presence of the subject, whether artist or viewer, within the concrete proposal. The articulation of this new subjectivity embedded in the concrete was particularly relevant for artists from the emergent countries and regions of what I call “the Global South.” There, the universal parameters of concrete trends provided a partial vehicle through which to participate in the construction of new postwar societies, while in the process articulating alternative forms of modernism. The presence of this new subjectivity in turn radically transformed Eurocentric manifestations into unique, off-center theoretical and artistic proposals.

The concrete push, far from being limited to Europe, operated in a transnational mode and had multiple centers.2 It appeared not only in the United States—which succeeded war-torn Paris as the international center for art—but in Japan, the Americas, and Eastern Europe, places that had been in a dialogic relationship with Western modernism. The fact that the concretist impulse did not follow the worn-out center/ periphery axis speaks volumes about an innovative participation that negated all trace of obedient dependency, erasing the stigma of being “derivative.” Indeed, ideas about the need to implement concreteness in art circulated openly at the global level, not only in the hegemonic centers of the West but in countries recently liberated from colonialism, such as India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Korea, and Nigeria, where artists engaged actively in back-and-forth sui generis dialogue with international modes of geometric and constructive art.

Fig. 1. Max Bill. Dreiteilige Einheit (Tripartite Unity). 1948/49. Stainless steel, 113.5 × 83 × 100 cm. Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo

CORRECTIVE TO UNDERDEVELOPMENT The exhaustion broadly experienced by Europe after 1945 sharply contrasted with the economic momentum of younger, previously marginalized geopolitical enclaves. In this volatile context, the necessity of concreteness was nurtured not only by the need to reconstruct and update national societies but by the possibilities offered by a tabula rasa to these developing countries and regions. This was particularly the case in Latin America, which emerged during this period as a key scenario for activity and innovation in concrete art. Having benefited economically from World War II, major countries of the region, notably Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela, set in motion national projects of modernization that impacted the cultural sphere through a will to be

Mari Carmen Ramírez


updated and modern. In the words of the Brazilian critic Mário Pedrosa, TRANSNATIONAL BRIDGES “we [Brazilians] are condemned to modernity.”3 The 1959 Cuban RevoThe transnational network that supported the postwar concrete art lution also provided the framework for the development of a politicized 4 movement can be seen as operating on the basis of what in Spanish geometric and concrete art movement. In such a context (as Nicolau Sevcenko has argued for Brazil), the need for systemic organization are called bisagras, hinges—key agents for a specific conception of art based on accurate, objective, and specific foci—one possible translation that in terms of its originality was relevant for the avant-garde on both of “concreteness”—was an intrinsic aspect of the period’s developmensides of the center/off-center axis. The cases of concrete- and contalist push.5 It could accordingly be argued that if in Europe the concrete structive-art pioneers Joaquín Torres-García, in Uruguay, and Max Bill, project aimed at correcting the chaos left by the war, in Latin America and in Switzerland, serve to anchor this point. Torres-García (most of other supposedly peripheral enclaves it became a corrective to the endemwhose career preceded the postwar period, so that he is not included ic lag of modernization generated by colonialism and underdevelopment. in the present exhibition) spent his life between Europe (Italy, France, The Latin American developmentalist momentum ran paraland Spain), the United States (a short period in New York in the early lel to the European recovery, in 1920s), and Latin America (Mongood part because of the increase tevideo), contributing in all places in exports from the region due to to key theoretical and practical dethe Marshall Plan. The optimism velopments. Combining elements generated by the consequent ecoof Surrealism, Dada, and concrete nomic boom and developmental and constructive art, he arrived at push—exemplified by the estaba unique abstract language that he lishment of steel foundries (Moncoined Constructive Universalism. terrey and Monclova in Mexico; He not only “imported” the idea of Volta Redonda and Voturantim concrete art to Uruguay but was a in Brazil) and automobile plants decisive influence in the Río de la in the region—not only propelled Plata region for the Argentinean the search for universal languagMadí and Arte Concreto-Invención es as a means of expression but groups, respectively represented also inspired the hope that these in this exhibition by Gyula Kosice countries could finally claim their and Tomás Maldonado. As for Bill, place on the world stage. In the already influential in Europe before cultural realm, the establishment the war (albeit with a stalled career), of the Bienal de São Paulo in 1951; he emerged after it as the rightful the construction of Brasília in heir to Theo van Doesburg’s vision 1956–61, the Ciudad Universitaria of a rational, scientifically or mathin Mexico City in 1952–54, and the ematically based notion of concrete Ciudad Universitaria in Caracas art. Ironically, however, his teachin 1954; and the experimental acings were more quickly assimilated tivities of the Instituto Torcuato in Latin America than in Europe, di Tella in Buenos Aires (1958–70) providing a turning point for major stand as emblems of the utopian artistic movements in Brazil and thrust of that decade. The conArgentina. In 1951, the first Bienal Fig. 2. Tomás Maldonado. Untitled. 1945. Tempera on board, 79 × 60 cm. Private Collection. crete poetry movement (1952–85) de São Paulo awarded Bill a prize put Brazil at the same level of exfor his sculpture Dreiteilige Einheit perimental innovation as Germany and Japan, and there were also (Tripartite Unity, 1948; fig. 1). This paradigmatic work embodied the principles—Form-Funktion-Schönheit (Form, function, beauty)—of the developments in industrial and graphic design and in photography, 6 all of which paved the way for the “concrete sensibility.” Swiss master’s version of concrete art, establishing his version of the concrete-art canon in Latin American soil.7 To these crucial figures must be added many artists who not only pioneered modern art in their countries of origin but, more important, served as active bisagras for the creative translation of both central and


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vernacular paradigms of geometric and concrete art. Although Ellsworth Kelly is seldom considered in this context, he can be said to have fulfilled a hinge role between the postwar Paris avant-garde and the American Minimalists. The London-trained Pakistani writer and painter Anwar Jalal Shemza was one of the first artists to introduce modern geometric abstraction in his home country while shuttling back and forth between there and London. In Lebanon, Saloua Raouda Choucair is considered the first Arab artist to exhibit abstract painting, combining elements of postwar Parisian abstraction with Islamic designs. Similarly, the Indian Nasreen Mohamedi produced exquisite drawings in dialogue with U.S. Minimalism. In postwar Japan, the Gutai group (represented in Postwar by Tanaka Atsuko, Sadamasa Motonaga, and Kazuo Shiraga) emerged as a powerful catalyst for radical experimental art that combined elements of the European avant-garde (exemplified by tachism, the ZERO group, and Yves Klein) with elements of Japanese theater and Zen philosophy.

of 1960, a massive swath of contorted steel in the stylized shape of a serpent (plate 229). By capturing the actual condensation of water inside a pristine cube of transparent Plexiglas, Hans Haacke, in Condensation Cube (1963; plate 211), can be said to have contaminated orthodox concretism. By contrast, in the Nigerian artist Erhabor Emokpae’s Struggle between Life and Death (1963; plate 241), the inclusion of handprints to the sides of a finely textured black and white circle gives what is essentially a geometric composition a life/death symbolism. At the core of the idea of concreteness espoused by these postwar artists is an inherent grasp of abstraction (whether subjective or not) as imbued with traces of the natural world. This contradiction serves as the starting point for the originality of several off-centered postwar experimental proposals.11 The new forms of concretism, while anchored in the postwar rational project and its exaltation of objective principles, had more flexible formal and conceptual parameters than prewar manifestations, a freedom they expressed through unconventional resources: color, chance, hand-drawn lines, visible brushwork, organic surfaces, nonindustrial materials, destabilized grids. For Bill, color was not an end in itself

A DIFFERENT KIND OF CONCRETENESS: VERSIONS, INVERSIONS, SUBVERSIONS As Héctor Olea has suggested in a discussion of “the artist as theoretician” as a mark of artistic practice in Latin America, 8 the historical and political conditions of the postwar period functioned to mold concrete art movements into heterogeneous versions, inversions, and subversions of the original model outlined in 1930 by Theo van Doesburg in his manifesto “Base de la peinture concrète” (Basis of Concrete Art). This seminal text spelled out a fairly rigid credo for concrete art based (once again) on principles of universality, rationalism, and self-referentiality. (As German theoretician Max Bense stated, “Alles Konkrete ist nur es selbst” [What is concrete is that which is itself].)9 Van Doesburg’s conditions would manifest themselves in art above all through a rejection of the artist’s subjectivity in favor of visual precision and clarity, as well as through the complete absence of references to the natural world. From this point of view, as illustrated by Bill’s White Square (1946), an avowed aim of the concrete artist was to erase any trace of individuality or subjectivity in favor of lines, colors, and sleek surfaces that in their objective status would come close to industrially produced objects. These fundamental traits of concrete-art orthodoxy proved easy for postwar concrete artists to renounce, instead favoring more iconoclastic approaches that nevertheless sought to take advantage of the universality of concretism. In Untitled (1945; fig. 2), for example, Maldonado consciously quoted from Kazimir Malevich’s well-known Suprematist painting Painterly Realism of a Boy with a Knapsack—Color Masses in the Fourth Dimension (1915). Rather than merely copy the original, though, he rearranged Malevich’s black and red abstract shapes against the white background, “anthropomorphizing” the relationship between them.10 Goeritz employed a similar strategy in a monumental steel sculpture

Fig. 3. Anwar Jalal Shemza. Square Composition 3. 1963. Oil on hardboard, 61 × 61 cm. Courtesy the Estate of Anwar Jalal Shemza

but a basic element of the “Kraftfelder” (energy fields), or objectively determined chromatic progressions, that distinguished concrete art from abstract art in general.12 Yet in the hands of postwar artists, the use of color sequencing seemed to hinge more on chance and subjectivity than on any scientific principle of chromatic behavior. The Brazilian artist Waldemar Cordeiro and the Cuban Sandú Darié, for example, used the type of chromatic progression favored by Bill in, respectively, Movimento (1951; plate 217) and Sin titulo (Untitled) (c. 1950; plate 216), yet whereas the Swiss artist followed strict rules of sequencing and

Mari Carmen Ramírez


interaction, they favored a more dynamic, purely rhythmic approach vision (afterimage, retinality), later through an immersive experience to color and form. Cordeiro introduces noncanonical secondary colors encompassing the senses (touch, the gaze, and the like).13 Hence in Lygia Clark’s concrete works, exemplified by the “Superficies moduladas” such as purple and green, while Darié transforms sequences into circles (Modulated Surfaces) series (1957–59; plate 202), the incised line takes on a activating space. Meanwhile Kelly, for his well-known Spectrum Colors life of its own, functioning first to articulate the work, then to inscribe the Arranged by Chance (1951)—a series of eight large collages that launched surrounding space, and ultihis lifelong investigation of color, mately to establish a relation berepresented in the exhibition by tween subject and object. This numbers V and VIII (plates 214, feature is further explored in the 215)—began with a mathematiseries known as Bichos (Critters), cal system that paired numbered hinged aluminum structures slips of paper to eighteen differthat, like Darié’s Untitled, ent hues, yet made the end result Transformable Structure (c. 1950s), a product of chance. require the viewer’s action to ma Other versions of postwar nipulate them (plates 203, 218). By concrete art adopted formal contrast, in Lygia Pape’s Livro da principles and elements derived criação (Book of Creation, 1959–60; from vernacular traditions and fig. 4), each book page is renlocal contexts. In Shemza’s Square dered as a colorful, autonomous Composition 3 (1963; fig. 3) and geometric composition for the Square Composition 6, the grain of viewer to manipulate playfully, the wood support is left deliberFig. 4. Lygia Pape. Book of Creation Walking (detail). 1959. Gouache on cardboard, 18 parts, 30 × 30 × 0.2 cm (each). creating his or her own storybook ately exposed, inserting an eleversion of humanity’s origins. ment of the natural world into The incorporation of the subject in concrete art went hand in hand the blend of symmetry and asymmetry that grounds these arrangewith the transition from two-dimensional supports to unconventional ments of circles and half-circles over squares. In a similar vein, Choucair’s objects and forms. That transition can be read as the ultimate exaltation interlocking modular grid-sculptures (plates 234, 235) are made out of concrete art on the part of experimental artists seeking to reimagine of terra-cotta and biscuit clay, preindustrial elements that speak to art by erasing the line between it and everyday life. Tanaka’s Work (Yellow long-standing Islamic material traditions. In works such as Big Red Cloth) (1955; plate 236) consists of a monochrome painting made of (1964), the African American painter Daniel LaRue Johnson created yellow cloth; it shows no traces of the human hand but exists as a self-concompositions of squares within squares that merge painting with fragtained object. In a similar vein, color becomes a concrete entity in Aluíments of objects from everyday life. sio Carvão’s Cubocor (1960; plate 209), made of oil and pigment applied to a block of cement. And, after a long process that begins with Hélio Oiticica’s two-dimensional Metaesquemas (1957–58; plate 207), it takes on a body in his Relevos espaçiais (Spatial Reliefs; plate 226), Bólides (plate BEYOND WHAT IS CONCRETE 110), and Parangolés.14 It was through such strategies that artists in Rio de Insofar as these artists were unable to ignore the new subject of the Janeiro (though not in São Paulo, where the parameters of concrete art postwar era, their proposals were invariably infused with subjectivity. were set more rigorously) sought an antagonist stance against “advancThis tense contradiction had a deep impact on the theory and practice es in physics and mechanics that widened the horizons of objective of the avant-garde groups under consideration. The most radical manthought and led those responsible for deepening the artistic revoluifestation of the trend appeared in Brazil, where the almost overnight tion to an ever increasing rationalization of the process and purposes shift from a referential, figurative discourse to a self-referential, nonobof painting.”15 In this way they came to restore the vital dimension—i.e., the subjective, expressive, and phenomenological dimension—that had jective plastic one went hand in hand with the articulation of a kind of been dismissed, according to the Neoconcrete Manifesto, by the “conseparticipative viewer—the subject of the emerging social order. Whether cration of the objectivity of science and the precision of mechanics.” grounded in a Marxist model of production—as in early Constructive art The exaltation of concreteness certainly pushed these proposals beyond trends and later in Concretismo—or supported by the type of existential the “dangerous rationalist extreme,” opening the way for a radically new humanism (tempered with a dose of phénoménologie de la perception and artistic subjectivity.16 Gestalttheorie) shown later by Neoconcretismo, both tendencies ultimately sought the projection of subjectivity, first through the values of pure


5. Concrete Visions

Some parts of this text first appeared in “The Necessity of Concreteness: An Abstract Art That Is Not an Abstraction,” my keynote address at the symposium Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965, Haus der Kunst, Munich, May 21–24, 2014. 1 On these transformations see Nicolau Sevcenko, “Brazilian Concretismo: Introductory Remarks on Postwar History and Culture,” in Héctor Olea and Mari Carmen Ramírez, eds., Building on a Construct: The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2009), pp. 13–14. 2 Important in this regard is the fact that many of the concrete artists in Latin America were émigrés from Central or Eastern Europe, which helped them to operate transnationally. Gyula Kosice, for example, came to Argentina from what is today Slovakia; Mathias Goeritz, to Mexico from Germany (present-day Poland); Waldemar Cordeiro, to Brazil from Italy; Gego, to Venezuela from Germany; Sandú Darié, to Cuba from Romania. 3 The Brazilian critic Mário Pedrosa wrote, “Through the fate of our formation, we [Brazilians] are condemned to modernity.” “Brasília, a Cidade Nova,” a paper presented at the 1959 AICA Congress “Brasília—Síntese das Artes,” in Acadêmicos e Modernos, ed. Otília Arantes (São Paulo: EDUSP, 1998), 3:412–13. 4 The Cuban Concretos came together in 1959 at the Diez pintores concretos (Ten concrete painters) exhibition, Galería de Arte Color-Luz, Havana. They included Darié, Luis Martínez Pedro, and Loló de Soldevilla, the group’s leader. 5 Sevcenko, “Brazilian Concretismo,” p. 13. 6 See Alexander Wollner, “Art and Design: Discovery and Attitude,” in Olea and Ramírez, eds., Building on a Construct, pp. 83–99. 7 On Max Bill’s arrival on the Brazilian and Argentinean scenes and his reception there see María Amalia García, “Max Bill on the Map of Argentine-Brazilian Concrete Art,” in ibid., pp. 53–68, and El arte abstracto. Intercambios culturales entre Argentina y Brasil (Mexico City: Siglo XXI Editores, 2011). 8 Olea, “Versions, Inversions, Subversions: The Artist as Theoretician,” in Ramírez and Olea, Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America, exh. cat. (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), pp. 443–52. See also the ninety-two documents on Latin American theoretical premises translated into English in the same book, pp. 453–39. 9 Max Bense, epigraph to the Portuguese edition of Kleine Aesthetik (São Paulo: Editora Perspectiva, 1978). 10 See Sean Nesselrode, “Art for Partisan Life: Nonobjectivity Translated to Buenos Aires, 1944–48,” ICAA Documents Project Working Papers, No. 3, November 2013, pp. 3–13. Available online at ICAA%20Working%20Papers3.rd4.pdf (accessed July 2016). 11 Many South American avant-garde manifestations feature what I have identified elsewhere as a “constructive will.” These include the vital structures of Joaquin Torres-García, exemplified by his toys and wood constructions of the 1920s and ’30s; the cutout frame and flexible sculptures proposed by the Buenos Aires–based Grupo Madí in the mid-1940s; and, finally, the most radical works of Neoconcrete artists Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica. See my “Vital Structures: The Constructive Nexus in South America,” in Ramírez and Olea, Inverted Utopias, pp. 191–201. 12 On color as a polemical and divisive element of the Brazilian constructive art of the 1950s see Ramírez, “Between corpus solidum and quase-corpus: Color in Concretismo and Neoconcretismo,” in Ramírez and Olea, Building on a Construct, pp. 271–91. 13 The Concretismo movement in Brazil was led by the São Paulo–based Grupo ruptura, founded in 1952 by Cordeiro, Geraldo de Barros, Lothar Charoux, and Luís Sacilotto. Following the theoretical principles elaborated by Van Doesburg in 1930 and further developed by Bill, the Concretos promoted objectivity and mathematical and geometrical logic as the determinants of the final aesthetic form. Neoconcretismo came together in March 1959, when the “Manifesto neoconcreto” was published in Jornal do Brasil. It was signed by a group of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo artists that included Clark, Oiticica, Amílcar de Castro, Aluísio Carvão, and Willys de Castro. The group focused on the reincorporation of subjectivity and the experience of both real time and space in the experience of the viewer-as-participant. As Olea has argued, the term “Neoconcreto” is a misnomer that does not capture the true objectives of the group, which was trying to abandon Concretismo altogether. See Olea, “Waldemar Cordeiro: From Visible Ideas to the Invisible Work,” in Olea and Ramírez, eds., Building on a Construct, p. 136. 14 See Ramírez, “The Embodiment of Color: From the Inside Out,” in Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color, exh. cat. (Houston: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2007), pp. 64–68. 15 Ferreira Gullar, Clark, Lygia Pape, et al., “Neoconcrete Manifesto,” Eng. trans. in Olea, “Versions, Inversions, Subversions,” document 50, pp. 496–97. 16 Ibid.

Mari Carmen Ramírez



Carl Andre Rasheed Araeen Wifredo Arcay Max Bill Anthony Caro Aluísio Carvão Enrico Castellani Saloua Raouda Choucair Lygia Clark

Waldemar Cordeiro Sandú Darié Pedro de Oraá Erhabor Emokpae Gego (Gertrud Louise Goldschmidt) Mathias Goeritz Hans Haacke Carmen Herrera

Ellsworth Kelly Julije Knifer Gyula Kosice Tomás Maldonado Robert Morris Sadamasa Motonaga Albert Newall Hélio Oiticica Lygia Pape

Ivan Picelj Carol Rama Ad Reinhardt Dieter Roth Rhod Rothfuss Anwar Jalal Shemza Loló Soldevilla Aleksandar Srnec Tanaka Atsuko

Gego (Gertrud Louise Goldschmidt) Vibración en negro (Vibration in Black) 1957 aluminum painted black The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


193 Max Bill 22 1953/1980 marmor Kunstmuseum Winterthur



Carmen Herrera Iberia No. 25 1948 acrylic on burlap Lisson Gallery

195 Gyula Kosice Variation in Blue 1945 oil on canvas Gyula Kosice, Buenos Aires


Anthony Caro Capital 1960 steel, painted orange Barford Sculptures Ltd., London



Tomás Maldonado Trayectoria de una anécdota (Trajectory of an Anecdote) 1949 oil on canvas The Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection, Miami


Rhod Rothfuss Composición Madí (Madí Composition) 1946 enamel on wood The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston



Carol Rama Tovaglia (Table Cloth) 1951 tablecloth, Plexiglas Archivio Carol Rama, Turin


Lygia Clark Contra Relevo (Counter Relief) 1959 industrial paint on wood Private Collection, São Paulo



Lygia Clark Casulo (Cocoon) 1959 automotive paint on metal Private Collection, Rio de Janeiro


Lygia Clark Planos em superfície modulada no. 1 (Planes on a Modulated Surface No. 1) 1957 Industrial paint on wood The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston



Lygia Clark Bicho Caranguejo Duplo (Critter Double Crab) 1960 (replica) aluminum The Associação Cultural O Mundo de Lygia Clark, Rio de Janeiro



Lygia Clark

Lygia Clark

Bicho Sem Nome (Untitled Critter) 1960 (replica) aluminium The Associação Cultural O Mundo de Lygia Clark, Rio de Janeiro

Bicho em si (Critter in Itself) 1960 (replica) aluminium The Associação Cultural O Mundo de Lygia Clark, Rio de Janeiro



Anwar Jalal Shemza Meem 1964 oil on canvas Butcher Family Collection


Hélio Oiticica Metaesquema 1955 gouache on paper Private Collection, São Paulo


Ad Reinhardt Untitled (Composition #104) 1954-60 oil on canvas Brooklyn Museum, New York




Aluísio Carvão

Robert Morris

Cubocor (Color Cube) 1960 pigment and oil on cement Private Collection, Rio de Janeiro

Box with the Sound of its Own Making (exhibition copy) 1961 wood, internal speaker Original work: Seattle Art Museum



Hans Haacke Condensation Cube (exhibition copy) 1965/2006 Plexiglas, water MACBA. Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona

212 Carl Andre Timber Piece (Well) 1964/70 wooden railway sleepers (28 pieces) Museum Ludwig, Cologne



Ellsworth Kelly Red Yellow Blue White 1952 dyed cotton Philadelphia Museum of Art



Ellsworth Kelly Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance V 1951 collage on paper Private Collection


Ellsworth Kelly Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance VIII 1951 collage Private Collection



Sandú Darié Sin título (Untitled) c.1950 collage, pencil, ink, and watercolor on four paper panels on cardboard Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London


Waldemar Cordeiro Movimento (Movement) 1951 tempera on canvas Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo


Sandú Darié Sin Título (Estructura Transformable) (Untitled [Transformable Structure]) c. 1950s oil on wood elements, dimensions variable approximately Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London



Loló Soldevilla Sin título (Untitled) c.1960 mixed media on wood in artist's frame Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London


Loló Soldevilla Sin título (Untitled) 1954 bronze and wood Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London


Julije Knifer Meander in the Corner 1961 oil on canvas Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb


222 Ivan Picelj Composition XL-1 1952–56 oil on canvas Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb

Aleksandar Srnec Construction 53 1953 brass wire Marinko Sudac Collection, Zagreb


224 Enrico Castellani Superficie angolare nera (Black Corner Surface) 1961 acrylic on shaped canvas Fondazione Prada, Milan

Enrico Castellani Superficie angolare bianca (White Corner Surface) 1961 acrylic on canvas with reliefs and hollows HEART Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Herning


226 Hélio Oiticica Relevos espacial 1960 painting on cut-out wood The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


Rasheed Araeen My First Sculpture 1959 (1975) steel Aicon Gallery, New York



Rasheed Araeen Burning Bicycle Tyres 1959 (1975) 9 photographic prints on paper Aicon Gallery, New York


Mathias Goeritz The Serpent 1953 painted wood Reconstruction authorized by Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura, Mexico City




Pedro de Oraá Sin título (Untitled) 1959 acrylic on canvas mounted on cardboard Private Collection, Coconut Grove


Albert Newall Composition No. 3 1957 oil on board Private Collection



Wifredo Arcay Proposition III 1962 relief painting on wood The Mayor Gallery, London

233 Albert Newall Helmet Head 1956 oil on board Private Collection



Saloua Raouda Choucair The Poem 1960 wood Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah Museums Department

Saloua Raouda Choucair Poem 1963-65 wood Collection of the Artist



Tanaka Atsuko Work (Yellow Cloth) 1955 commercially dyed cotton Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York


Sadamasa Motonaga Work (Water) 1956 installation Motonaga Archive Research Institution Ltd




Dieter Roth Bilderbuch (Picture Book) 1957 (1976) artist book, spiral-bound, 14 pages Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne


Dieter Roth Bilderbuch (Picture Book) 1955 (1962) artist book, spiral-bound, 14 pages Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne


Lygia Pape Livro da Arquitetura (exhibition copy) 1959–60 tempera on cardboard Projeto Lygia Pape, Rio de Janeiro



241 Erhabor Emokpae Struggle Between Life and Death 1963 oil on board Private Collection


Section Introduction Zainab Bahrani Catherine Grenier Courtney Martin Tobias Wofford Damian Lentini Plates




art of modernity’s allure has been cosmopolitanism, read as sophistication, worldliness, and openness, the commingling of cultures, ideas, and populations. But the loss of place for artists migrating from one culture or national frontier to another casts a deep shadow on this romantic ideal. Following the massive upheavals resulting from World War II, the terms of cosmopolitanism shifted radically. Massive populations—refugees, stateless people, and diasporas—were moving between continents, countries, and cities, forming dispersed lines of displacement, migration, exile, affinities, and settlements. “New hybridities,” as some scholars have put it, emerged when citizens of colonies and former colonies studied in the West, whether formally or informally, or when refugees fleeing oppression left their homelands to find safe places elsewhere. Postwar artists combined international-style abstraction with indigenous, traditional, or local imagery, creating new aesthetics. Particularly widespread was a kind of gestural mark-making that was as much iconic as it was indexical. That mark-making invoked identity and levels of meaning through allusion to language and legibility, challenging the universality of the modern. Artists from the Middle East and South Asia explored the Arabic letter; Japanese artists looked to traditional calligraphy. Conversely, Western artists adopted these practices and forms as well. The cosmopolitan was not always or only oriented toward the West: magazines such as Black Orpheus reveal a pronounced pan-African and pan-Arabic field of reference, and routes of travel included the destinations of Mexico and China, Nigeria and Senegal, as well as Paris, New York, and London.




6. Cosmopolitan Modernisms


odernism,” the aesthetic of mooutside a story that the West tells itself about its own uniqueness. dernity, is the main term used to Most accounts of modernist art involve a similar narrative that defines describe what have come to be conit as a purely Western development including a rejection of an earlier, sidered the most creative and most representational aesthetic regime. Even if this pure modernism looked advanced arts of the twentieth cento objects from other cultures, such as African masks, that move is tury. As the word is mostly underseen as a Western discovery of aesthetic value in those objects since stood, whether in academic or in art itself is described as a Western phenomenon, unknown to the rest popular thinking, modernism is a of the world. Art historians have pointed out that these accounts have group of styles or systems of art that, by being avant-garde, make a fundaoccluded certain movements even within the corpus of twentiethmental break with the past and in some way anticipate the future. Often century Western art, for example feminist art. obscured in thinking about these definitions, though, is to what extent Modernism depends upon a historical logic that follows a single line wmodern” is a comparative historical term. “Modernism” too is clearly a or direction over time. According to the rules of this internal logic, both historical marker, in that it has been understood as the aesthetic manifesmodernity and the modernist paradigm in art must be exclusionary. In tation of the Western turn toward recent years this notional framemodernity, a phase in the historwork, which is certainly not limical narrative of the path toward ited to art, has been increasingly (so-called) advanced civilization.1 questioned. Some of these myths In these terms the modernist art have been revived in current movement of the Iraq of 1940–60 writings on the Middle East, Afrimay be seen as something of a ca, and Asia; today, the question contradiction: by definition a sysof why the West was able to modtem of Western art, modernism ernize while these other places is not considered an authentic could not or cannot appears inMiddle Eastern aesthetic, just creasingly in both popular and as historical writing conceives academic discourse. 4 But the teleological idea of a characterisof modernity itself as a Western 2 tically Western evolution toward category. But this triumphalist discourse of modernism is unmodernity has also been conconvincing, even if some of the tested, in critiques that describe earliest modernist artists in the the Western story of modernity, Fig. 1. Group portrait of the Ruwad (Pioneers) Group. Middle East also came to believe and of the historical phases that in that story of progress. led up to it, as a narrative frame 5 Before discussing those artists, we must remember that the methimposed on the wider world. Such conceptual frameworks may become normalized, however, to the point that they seem almost scientific od of global cultural comparison is basically a historian’s technique facts. Take the calculation of time, where the Gregorian calendar—the and is especially associated with the European historical writing of Christian calendar—has become universalized as a secular, scientific, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, where the questions of inter“neutral” time. The calculation of time is of course directly related to the est were those of the origins of capitalism and of the Industrial Revoframe of historical and art-historical periodization. If time can be calculution in Europe. In the realm of visual art, the claims of modernism lated in terms different from but as accurate as the Gregorian calendar, can perhaps be made only in a teleological history in which realistic or and if its correct calculation cannot be claimed by one culture (since it accurate representation must be seen as a precursor, in the same way was almost everywhere reckoned according to natural occurrences— that, for many economic historians, feudalism must be a precursor of the seasons, the movements of the sun and the moon, and so on), this is capitalism. Is it possible that the idea of modernity needed this teleoalso the case with art.6 logical history in order to cast the abrupt rupture we call modernism as The comparison of secular time to the art-historical notion of the art? Did modernist art need its opposite, its colonial other, its heart of 3 autonomy of modernist art may seem a stretch, but the two are not so darkness? It is clear that modernity, seen as a historical phase, has meandifferent: both require an almost mystical leap in which a local view is ings that are fundamentally political. The notion of modernity is a part seen as universally correct. Both also understand activities common to of a teleological history whose internal logic centers Western Europe all human beings as unique to the West, and both take ideas inextricaas its own pinnacle; modernity is therefore impossible to understand bly linked to politics and religion as part of a secular and autonomous

Zainab Bahrani


Fig. 2. Jewad Selim. Monument of Freedom. 1960–61. Bronze relief mural, Courtesy Dr. Nada Shabout


6. Cosmopolitan Modernisms

realm, untethered to any cultural and political context. For Jacques Rancière, politics revolves around the question of who has the ability to see and speak about a situation, what may be said or what may not be said, “the visible and the sayable”; this is the realm of both political representation and aesthetic practice.7

ANTICOLONIAL / POSTCOLONIAL ART IN IRAQ 1940–60 Iraq is commonly represented today as a land with no secular, modern, or contemporary intellectual traditions. Yet a public exhibition of modernist Iraqi art opened in Baghdad on November 14, 1941. A group of artists called Jami’yat asdiqa al fan (Friends of Art) had organized this

During these years leading to and following the 1958 revolution that overthrew the monarchy (which had been established under the British Mandate in 1921), Iraqi artists were not seeking to imitate the West, as some earlier Arab modernists had done elsewhere.9 This was a time of optimistic belief in the future of a secular state. Among the artists of the Ruwad and Baghdad groups, Selim had the greatest influence on the country’s modernist art and indeed, beyond that, its anticolonial political modernity. His Tahrir Monument, or Monument of Freedom (fig. 2), erected in Baghdad after the revolution, became the principal symbol around which a new national identity was formed. Like most public art, it was commissioned by the state, which, however, never lived up to the artists’ dreams of freedom for the people. In looking for new forms to represent new men and women—new citizens of the new postcolonial state—Selim turned to Near Eastern antiquity. He called this turn “istilham al turath,” a return to the past

Fig. 3. Khalid Al Rahal. Women in the Hammam. 1947. Relief sculpture

exhibit soon after the failed 1941 revolt against British rule, and two more exhibits followed in 1943 and 1946. In 1950, during the continuing struggle to end the British occupation of the country, some of the artists who had exhibited in that show formed a new group called Ruwad (Pioneers), which expanded on the earlier group and included many of its members (fig. 1). These artists saw saw themselves as participating in a cosmopolitan art world. A second group, Jama’at Baghdad lil Fan al-Hadith (the Baghdad Group for Modern Art), was formed soon after, in 1951. Led by Jewad Selim, the Baghdad group went farther in seeking to express a liberating sensibility for the new nation, now freed of both British colonial and Ottoman imperial rule. Selim sought an art form that was modern yet based on local heritage. The Baghdad group artists experimented with ancient Mesopotamian and other traditional artistic genres and styles, combining them with influences from Western Europe and North America, where many of them had studied. 8

in order to find the present.10 The Tahrir Monument, a massive continuous bronze relief on a white travertine background, thus refers to Assyro-Babylonian monumental art and cylinder seals.11 Linear in composition, the monument reads from right to left, like a visual version of Arabic text that at the same time refers to the Mesopotamian past. Selim and the other artists in the Ruwad and Baghdad groups consciously set out to formulate an art that would be a political intervention both within and beyond Iraq. They underscored a secular national identity that they sought to define by formulating an artistic idiom in itself revolutionary. They did so in conversation with, not in isolation from, the modernism that they had encountered in the West; yet the influence of the past—then emerging in excavations across the land and entering the archaeological museum in Baghdad, where several of them spent long periods working and studying—is resoundingly clear. Khalid al Rahal, for example, often took the people of Iraq as

Zainab Bahrani


subject matter, but his early works echo the forms of Mesopotamian art. His 1947 relief Women in the Hammam (lost or destroyed in the 2003 war), representing women in the public baths, shows the emphatic sinuous lines and solid bodies of an Assyrian relief (fig. 3). These experiments of the 1950s and ’60s were vital in the development of modern art not just in Iraq but across the entire Arab world. Given the country’s history of occupation, the artists of the Ruwad and Baghdad groups wanted an art designed for the new postcolonial state, but their nationalism was not based on religious, ethnic, or sectarian identities. It was idealist in its revolutionary vision of art’s role in the nation, in the same way that the postcolonial state of that moment was idealist. The artists came from various backgrounds and did not privilege the religious and ethnic categories that are today such a focal point. They also included among their number women artists such as Selim’s younger sister, Naziha Selim (who had studied art in Paris), and Madiha Omar, whose foregrounding of the Arabic letter would have a major influence on Arab art. After 1968, the Pan-Arabist movement took over much of the artists’ rhetoric, a departure both in ideals and in ideology. At the same time that the artists of the 1940s through the 1960s consciously looked for inspiration in what they saw as their heritage, they acknowledged influence from Western Europe, where several had studied, and thought of their work as experimental, as modern, as participating in modernism, and as an art for the new nation state. Is this art then simply a colonial hybrid that mixes East and West, traditional Islamic decorative arts and modern art? Are we bound to define it in the oppositional terms of the usual operative duality of modernity? If modernism is a clear and even a primary category for describing the most experimental works of art in the first part of the twentieth century, what are its criteria? Some would list abstraction, the breaking up of pictorial space, the turning away from figurative art, but of course Western European artists did not invent these modes of expression. In Islamic art, for example, these criteria would be quite suitable for describing what falls under the traditional. This is why the artists of Ruwad and the Baghdad group did not see themselves as imitating Western modernism. Rather, having been exposed to it, they looked to their own past and found it to be a familiar aesthetic. In Selim’s words, they saw modernism as an “explosive continuation of the past.” 12 If Western modern art is thought of as emancipating art from representation, in the Middle Eastern context representational art never achieved the prominence, or the exclusive equation with fine art, that it once had in the West. The understanding of modernism as a break with mimetic representation runs into a kind of contradictory limit here, since abstraction and nonmimetic art forms are conventional and even conservative aspects of high art in the Islamic tradition. There, the characteristics of modernism that diverge from representation merge with older modes of artistic production. The characteristics of an epistemic shift dissolve. If modernist art is seen as an exclusionary Western category of autonomous art, art that occurs elsewhere can only be considered a pale imitation. Yet this kind of


non-Euro-American modernism is even contradictory in the sense that it undermines the category of modernism itself. The museum of modern art in Baghdad was largely destroyed in the war of March and April of 2003, its collections looted and sold. The modernist and postcolonial tradition created by mid-twentiethcentury Iraqi artists has been erased from the archives of the country’s past. Iraq’s modernism is now a faint and distant dream, like the independent state that the artists had imagined was the future.

6. Cosmopolitan Modernisms

1  On the historiographic assessment of modernism as an exclusionary category see my essay “Modernism and Iraq,” in Zainab Bahrani and Nada Shabout, eds., Modernism and Iraq (New York: Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, 2007), pp. 11–22. 2  On the place of modernity and the politics of time in historical writing see Jack Goody, The Theft of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). 3  See Olu Oguibe, “In the Heart of Darkness,” Third Text 23 (Summer 1993): 3–8. 4  For the Middle East, this viewpoint is exemplified in the work of Bernard Lewis; see, for example, his What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (London: Orion House, 2002). The recent popular diagnosis of radical Islam as a response to a modernity that it cannot tolerate may be seen as falling into this tradition. 5  See, e.g., Jerry Brotton, The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); J. M. Blaut, The Colonizer’s Model of the World: Geographical Diffusionism and Eurocentric History (New York: The Guildford Press, 1993); Andre Gunder Frank, ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998); John M. Hobson, The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); and Deborah Howard, Venice and the East (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000). 6  See my Infinite Image: Art, Time and the Aesthetic Dimension in Antiquity (London: Reaktion, 2014). 7  Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics (London and New York: Continuum Press, 2006), p. 13. 8  See Shabout, Modern Arab Art: Formation of Arab Aesthetics (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007). 9  Shabout describes a different and conflicted emergence of modernism in Egypt, for example. See ibid., chapter 1. 10 See ibid., p. 28. 11 It is interesting to note that in 2004, after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Coalition Provisional Authority and Interim Iraqi Government members discussing pulling the Tahrir Monument down, following a widespread policy, both official and unofficial, of removing public art. 12 Quoted in Bahrani and Shabout, eds., Modernism and Iraq, p. 27.

Zainab Bahrani



6. Cosmopolitan Modernisms


or several years now there has been a growing from a “politically correct” aura, or would prompt fears of a neo-imperiawareness of the necessity to renew the conalist, globalizing intent. ventional discourse on modern art. Under the The task I undertook with the Modernités plurielles (Plural momentum of cultural studies and the political modernities) collection at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, attempted revision of twentieth-century history, art histoto provide a few answers to these questions. This completely rians have opened up new axes of research that new presentation of the museum’s collection, on view from October upset the established discourse on artistic mod2013 to March 2014, was the result of three years of research carernism. By opening the door to new artists and ried out by a large team of curators and young academics.1 Echoing initiatives by universities and international museums, and unprecnew criteria of inclusion, art history has been drawn into an essential edented in scale for the Centre Pompidou, it laid the foundation of change. The unified, linear, progressive narrative established after a historical revision. Based on a critical reconsideration of twentiWorld War II is in crisis. It must be updated and reestablished on new eth-century art history, it was the first milestone in a debate on the grounds. We are committed to this path by the critical reconsiderainterpretation and public presentation of this rich period of modern art. tion of Western modernity and the context of globalization, especially The preparation of the project since societies are now experiencing raised questions for which we were not the reemergence of communitarianreally prepared. In a museum, the question isms and nationalisms. of updating art history has both practical The challenging of dominant disand political meanings. What to show, how courses and established hierarchies, to show it, and in what direction should and acceptance of the inadequacy of the collection develop? These three questhe existing diagram in considering the tions are fundamental, and their answers international history of art, are urgent affect the future of the museum as an indictates for both academics and curastitution. Yet they are little discussed, and tors. Faced with the question of writmuseums of modern art have only rarely ing art history and catering to a wide, been substantially transformed since the diversified public, the museum has a development of the “Alfred Barr model” central position and a particular role. In (fig. 1), the chronological and phylogenetits educational mission, and in its presic model (an art history of “movements”) entation of its collections as an art hisdeveloped by Barr at The Museum of tory concretized in actual artworks, the Modern Art in New York, of which he was museum bears intellectual and political the founding director in 1929, and wideresponsibility for the story that it tells. ly adopted by Western museums since, Internationally most curators undersuperseding the historical and geographstand this, and recent meetings of the ical “Louvre model.” The creation of a International Committee for Museums museum protocol adequately addressand Collections of Modern Art have year ing the demands generated by the evoluby year become more geographically dition of models of thought is a challenge, versified. But if the museum’s position is Fig. 1. Alfred H. Barr, Jr.'s chart illustrating the development of modern art, 1936 and probably even the principal chalcrucial, it is also complex and uncomlenge, facing the museum of tomorrow. fortable: complex because most muse Inspired by the philosophy of the Enlightenment, the museums have neither the collections nor the research staff that would enable um was from the outset a place dedicated to knowledge, founded on them to undertake a presentation of a new, global, plural art history; and a universalist conception of culture and intended to participate in the uncomfortable because, when a museum does have the required works, individual’s emancipation and growth. As an interface between creation this rewriting would involve a change in habits that could shock, not the and the world, the museum is a depository of artistic riches, but it also general public (my experience in several “nonconformist” presentations proposes a “reasoned” history of art for the public’s pleasure and edificahas taught me that the public is much more open-minded than the suption. As a place of the interpretation and construction of meaning, and posedly informed assume), but the museum’s own staff and habitués. a bridge between the past, the present, and the future, the museum Misunderstandings can also create resistances and protests against a replays a key role in the social arena. This role has only become more writing of art history that would see the great masters of the traditional important in the present period of uncertainty and change, when the narrative of modernity effaced or obliterated by newcomers benefiting

Catherine Grenier


need to understand—to understand art, history, the world—prevails over the mere quest for aesthetic pleasure. The museum occupies an influential public dimension, and it would be naive to underestimate its role as a political organ. In a world in which knowledge is both growing and transforming its own nature, the independence of the museum in relation to conservative traditions and official discourses, and its capacity to evolve and to question itself, should be guarantors of its integrity and of its satisfactory execution of its mission. The art history deployed in the museum may seem objective but is in fact

Fig. 2. Installation view of The Other Story at the Hayward Gallery, London, c. 1989. Courtesy Rasheed Araeen

an intellectual construction, a narrative that the institution legitimizes. A chronological presentation provides no more guarantee of objectivity than an interpretative narrative, because it is the product of a system of inclusion and exclusion based on criteria subject to contestation. A history of artistic revaluations has shown us that these criteria are far from universal and immutable. Thus when the historical presentation of artworks is the chosen model, it must receive a revaluation of its pertinence. The usual narrative of the art history of the first half of the twentieth century has until now been based on a certain conception of modernity rather than on a genuinely historical presentation of the sequence considered. The works (or artists) designated as modern are not those belonging to the modern period but those subscribing to certain values of artistic modernity. The “big picture” of art history, as it has been dispensed until now by museums, is thus based on a typology of movements, classified according to progressive criteria and articulated in a genealogy. The artists highlighted are those whose work corresponds to established canons, and who have a role in the collective history through their implication in these modernist movements. This oversimplified, teleological, and self-referential conception developed and crystallized during the period of recostruction following the two world wars. The retrospective organization of the history of modern art was both the product of a crisis of Western modernity and the expression of a will to surpass that crisis by strengt-


hening progressive values. In the name of artistic radicality and following the concept of classification, it underestimated or left to one side many individual and collective expressions regarded as hybrid or local, late or antimodern. In today’s very different historical and political context, the values and ideologies that have sustained this model are in question. Research by historians and in the social sciences has raised our awareness of the political dimension of art history and of its close correlation with the writing of history. Thus the canonical history presented in museums appears partial and obsolete; it takes into account neither the plurality of modernities produced in different parts of the world nor even the diversity and wealth of Western modernity, which has been progressively subjected to processes of simplification and exclusion. This model must be reformed to allow the introduction of a complexity and diversity that will enrich our understanding of the modern period. The museum must develop no longer one but several narratives capable of restoring the plurality of modernities. This task was doubly important for a French museum capable of reviving the memory of an exceptional period. Between 1900 and 1940, hundreds of artists flocked to Paris from all over the world to constitute the most cosmopolitan art scene of all time. Yet the richness and diversity of this population and its artistic expression have been considerably diminished in the narrative of the foundation of modernity. Recent revaluations of female artists, and even of some artists whose aesthetic was defined by one of the modernist movements, have not sufficed to reestablish the multifariousness of what has been inappropriately termed the “School of Paris.” Thus various “expressionisms,” notably those of many artists from Central Europe, and various “realisms” that the all-encompassing embrace of the “return to order” consigned to the category of “antimodern,” were marginalized by the history of modernism. A less ideological and more historical approach, and a challenging of overexclusive discriminatory criteria, are now changing the picture. One consequence of this new open-mindedness has been the revaluation of American, Latin American, Asian, African, and Middle Eastern artists, many of whom were recognized in their time but then ignored. On a worldwide scale, the hindsight with which we can regard the now historical period of the twentieth century allows us to view it through a more multifaceted prism informed by research in different fields of knowledge. Postcolonial studies have undertaken a critique of the West-centered history of art, prompting a new appreciation of the art forms practiced in non-Western countries and in zones hitherto considered “peripheral.” “Cultural studies” and “visual studies” have also played their part in upsetting hierarchies and taking a different view of underestimated or neglected areas such as women’s art, forms of art linked to minorities, and marginal or local aesthetics. Reintegration into the world as a whole tends to challenge the Western modes of classifying and understanding art. Discriminative criteria—“modern,” “antimodern,” “pioneering,” “late,” “major,” “minor”—lose their legitimacy. A new dynamic has been established that has ended the scorn for the art of “non-

6. Cosmopolitan Modernisms

developed” and “provincial” cultural zones. The study of influences has been superseded by the study of exchanges, transfers, and resistances. Complexity is being reintroduced and highlighted. The hybrid and heterogeneous have regained their positive dimension. Historical determinism is being put into perspective and chronological frameworks are becoming more supple. The frontiers between “work of art” and “handicraft” and “tribal art” are falling into question. Even the most established terminology—“modernity,” “avant-garde,” “contemporary art”—now reveals ambiguities and incoherencies. The museum must follow historical and critical studies closely. To become a place of both expression and synthesis for the research and revaluation processes undertaken in the field of modern and contemporary art history, it must change paradigm and engage in a “historial” hermeneutic of art and art history. As Hans-Georg Gadamer advocated, one gains a fuller understanding of oneself by reflecting on the other (the past, otherness), without denying one’s own identity.2 When the American critic and curator Lucy R. Lippard declared, in 1980, that “feminism’s greatest contribution to the future of art has probably been precisely its lack of contribution to modernism,” she was opening the way for a reconsideration of the values of modernism far exceeding women’s art.3 When the Pakistani-born British artist Rasheed Araeen proposed “The Other Story,” that of “those men and women who defied their ‘otherness’ and entered the modern space that was forbidden to them,” he was stressing the questioning of the framework of modernism that the artists concerned were aiming to both penetrate and transform. He added: “Would it be possible to inscribe this story within the master narrative of modern art history?”4 The first response by museums to the challenge to the linear diagram of modern art history was exhibitions focusing on territories to be rediscovered, followed by a thematic presentation of their collections.5 “Plural Modernities” broadened the principle of a re-presentation of the museum’s collection to a no-longer-thematic but general and historical reconsideration of art history. Our project was to offer the public a new, open-ended, off-center vision of twentieth-century art. But this vision had absolutely no pretention to becoming canonical. The evolution of research and critical and historical thought is posing questions that are far from being resolved, and whose interest lies more in their mode of raising questions than in the production of new assertions. The critical deconstruction of the established history now underway must be followed by reorganization and proposals of new basic premises. “Plural Modernities”—like the present, the very ambitious project, Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945–1965 which provides an unprecedented panorama of the postwar period—have, I hope, been major steps toward the reimagining of a cosmopolitan and cross-border cultural community, a community that will benefit from a revitalized view of the diversity and interactivity of modern art.

1 After March 2014, the installation remained open in a modified version until May 2015. 2 See Hans Georg Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode, 1960, Eng. trans. as Truth and Method (London: Sheed and Ward, 1969). 3 Lucy R. Lippard, “Sweeping Exchanges: the Contribution of Feminism to the Art of the 1970s,” Art Journal 40, nos. 1–2 (1980): 362–65. 4 Rasheed Araeen, “Introduction: When Chickens Come Home to Roost,” in The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain, exh. cat. (London: Hayward Gallery, 1989), p. 11. 5 New York’s Museum of Modern Art was the first to do this, in 1999, followed shortly by Tate Modern, London, when it opened in 2000, then by the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in 2013. Some museums, such as Tate Modern and the Museo National Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, even adopted this more-thematic-than-historical mode on a permanent basis. “Plural Modernities” benefited from these examples, as did previous thematic experiments at the Centre Pompidou: Big Bang. Destruction et création dans l’art du XXe siècle, which I curated

Translated from French by David Wharry

in 2005, Mouvement des images in 2006, and [email protected] in 2009. The recent reopening of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, was an ambitious example of a reconsideration of art history taking into account the diversity of the American scene.

Catherine Grenier



6. Chapter Cosmopolitan 2 · Form Modernisms Matters


fter World War II, Britain entered a prolonged period marked equally by its success in the war and the destruction of its major cities during the Blitz. Like its neighbors on the Continent, Britain spent the first few years after the war mourning the loss of life in a publicly gendered manner—in the form both of actual deaths of young men and of the dead’s lost potential to enrich the country as fathers, workers, and citizens—and rebuilding its cities. Unlike its neighbors on the Continent, Britain was undergoing a radical shift from an empire to, perhaps, only an island. Almost immediately after the war, its largest colony, the Indian subcontinent, left its control. In the summer of the following year, the arrival of the ship Empire Windrush from Jamaica brought with it the first wave of migration from the Anglophone Caribbean. Simultaneously, waves of white Britons were emigrating out, through a scheme engineered by the government, to the remaining far reaches of the Commonwealth— Australia, Canada, and New Zealand—for the promise of better lives and to maintain some degree of Englishness there.1 Added to this shift was the Americanization of Britain by way of the consumer goods being imported into the country, providing an escapist imperialism through every film watched, comic book read, and candy bar sold. Postwar London’s art world was a convex mirror of the city’s experience of rebuilding after the destruction of the war. Most of London’s museums had closed in 1939, just before or immediately after Britain entered the war, in September 1939. With their closures, their collections went into storage across the country for safekeeping. During the first part of the war, many artist émigrés, such as Marcel Breuer, Naum Gabo, Piet Mondrian, and others, had sought refuge in Britain—most often, though, fairly briefly, in transit to the United States. British artists had previously looked to Paris as the standard-bearer of modernism, but once the war entered its deep phase, they could no longer travel to the Continent or exchange mail back and forth with it. When the collections returned and the museums reopened, in late 1945 and 1946, most artists had been without daily contact with art for more than five years. One of the first major exhibitions to open after the war was a show of works by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1945, reflecting the aesthetic dormancy of the war period and the expectation that artists, collectors, and patrons would return to Paris once the war was over.2 Almost immediately after the war, however, artists’ focus on Paris began to wane, replaced by an interest in New York that reflected the broader national desire for American popular culture. In the decade following the war, the U.S. government supported major traveling exhibitions of American art, organized by New York’s Museum of Modern Art and filled with the collections of a new patronage class of Americans who almost exclusively acquired abstract painting. Modern Art in the United States: A Selection from the Collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York traveled to the Tate Gallery in January 1956 and was followed a few years later by The New

American Painting in February 1959. If the first show introduced British artists to American painting, the second solidified the sense that the sphere of art had shifted to New York and that to be an artist required at least a visit there to experience this new phenomenon and ideally a permanent relocation there to fully participate in its largesse. In the same manner that men of working age and young families were solicited with opportunities in the Commonwealth, British artists went to the United States in great numbers. The American influence also occasioned a split in style. Artists working nonrepresentationally before the war, such as Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, and Victor Pasmore, attributed their interest in abstraction to their interactions with artists in Paris. After the war abstraction became heavily identified with the United States, and representational painters such as Francis Bacon came to be seen as holdouts against American imperialism’s “intense artistic chauvinism.”3

Fig. 1. Frank Bowling with his painting Mirror (1966), c. 1966. Courtesy Frank Bowling Archive

The presence of artists from the Commonwealth and from the former Empire in Britain had long been a feature of London’s art world. Many artists came as students to attend art school, to obtain certification as art teachers for use in their home countries, or to bring their art to a larger public. This was the case, for example, with Rasheed Araeen, Frank Bowling, Avinash Chandra, Ben Enwonwu, Ibrahim El Salahi, Iqbal Geoffrey, Donald Locke, Althea McNish, David Medalla, Ronald Moody, Anwar Jalal Shemza, Francis Newton Souza, and Aubrey Williams, all of whom came to London between the end of the war and the early 1960s. Most of the Commonwealth artists who came to Britain were male and middle and upper class. A good number of these artists integrated into British life, though not necessarily into its art world, which— in the 1950s and ’60s—was largely defined by a few galleries in Mayfair

Courtney J. Martin


offering modern European and British art to a small number of British abstraction binary and inserting himself into a wider market for abstract patrons. Most British artists got by on teaching or public commissions, painting.7 It seems reasonable to suggest that there was a politicized link between the reception of abstraction in Britain, the strong New York art rather than gallery sales or patronage, but the incoming artists were market, American imperialism, and the limited possibilities for nonrarely hired as permanent staff in art schools or offered public funding. white abstract artists in Britain in the mid-twentieth century. Stuart Hall categorized the wave of artists who came to Britain between For those who stayed in London, Britain’s transition from an empire 1945 and 1970 as creating a “problem space” that challenged the insecure 4 to a consolidated nation bankrupted by World War II constantly interBritish art world and its nationalist art history. Immigrant artists often found themselves in the cultural spaces rupted their practices. The loss of the country’s colonies from 1947 into of their home nations. Opened in Earls Court in 1955, the West Indian the mid-1960s only added to its uphill battle to rebuild its cities in the Students Centre was intended as a social center for West Indian studecades following the Blitz. Araeen, from Karachi, is often linked to othdents (primarily those affiliated with the West Indian Students Union) er artists from the subcontinent who found their way to London after in London. In due course it became a gathering place and event venue the war, such as Chandra, Geoffrey, Shemza, and Souza, and all are often for West Indians in all sectors. As such, it was one of the main meeting folded into the “terminal loss” (of family, country, religion, self, class, stasites for the Caribbean Artists Movement (cam), a cultural and litertus, civility) narrative of the exile. 8 But Araeen was only an acquaintance of these artists, and of the predicament attached to their practices in ary movement primarily composed of Caribbean writers resident in 5 London.9 At some point between Britain. Its founders were Edward Kamau Braithwaite, John leaving Karachi and settling in La Rose, and Andrew Salkey. London, he associated himself Textile artist McNish, sculptor with concerns of race, class, and Moody, and painter Williams imperialism that aligned him were active members. Like filmclosely with Pan-Africanism, maker Horace Ové, Bowling, black (American) nationalism, originally from British Guiana, and the Non-Aligned Movewas friendly with the group, ment, which, in turn, brought but was not a member, though him into regular contact with he is often described withartists who considered themin the discourse of Caribbean selves avant-garde and with the cultural practices in Britain. predominantly African-CaribbeBowling’s relationships centered an antiracist activists who were around artists from the Regent responding to the restrictive polFig. 2. Installation view of The Achievements of Jésus-Rafael Soto 1950-1965: Street Polytechnic and later the icies doled out to African and 15 years of Vibrations. A Retrospective Exhibition at the Signals Gallery, London, 1965. Courtesy England & Co, London Royal College of Art and the Asian immigrants in Britain. 6 Slade School. From his school That Araeen found himself beyears he was considered alongside those figurative painters, such as tween these two groups, who did not have organic connections to each Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, and Leon Kossoff, whom R. B. other, speaks to his cosmopolitan status in London as both an artist and Kitaj would anoint the School of London. Paintings such as Swan I and an activist. Swan II (both 1964; plates 264, 265) show that Bowling’s figuration was In the 1960s, Araeen and Medalla became involved in artists’ heavily guided by a nationally influenced Pop art and mid-century design groups that employed performance, rather than objects, as protest, aesthetic, because British monarchs can claim ownership of all unwhile both became leading practitioners of Conceptual art. Araeen marked and unclaimed mute swans in open water in England and Wales. met Medalla in the fall of 1965 at Jésus-Rafael Soto’s first solo show at After the dominance of American art became accepted, a good the Signals Gallery (fig. 2). 10 The gallery began in 1964 as the Centre for Advanced Creative Study, a collaborative avant-garde space run by number of artists who might have journeyed to Britain for schooling, or Medalla, writer Guy Brett, Paul Keeler, Marcello Salvadori, and Gerto be a part of a larger art community, chose New York instead. Souza, man émigré Gustav Metzger, the author of the Auto-Destructive Art for example, showed with Gallery One in London beginning in 1955, but Manifesto (1960). Signals had a companion publication that, in addiby the 1960s had moved to New York. Similarly, Chandra, whose work tion to reporting on events at the gallery, featured free-form art provacillated between semiabstract and fully nonrepresentational painting jects and writing about international art, a task enhanced by Medalla’s while in London, moved to New York in 1965. By the mid-1960s, Bowling contacts in the United States and his frequent travel to Asia, Europe, too moved to New York, to paint abstractly and to write about art from and South America. a politicized perspective, removing himself from the British figuration/


6. Cosmopolitan Modernisms

Along with the Indica Gallery (active 1965–67), Signals (active 1964–66) incubated an avant-garde arts scene in London. The mix of artists, musicians, actors, and social activists who frequented it turned the gallery into an international social space as much as an exhibition space. The American expatriate and kinetic artist Liliane Lijn, for example, moved from Paris to London at the gallery’s invitation.11 The Greek kinetic artist Takis (Panagiotis Vassilakis), Lijn’s ex-husband and a member of the Guerrilla Art Action Group (gaag), a more radical arm of New York’s Art Workers Coalition, showed in the gallery. Brazilian Neoconcrete artists Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark exhibited important works at Signals before having major exhibitions elsewhere.12 The Brazilian artist Sergio Camargo showed there and worked on the gallery’s bulletin. The Venezuelan artist Alejandro Otero had his first European retrospective at Signals, and the Chinese artist Li Yuan-Chia showed there as well. As a major port for artists seeking refuge from other places, the gallery allowed them to fold into the wave of immigration that swept Britain after the war. Signals was unself-consciously multiracial at a time when most London galleries would not have represented nonwhite and non-European artists. If these artists were misplaced in the rhetoric of exile, how then do we describe the internationalism born of immigration that produced the cosmopolitan atmosphere of London’s art world? Perhaps one way is to acknowledge that in our efforts to move beyond the East/West binary, we often overlook the fact that there was never a singular West. By the same token, why do we assume that the “postwar,” a term that points directly to the period after World War II, was a period of sameness? The London art world at mid-century was in a kind of limbo between its old attachments (Paris) and its new entanglements (New York), not completely divorced from or settled into one or the other. The arrival of new artists from its former empire further destabilized it. If, as historians have already made clear, the postwar period was not economically, intellectually or politically resolved well into the twentieth century, neither was its art history.

1 On postwar British emigration see Kathleen Paul, Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1997). 2 In the exhibition at the Victoria and Albert, Henri Matisse showed paintings completed between 1896 and 1944 while Pablo Picasso showed only works made during the war. 3 This account follows British painter Patrick Heron’s description of American art’s influence on the British in his essay “The Ascendancy of London in the Sixties,” Studio International 172, no. 884 (December 1966): 280–81. Heron later called the presence of American art in Britain “cultural imperialism”: see “A Kind of Cultural Imperialism?,” Studio International 175, no. 897 (February 1968): 62–64. In both essays he adopted language used to describe the U.S. relationship to the “third world,” and specifically Vietnam, to define American art’s hegemonic relationship to British art and artists. 4 Stuart Hall, “Black Diaspora Artists in Britain: Three ‘Moments’ in Post-war History,” History Workshop Journal 61, no. 1 (2006): 1. By the close of the 1980s Rasheed Araeen would gather all of these artists for the exhibition The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-war Britain (London: South Bank Centre, 1989), on view at the Hayward Gallery from November 29, 1989, to February 4, 1990. 5 Frank Bowling’s participation in cam is cited in, e.g., a letter from Edward Braithwaite to Colin Rickards, February 6, 1967. George Padmore Institute, London. 6 Bowling was in residence at the Regent Street Polytechnic in 1957–59, before that art school merged with Chelsea Polytechnic in 1964 to form the Chelsea School of Art. 7 On Bowling’s activities in New York see Kellie Jones, “It’s Not Enough to Say ‘Black is Beautiful’: Abstraction at the Whitney 1969–1974,” in Kobena Mercer, ed., Discrepant Abstraction (London: Institute of International Visual Arts, and Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2006), and Courtney J. Martin, “They’ve All Got Painting: Frank Bowling’s Modernity and the Post-1960 Atlantic,” Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic, exh. cat. (Liverpool: Tate Liverpool, 2010), pp. 48–57. 8 Edward Said, “Reflections on Exile,” in Reflections on Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000), p. 173. 9 “Acquaintance” is a fair word to describe Araeen’s personal and professional relationships with each of these artists. Unlike him, the others came to London unquestionably acknowledged as artists or art students. 10 The Achievements of Jésus-Rafael Soto 1950–1965: 15 Years of Vibrations. A Retrospective Exhibition was organized by Paul Keeler for the Signals Gallery, London, October 28–December 24, 1965. 11 Liliane Lijn, National Life Story Archive (F7815–F7825), British Library. 12 See Guy Brett and Luciano Figueiredo, Oiticica in London, exh. cat. (London: Tate, 2007).

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6. Cosmopolitan Modernisms


osmopolitanism often invokes fantasies of unmediated cultural exchange, free of political and cultural borders. But cosmopolitan encounters are always enabled by the networks through which people, objects, and ideas circulate. These networks both facilitate cultural exchange and structure its possibilities. Nothing can be truer of the underlying networks that connected African and African American artists during the postwar period. The decades following World War II saw unprecedented exchange between African artists and their diasporic American counterparts, made possible by important institutions through patronage and organization. Yet in engaging with these institutions, artists also confronted postwar discourses of racial belonging, the struggles against colonialism and for civil rights, and even the politics of the Cold War. Institutions like the Harmon Foundation and the American Society of African Culture, for example, as well as forums like the First Congress of Negro Writers and Artists, in 1956, created contexts in which artists and artworks were entangled in a global terrain laden with the pressures of nationalism and the tensions of racial and cultural kinship. In fact these networks and the subjects that created them were often spaces in which the dialectic between national affinities and other global connections were tested.

Brady first sought to exhibit Enwonwu’s work at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, but she found limited interest there. A letter of Brady’s describes MoMA director Rene d’Harnoncourt’s response to her suggestion: “He feels that the Museum of Modern Art can only show the highly sophisticated and the type of art that they are sure will be accepted by the critics. He feels Africa is in a state of flux and that, while the material should definitely be shown, it should be shown more from the sociological basis.”3 Apparently mainstream American art audiences were not yet ready for contemporary African art. Yet the network of galleries and universities through which the Harmon Foundation traditionally promoted African American artists readily embraced the opportunity to exhibit works by Africans. In October 1950, the art gallery at the historically black Howard University, in Washington, D.C., featured Enwonwu’s first solo

AFRICAN ARTISTS IN AMERICA: THE HARMON FOUNDATION Black internationalism had precedents before 1945,1 but it wasn’t until after World War II that the United States hosted its first exhibitions of contemporary African art. In 1949, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., displayed a traveling survey of South African art. The show included only one black artist, the painter Gerard Sekoto, who, despite his marginal status in the exhibition, was praised in Time magazine for his “vivid, straight-speaking pictures of fellow natives in their tumbledown suburban ‘locations’ or moving through the rolling South African countryside.”2 Arguably the first major solo show of an African artist in the United States took place in 1950, when the director of the Harmon Foundation, Mary B. Brady, began to consider the possibility of exhibiting the work of the Nigerian modernist Ben Enwonwu. It was not a coincidence that the American debut of contemporary African art was facilitated by the Harmon Foundation: established in 1922, the foundation was best known for its large-scale patronage and sponsorship of African American artists. Further, not only did the foundation facilitate the exhibiting of work by black artists in the United States but its grants and awards helped African American artists to travel to artistic capitals like Paris. In this sense the foundation was also a major patron of the black internationalism of the interwar period.

Fig. 1. Vincent Kofi. Awakening Africa. 1959–60. Bronze, Courtesy National Archives, College Park, Maryland

exhibition in the United States. Enwonwu also undertook a well-received lecture tour and was celebrated in New York with an elaborate reception sponsored by the Harmon Foundation and hosted by African American artists Richard Barthé, Ellis Wilson, Jacob Lawrence, and Elton Fax. Spurred by the success of Enwonwu’s exhibition, the Harmon Foundation continued its support of African artists, organizing artist visits and using its vast network of contacts with exhibition venues to facilitate shows of contemporary African works. Venues like the Merton Simpson Gallery in New York and the Howard University Museum became important spaces of encounter between African artists and American audiences. Over the remaining seventeen years of its existence, the

Tobias Wofford


Harmon Foundation introduced a broad canon of important African modernists to the United States. 4 The Ethiopian artist Skunder Boghossian, for example, first exhibited in the United States at a Harmon Foundation exhibition in 1961.5 Having received the first of numerous solo shows at the Merton Simpson Gallery the following year, he soon established himself as an important artist in the U.S. and, after assuming a professorship at Howard University, he became an important interlocutor for the emergent Black Arts Movement. Other African modernists

Fig. 2. Poster for the Second Conference of Negro Writers and Artists by Gerard Sekoto, c. 1959

found similar success under the patronage of the Harmon Foundation, which promoted and collected Sekoto’s work, for example. The Ghanaian sculptor Vincent Akweti Kofi spent time in the United States under the patronage of the Harmon Foundation and the State Department. While in the U.S., Kofi created a bronze cast of his work Awakening Africa (1959– 60; fig. 1) and exhibited in New York and in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the American South.6 All of these contemporary African artists lived cosmopolitan lives, training in Europe and engaging in a mix of modernist styles and various traditional methods and imagery. Yet American curators and critics most often saw their work as representing an authentic access to Africa. The New York Times offered an enduring but limited interpretation of Boghossian’s work: “An Ethiopian artist industriously paints scenes and figures from his native country.” 7 In the American context, contemporary African artists and their works were variously absorbed into the discourses of racial and cultural difference that formed the underlying


assumptions of the Harmon Foundation’s core mission and were latent throughout American art-critical discourse.

A MEETING IN PARIS, 1956 American art networks were just one environment of connection between African and African American artists in the postwar period. African and African American artists met and exchanged ideas at global events such as the First Congress of Negro Writers and Artists, in Paris in 1956, and its sequel in Rome in 1959. In fact Enwonwu presented a paper at the first event and Sekoto designed the poster for the second (fig. 2) (the poster for the first having been designed by Pablo Picasso). During these events, black cultural workers from around the world tested and debated their political and cultural bonds. Living in self-imposed exile in Paris, James Baldwin attended the 1956 congress, where writers, artists, and intellectuals from throughout Africa and its diaspora filled the Amphitheater Descartes at the Sorbonne for four days of papers and debates that considered the position (indeed the very possibility) of black culture at a moment of global transition. The congresses were in a way political gatherings, being explicitly tied by their organizers to the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia, which had sought to reorient global politics as Europe’s colonial grip on much of the world loosened. 8 With their overt emphasis on culture, however, the events were equally concerned with imagining the role of the individual artist in this shifting world order. They saw African culture as potentially unifying and politically liberating on a global level, and imagined black artists and writers as agents in an ascendance to a hitherto denied equality with Europe and the West. As the organizers described the first congress in the published proceedings, “During those days at the Sorbonne we went through some exhilarating hours of fervor and enthusiasm—and, in spite of the diversity of our origins, backgrounds and convictions, the unanimity which emerged had nothing artificial about it. This Congress was a great event in the conscience of the world.”9 While clearly moved by the event, Baldwin responded to the 1956 congress less optimistically than its organizers did. In his essay “Princes and Power” he pointed to the many complexities and contradictions inherent in the international network that the congress represented.10 For one, the question of black culture (the meeting’s unifying premise) was already a point of debate. But even political unity was tenuous for this diverse and international group, because, while the attendees seemed to agree on the need to end the racism and colonialism facing people of African descent, they were not unanimous on the political strategies by which to gain this end. This was clear at the beginning of the proceedings when a letter from W. E. B. Dubois was read aloud, informing the conference that he had been denied a passport to leave the United States and insinuating that the members of the American delegation were little more than agents of American imperialism. Dubois asserted, “Any

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Fig. 3. Jacob Lawrence. Meat Market. 1964. Tempera and gouache on paper, 76.8 × 57.8 cm. Courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York

American Negro travelling today must either not care about Negroes or say what the State Department wishes him to say.” 11 Throughout Baldwin’s observations of the congress, one perceives the precarious position of the cultural worker attempting to mediate this tangled and shifting cultural and political terrain. For Baldwin, the American writer Richard Wright exemplified this dilemma. Like Baldwin, Wright lived in Paris as an expatriate in order to escape American racism. He participated in the congress, and, like others, found himself ambivalently situated between his national affiliation and the international network the congress had created. Both the American delegation and the African organizers claimed him as their spokesman. The poet and

future president of Senegal, Léopold Senghor, went so far as to deliver a paper identifying the African elements of Wright’s poetry. Yet as Baldwin observed, “In so handsomely presenting Wright with his African heritage, Senghor rather seemed to be taking away his identity.” 12 Wright’s dilemma was not unique. As much as the Congresses of Negro Writers and Artists sought to bring artists together under the umbrella of a shared global African culture, they also highlighted the varied political affiliations and cultural differences of their attendees. Overall, the meetings underlined the ambivalent intersectionality of the cosmopolitan artist.

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as Chika Okeke-Agulu has described, AMSAC’s exhibition spaces in Lagos were one of the city’s most important art venues.15It hosted exhibitions not only by African American modernists but by contemporary African artists such as Vincent Kofi.16 AMSAC’s major achievement was the organization of a 1961 festival in Lagos that brought thirty-three African American artists, musicians, and writers to Africa, including Hale Woodruff, Nina Simone, and Langston Hughes. Lawrence achieved one of the most successful debuts in Nigeria under AMSAC’s sponsorship. His work was featured in a solo exhibition at the Lagos galleries in 1961, and the artist undertook a ten-day trip to Nigeria that year under AMSAC’s patronage. Other exhibitions featuring panels of the artist’s Migration of the Negro (1940–41) followed in 1962. Lawrence was so taken with his experience in Nigeria that he returned with his wife for an eight-month stay made possible by the connections fostered during his initial visit.17 While in Nigeria, he attended numerous AMSAC events in Lagos and engaged with the artistic debates circulating in the newly independent country. Okeke-Agulu has convincingly argued that the work Lawrence created in Africa was deeply influenced by the sensorial experience of Nigeria’s cities.18 In light of American political policy in independence-era Africa, AMSAC’s activities were increasingly viewed with distrust as rumors circulated of the society’s funding sources. When the society participated in organizing the American delegation to the groundbreaking Fig. 4. Installation view of Jacob Lawrence's “Migration Series” (1941) and sculpture by Vincent Kofi, presumably at the Mbari Artists and Writers Club, Ibadan, 1962

AMERICAN ARTISTS IN AFRICA: THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF AFRICAN CULTURE The 1956 congress concluded with the formation of the Société Africaine de Culture (SAC), headed by Alioune Diop, the Senegal-born editor of the journal Présence Africaine. Inspired by the undertaking, the American delegation to the congress, headed by John A. Davis, established the American Society of African Culture (AMSAC) with the mission of broadening knowledge of the cultural contributions of Africans and people of African descent.13 Beginning in 1957, AMSAC organized conferences, sponsored publications, offered financial support to SAC, and in 1961, expanded its operations with offices in Nigeria. Dubois’s warning to the 1956 congress about the American delegation were at least half right, however: much of the funding that made AMSAC’s productivity possible were funneled to the society by the American Central Intelligence Agency—a fact that was likely known to AMSAC’s leadership.14 Still, AMSAC’s activities in Nigeria were hugely important in fostering direct connection between African American artists and African art networks. The society granted a number of important African American artists their first exposure to the African continent, and in the 1960s,


Fig. 5. Ben Enwonwu and Jacob Lawrence, presumably at the Mbari Artists and Writers Club, Ibadan, 1962

First World Festival of Negro Arts, in Dakar, Senegal, in 1966, a number of observers considered the delegation’s curatorial choices with suspicion. In memoirs of his African travels, Hoyt Fuller, the American editor of Negro Digest, accused AMSAC of actively attempting to restrict exchange between black radicals in the United States and African independence movements.19 The CIA’s financial support of AMSAC was eventually made public in a New York Times report in 1967.20 The society, which had already closed its Lagos offices a year earlier, now became much less active, until it eventually suspended activities in 1969. 21

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Allegations of censorship and propaganda are difficult to substantiate, but in AMSAC’s role as a sponsor for the circulation of African American artists throughout Africa, its possibilities were almost certainly limited by the Cold War paranoias of the CIA. The postwar decades saw unprecedented exchange between African American and African artists. In the cosmopolitanism that resulted, however, artists were never free from the cultural and political tensions of a more connected world. If anything, they became more keenly aware of their varying positions in the shifting global terrain created by African liberation, the push for civil rights in the United States, and the long shadow of the Cold War. Their works responded poetically to this intersectional and conflicting context, often focusing intensely on the precarious position of subjectivities caught epistemically between the traditional and the modern and geopolitically between the West and Africa. Circulating on a global stage with the mobility of the jet age, and facilitated by increasing numbers of artists’ groups, institutions, and forums, African and African American artists developed new strategies for mediating the tensions of being black cosmopolitans.

1 See Theresa A. Leininger-Miller, New Negro Artists in Paris: African American Painters and Sculptors in the City of Light, 1922–1934 (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2001), and Brent Hayes Edwards, The Practice of Diaspora: Literature Translation and Practice of Black Internationalism (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2003). 2 “Touring Africans,” Time 54, no. 6 (August 8, 1949): 53. 3 Mary Beattie Brady, letter to James Vernon Herring, July 11, 1950. Box 12, Jeff Donaldson Papers, circa 1960–2005, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 4 See Evelyn S. Brown, Africa’s Contemporary Art and Artists (New York: Harmon Foundation, 1966). 5 The exhibition included a broad range of contemporary art from Africa and was held at the Phelps-Stokes Fund, New York, December 28, 1961–January 19, 1962. See Harmon Foundation, Art from Africa of Our Time (New York: Harmon Foundation, 1961). 6 See ibid., p. 29, and Chika Okeke-Agulu, Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth Century Nigeria (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), pp. 159–60. 7 “This Week around the Galleries,” New York Times, March 4, 1962. 8 See James Baldwin, “Princes and Powers,” Encounter 8, no. 1 (January 1957): 52. 9 “Modern Culture and Our Destiny,” in “The First International Conference of Negro Writers and Artists, Proceedings,” Présence Africaine, special issue, June–November 1956, p. 3. 10 Baldwin, “Princes and Powers,” pp. 52–60. 11 W. E. B. Dubois, quoted in ibid, pp. 52–53. 12 Baldwin, “Princes and Powers,” p. 58. 13 American Society of African Culture (AMSAC), pamphlet, n.d. Southern Historical Collection #4340, Allard Kenneth Lowenstein Collection, Manuscripts Department at the Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Available online at through Jstor at www.aluka. org/stable/10.5555/al.sff.document.low139_42_01 (accessed May 2016). 14 See Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008). 15 See Okeke-Agulu, Postcolonial Modernism, p. 228. 16 See Brown, Africa’s Contemporary Art and Artists, p. 29. 17 See Carroll Greene, oral history interview with Jacob Lawrence, October 26, 1968. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Available online at (accessed May 2016). 18 Okeke-Agulu, Postcolonial Modernism, p. 172. 19 Hoyt W. Fuller, Journey to Africa (Chicago: Third World Press, 1971), p. 92. 20 Neil Sheehan, “5 New Groups Tied to C.I.A. Conduits,” New York Times, February 17, 1967, p. 1. 21 Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer, p. 222.

Tobias Wofford



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racing the paths along which artists and their artworks traveled during the postwar period brings out a striking pattern: one begins to glimpse a series of networks and exchanges that challenge the standard linear trajectory associated with the term “avant-garde.” Artists did not simply “advance” from their birthplace toward one of the metropolises of Western modernism (London, Paris, and, increasingly, New York) commonly cited as the sites of the era’s major exhibitions;1 rather, they moved in multiple directions. The attempt to map these cross-cultural networks reveals a nuanced world of cross-fertilization circumventing the tired binary of “centers” and “peripheries.” To this end the idea of artists and artworks existing within transnational or cosmopolitan networks proves useful in considering how

encounter. 2 The history of postwar modernisms needs to be seen as an acceleration of the already nomadic tendency of both artists and artworks, with exhibitions and places of residence providing moments in which these various trajectories coalesced. These moments bring about what Kwame Anthony Appiah sees as the mutual contamination process brought about by encounters with strangers. He notes, “The early Cynics and Stoics took their contamination from the places they were born to the Greek cities where they taught; cosmopolitanism was invented by contaminators whose migrations were solitary.” 3 According to Appiah, rather than simply reinforcing entrenched or monolithic ideas of “culture,” the cross-pollination caused by the increased circulation of people and objects results in the twin commitments of pluralism and what he calls “fallibilism”: “the sense that our knowledge is imperfect, provisional, subject to revision in the face of new evidence.”4

Fig. 1. Paul Keeler and David Medalla installing the work of Lygia Clark at the Signals Gallery, London, 1965. Courtesy England & Co, London

exhibitions and schools have shaped discourses on modern art. It also provides a way of transcending the nationalist frameworks vociferously championed by critics writing in the shadow of the Cold War, arguments concealing the fact that the wide history of human culture is a story of movements and meetings—of “routes” rather than “roots,” as James Clifford has pointed out—with identities consistently shifting and modifying one another at the point of their mutual

Not only were these “contaminations” an intrinsic component of postwar artistic networks, they also produced a plurality of modernisms, including those that would initially appear removed from this discourse. Edward Said’s idea of “contrapuntal reading” helps to explain the importance of even supposedly counter-discourses within a cosmopolitan reading of exhibitions and exchanges. “In the counterpoint of Western classical music,” Said notes, “various themes play off one another, with

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only a provisional privilege being given to any particular one; yet in the resulting polyphony there is concert and order, an organized interplay that derives from the themes, not from a rigorous melodic or formal principle outside the work.” 5 Following this line of thought, a contrapuntal reading of modern exhibitions seeks not to privilege any specific narrative but to reveal the “wholeness” of overlapping and intermeshed histories of modern art and their mutual influence upon one another. If a fugue can contain “two, three, four or five voices [which] are all part of the same composition, [and yet] are each distinct,”6 a reading of modernism as univocal can be replaced with one that demonstrates “a simultaneous awareness both of the metropolitan history and of those other histories against which (and together with which) the dominating discourse acts.” 7 Finally we need to think of the spaces in which this cosmopolitan exchange and contamination take place in terms of Nikos Papastergiadis’s idea of the stoa, that area on the edge of the Athenian agora where the school founded by the Stoic Zeno gathered to discuss the principles of cosmopolitanism. 8 For Papastergiadis the arcades of the ancient stoa were a liminal zone independent of the more established spaces of the Athenian polis: I imagine the stoa as a spatial metaphor for the emergence of critical consciousness within the transnational public sphere. It is a space for criticality without the formal requirement of political deliberation and sociality without the duty of domestication. The stoa is the pivot point at which the public and private spheres interact and from which the cosmopolitan vision unfolds. 9 Using the metaphor of the stoa in thinking about the temporary spaces in which art and artists converged allows us to transcend the more universalizing tendencies of cosmopolitan theory that have developed since the time of Immanuel Kant. We can instead begin to consider the way these transnational gatherings allowed a “contamination” of ideas that contributed to postwar global modernisms.

INTERPERSONAL CONTAMINATIONS: CITIES AND SCHOOLS Cosmopolitan contamination occurs when people from different cultures meet and exchange ideas face-to-face. In the context of postwar art, this kind of contact was most prevalent within the cities to which artists flocked, perhaps to study at an art school or simply to situate themselves within the vibrant cosmopolitan culture of the metropolis. In terms of study, the primary destination for artists was once again Europe, especially the capitals of Paris, London, and Rome. Colonial and linguistic ties brought students to Paris, which attracted many from North Africa, and to London, which drew from the wider Commonwealth. Italy was


also a popular destination, especially for artists from countries with a more ambiguous relationship to the West, such as Egypt, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and Turkey.10 Outside Europe, the United States, and especially New York, benefited from the presence of the many artists and intellectuals who emigrated there before and during World War II, many of whom took up teaching positions at American universities and art schools and stayed on when the war ended.11 Despite the opportunities available in these cities, the concentration of artists in one place produced a highly competitive atmosphere, with success proving elusive for many, regardless of their national affiliation. As the biographies of artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, and even Romare Bearden show, the New York art world of the 1940s and ’50s was a conflicted space for African American artists in terms of the difficulties of “encounter, negotiation, and multiple affiliation” in a social world polarized by boundaries of race and ethnicity.12 For many artists like Bearden, the influx of European artists to New York would in later decades produce a converse migration to cities such as Paris. Converse migration also manifested among the many artists who, having studied at a European academy, stayed on in the hope of engaging in the discourse of contemporary art but found themselves excluded from that discourse, which still favored a predominantly “national” identity.13 Unlike their prewar forebears, many of these figures arrived in these cities as “modern artists,” having already obtained a degree or established a reputation for themselves before their arrival. According to Stuart Hall, the motivation of a figure such as Francis Newton Souza—who arrived in England in the immediate postwar period with both an arts degree and an established reputation as one of the founders of the Progressive Artists’ Group in Bombay (which also comprised Maqbool Fida Husain, Krishen Khanna, and Mohan Samant)—was not altogether different from that in which Picasso and others went to Paris: to fulfill their artistic ambitions and to participate in the heady atmosphere of the most advanced centers of artistic innovation at that time. The promise of decolonization fired their ambition, their sense of themselves as already “modern persons.” It liberated them from any lingering sense of inferiority. Their aim was to engage the modern world as equals on its own terrain.14 Yet for artists such as Souza and Avinash Chandra, from India; Anwar Jalal Shemza, from Pakistan; Ugo Egonu, from Nigeria; and the British Guiana–born Frank Bowling, exclusion was evident the moment they set foot in the city. Bowling, for example, was told that his work was to be omitted from the important New Generation exhibition at London’s Whitechapel Gallery in 1964 because “England is not yet ready for a gifted artist of colour.” 15 Like African American artists in New York, these London-based artists found themselves in a sort of liminal space in relation to the wider institutional establishment: simultaneously in one of the centers of mid-century modernism yet locked out of a discourse to which they contributed.

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Moreover, even when these artists were included in group exhibitions, their participation was often circumscribed by being organized around colonial and geographic frameworks. A group called the “Young Commonwealth Group,” for example, participated in exhibitions at the renamed Commonwealth Institute (formerly the Imperial Institute) from 1962 onward.16 Although it facilitated important exhibitions of British-based artists in the early 1960s—its inaugural show Commonwealth Art Today, or the two versions of the Commonwealth Biennial of Abstract Art—many of its shows grouped artists according to their country of birth, rather than their residence, and inherently favored colonial-settler countries like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.17 Where the Commonwealth Institute failed, other spaces emerged as platforms for the exhibition of what Kobena Mercer has

Fig. 2. Pierre Restany, Yozo Hamaguchi, Umbro Apollonio, Ciril Velepicˇ and Mr. and Mrs. Augustini in lively discussion at the Biennale Grafike, Ljubljana, 1963. Courtesy of Moderna galerija (MG+MSUM), Museum of Modern Art and Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, Ljubljana

dubbed “postcolonial internationalism.” 18 These included the New Vision Group (1951) and the subsequent New Vision Centre (1956); the “international cosmopolitanism” embraced by Victor Musgrave at his Gallery One (1953), which exhibited artists such as Souza, Shemza, and Chandra as “British” artists;19 as well as the Grabowski Gallery (1959), which similarly fostered a “global outlook.”20 Just as important were the early activities of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), whose definition as “a hearth [around] which the artists and his audience can gather” aptly summarized the stoalike nature of its activities and resulted in important solo exhibitions of the likes of Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid and Wifredo Lam.21 The most distinct space for London’s cosmopolitan spirit was the Signals Gallery, opened in 1964 by David Medalla and Paul Keeler. Medalla had arrived in London, via Paris, from the Philippines in 1960 and promptly organized exhibitions with Keeler on kinetic art.22 They opened Signals in a warehouse space in the city’s West End, starting with a show by Takis, followed by solo exhibitions of Sergio de Camargo and Lygia Clark (fig. 1). Framing its program around new approaches to contemporary art—rather than attempting to reinscribe the works within nationalist paradigms—Signals provided

a space where artists from across the globe could encounter one another; many of the artists who exhibited at Signals would install their own exhibitions, as well as contribute to the gallery’s Newsbulletin. Indeed, with premises bigger than even the ICA’s space on Dover Street, Signals could rightly claim to be a more successful “hearth” than the older and more established ICA.

MOVING OBJECTS: BIENNIALS The most prevalent stoas of cosmopolitan exchange were exhibitions, which facilitated the circulation of both artists and artworks. The most evident examples were the many international art biennials that took place in the decades after World War II. Unlike biennials before 1945, these “second wave” events were distinctly global in purview.23 Between 1948 and 1964, for example, the Venice Biennale increased the number of national pavilions from sixteen to thirty-four, including for the first time representations from Egypt, Israel, Japan, Uruguay, Iran, India, Turkey, and the Philippines.24 There were also newer biennials that reflected this paradigm shift. While the first few iterations of the documenta exhibition series, begun in Kassel, West Germany, in 1955, in no way resembled the global survey of contemporary art that it is today,25 the global nature of this second wave was evident in the Bienal de São Paulo (1951), the Biennale de la Méditerranée (Alexandria, 1955), and the biennials in Tehran (1958), Paris (1959), and Saigon (1962), not to mention the many graphics biennials in Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America, beginning with the first Biennale Grafike in Ljubljana in 1955. Many of these events—with the exception of São Paulo and Paris— were overtly conservative, focused on unfashionable media (graphics), or persisted with the Venetian model of national pavilions. Yet they were also characterized by an atmosphere of international friendship and collegiality. Thus the first artistic director of the Bienal de São Paulo spoke of placing the modern art of Brazil “in living contact with the art of the rest of the world,”26 while the organizers of the remarkable—and sadly singular—biennial staged in war-ravaged Saigon could claim that the event would serve “as a gathering place where Vietnamese artists and artists from countries friendly to Vietnam may meet … in an atmosphere of friendly understanding and brotherhood.”27 What is particularly noticeable about the invitation extended to “countries friendly to Vietnam” (Argentina, China, Korea, Morocco, and the United States), and about similar lists of participant nations at other biennials, is the way so many transcended the usual East/West binary of those decades. Rather than isolating artists within national pavilions, many of these biennials actively sought to create shared territory between artists from various countries. In the Biennale de la Méditerranée, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Spain, Syria, and Yugoslavia were to share a “common denominator [that] is properly Mediterranean.”28 Despite the evident soft politics at play

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In other countries the spaces opened up by cyclical exhibitions of art here—evidenced by the direct involvement of Gamal Abdel Nasser in completely obviated such simple bifurcations and instead fostered a series the organization of the Biennale de la Méditerranée—biennials such of vibrant networks that operated parallel to the more common East/West as these were also able to bring together hitherto disconnected groups exchanges taking place in cities such as Venice. Emblematic of this is the of artists and other interested parties. Gardner and Green therefore so-called “concrete-kinetic-conceptual” nexus that emerged in the wake of note that their importance lies “less in the assemblage of artworks the Bienal de São Paulo.34 Building on the already strong network among than in the gatherings of artists, commissioners, writers and publics Latin American artists in Europe—the many exchanges between the Arfrom within and outside a given region. … Biennials allowed people to gentina-based Madí group and artists practicing in Paris, for example35 —the acquire visas and cross frontiers that would have been extremely diffiBienal generated a range of new transatlantic partnerships, with groups like cult, if not necessarily impossible, to cross without the justification of Brazil’s Grupo Ruptura being distinctively cosmopolitan in composition.36 attending the exhibition.”29 This form of gathering is evident In addition to drawing artists to from a photograph taken at the 1963 Latin America, the Bienal also indirectBiennale Grafike in Ljubljana, in which ly engendered the formation of cosmothe likes of the critic Pierre Restany, politan networks in Europe— the range the artist Yozo Hamaguchi, the Venof artists from Latin America, for examice jury-member Umbro Apollonio, ple, who, having encountered Max Bill the Slovenian curator Ciril Velepič, at the São Paulo Bienal, later traveled and the Rome-based publishers Mr. to study under him at the Hochschule and Mrs. Augustini appear in lively für Gestaltung, Ulm. Of the first wave discussion at the center of the exof graduates, Almir Mavignier would hibition space (fig. 2). Images such be crucial in the formation of the bianas this testify to the way biennials nual Nove Tendencije (New tendencies) staged in the liminal zones between exhibitions that took place in Zagreb the East/West divide were able to enin the 1960s and ’70s and similarly ingender transcultural networks and volved artists from a range of nations.37 Although the first of these exhibitions partnerships that were in many ways were hardly a critical success, the artist just as open as those born in more Manfredo Massironi notes that those established cities, such as Venice, 30 who took part in the series recognized and perhaps more so. What events such as these point to is that fact that its importance in providing “an opporalthough the notion of cosmopolitunity for meetings between many tanism was explicitly condemned in artists from diverse parts of Europe many of the Stalinist states of Eastern who, not being personally acquaintEurope (where it was used as an umed, could witness for themselves the brella term for a wider range of perstriking affinity between the works.” 38 Therefore, much like the aforesecutions that masked racist and/or Fig. 3. Issue no. 10 of the magazine Black Orpheus with a cover design by Ibrahim El Salahi, 1961 mentioned biennials, the greatest anti-Semitic undertones), 31 transnational partnerships were nonetheless legacy of the Nove Tendencije exhibiprevalent throughout the so-called “East,” not only in relation to detions was the manner in which it created a stoa-like space for artists bates on modernism but also within the vast networks of exhibitions from all over the world to meet and exchange ideas.39 32 and discussions around socialist realist art. Indeed, when viewed as a critically engaged counter-modernism—rather than simply an instrument of USSR propaganda—the influence of artists practicing in Communist-friendly countries such as Belgium, Italy, and France VIRTUAL COSMOPOLISES is just as prevalent as that of those from the Soviet Union, as is clear n other parts of the world, cosmopolitan contaminations involved from the exhibition of works by the likes of Renato Guttuso and An33 not only the circulation of people but movement through othdré Fougeron, and from the many trips and exchanges made by David Alfaro Siqueiros during this period. er forms of media. Among other things, the postwar period was defined by a rapid growth in the circulation of art, ranging from the



6. Cosmopolitan Modernisms

increased distribution of magazines and periodicals to the frequency of large-scale touring exhibitions that traveled around the world. The Soviet Union and especially the United States were particularly active in organizing and sending works of art to all corners, 40 with the International Program of New York’s Museum of Modern Art producing a bilateral movement of artists and artworks in and out of the city. 41 In many of the world’s metropolises, this circulation of objects, magazines, and photographs supported the creation of what Partha Mitter terms a “virtual cosmopolis,” a condition that he sees among the prewar Bengali intelligentsia, who largely negotiated modernity via print media rather than through contact with Europeans. As Mitter notes, members of this “community” “may never have known one another personally, and yet shared a corpus of ideas on modernity. … The hybrid city of the imagination engendered elective affinities between the elites of the center and the periphery on the level of intellect and creativity.”42 This idea of the “virtual cosmopolis” is a crucial component in understanding the work of an artist such as Evgeny Mikhnov-Voitenko, who, without leaving the Soviet Union, was nevertheless able to engage with the art of various modernisms through Nikolai Akimov’s extensive library at the Theatre Institute in Leningrad. 43 In a similar vein, members of the Gutai group in the far-flung town of Ashiya, Japan, were able to draw on Yoshihara Jiro’s extensive library in order to develop what they considered “an international common ground where the arts of the East and the West will influence each other.”44 As is demonstrated by Yoshihara’s publication and circulation of the Gutai journal—whose circulation reached Jackson Pollock and Allan Kaprow in New York, Michel Tapié in Paris, and Heinz Mack in Düsseldorf—the Gutai artists saw themselves as active participants in this virtual cosmopolis, organizing joint exhibitions and publications with the likes of Tapié and viewing themselves as contributing to the discourse of postwar modernism. Nowhere is this reciprocity more evident than in the text Continuité et avant-garde au Japon, which Gutai published with Tapié, Haga Tōru, and the publisher Ezio Gribaudo in 1962 and which challenges the standard, derivative reading of Japanese art by linking the practices of Pollock, Alfonso Ossorio, Mark Tobey, Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze), and the like to a distinctly Japanese-centered Zen tradition and to “this open, symbiotic, and dynamic vision, to this world of living interparticipation.”45 As the members of Gutai understood, the ability to participate in a virtual cosmopolis was contingent on language and communication— hence their decision to publish the Gutai journal in both Japanese and English. Mitter notes that “hegemonic languages such as English and Spanish spread by colonial rule” were crucial in the formation of prewar modern groups. 46 In Africa, similarly, the notion of a common linguistic identity before the outbreak of World War II was initially shaped by artists and writers living abroad, 47 whose experiences of travel and migration informed identities at odds with the claim of the nation-state to be the primary basis of collective belonging. 48 After the hostilities ended, many of the French colonial countries to the south of the Saharan divide united around the idea of a pan-African identity, a

shift that resulted in engagement with the artistic and political ideals of the Négritude movement. This idea was further advanced by two major postwar conferences—the Fifth Pan-African Congress, held in Manchester in 1945, and the First International Congress of Black Writers and Artists, in Paris in September 1956—that called for the end of colonialism, as well as the development of a common African identity transcending the nation-states that had been inscribed by the colonial powers. 49 In addition to events such as these, the fostering of a common pan-African cosmopolis was facilitated by print media, particularly, in the Francophone world, the journal Présence Africaine, and in the Anglophone world Black Orpheus, which sought to connect the cosmopolitan activities of writers and artists in Nigeria to the wider diaspora across the English-speaking “Black Atlantic.”50 The magazine's editor, Ulli Beier, drew on an extensive global network to present the work of artists who he believed were confronting historical and cultural conditions comparable to those faced by Africans; he dedicating significant space in the journal to the works of diasporic artists such as F. N. Souza in London and Jacob Lawrence in New York.51 Beier also sought to combine his work on Black Orpheus with the exhibition program that he developed at the Mbari Artists and Writers Club in Ibadan. Comprising a café, a Lebanese restaurant, and an open-air courtyard, the Mbari Club functioned as a stoalike space; it was located in the middle of a central marketplace and facilitated discussions, exhibitions, and performances that could in theory be attended by anyone. Here Beier sought to bring significant artists and works from America, Asia and Europe to Nigeria for the first time, making the club a space “where the international dimension of postcolonial modernism became manifest.”52 In addition to diasporic artists living in Europe and the United States, Mbari’s exhibition program included the work of Africa-based artists on both sides of the Sahara, extending the parameters of pan-Africanism beyond the linguistic and colonial barriers that in many ways divided the continent. Particularly influential in this regard were exhibitions by the Sudanese artists Ibrahim El Salahi and Ahmed Mohammed Shibrain and the Ethiopian painter Skunder Boghossian, all complemented by articles in Black Orpheus (fig. 3). Mbari and Black Orpheus were important conduits for the work of artists from across the four major continents who were at the forefront of “defining modernisms inspired by the experience of colonization, racial discrimination, and the encounter between Western modernity and indigenous cultures.”53 As all of these case studies demonstrate, the development of postwar art and culture was indelibly shaped by cosmopolitan exchanges, both at the level of human interaction and through the circulation and distribution of artworks and print media. A contrapuntal reading of these various sites of cosmopolitan exchange can thus destabilize hitherto rigid categorizations of “culture” and “identity,” demonstrating instead how artists’ networks are in fact “worldly, productive sites of crossing: complex, unfinished paths between local and global attachments.”54

Damian Lentini


1 See, for example, Bruce Altshuler’s histories of exhibitions: The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the Twentieth Century (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994); Salon to Biennial: Exhibitions That Made Art History, vol. 1, 1863–1959 (London: Phaidon, 2008); and Biennials and Beyond: Exhibitions That Made Art History, vol. 2, 1962–2002 (London: Phaidon, 2013). Both of the latter focus on Europe and the United States, with the exception of one Gutai exhibition. 2 On nationalist frameworks, one thinks of texts such as Harold Rosenberg's “American Action Painters,” Artnews 51, no. 8 (December 1952); Clement Greenberg’s “‘American-Type’ Painting,” Partisan Review 22 (Spring 1955); or even Irving Sandler’s book The Triumph of American Painting (New York: Praeger, 1970). The quotation of James Clifford is from Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 1997), pp. 1–13. 3 Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (New York: Norton, 2006), p. 112. 4 Ibid., p. 144. 5 Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Knopf, 1993), pp. 59–60. 6 Said, quoted in Colin Symes, “The Paradox of the Canon: Edward W. Said and Musical Transgression,” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 27, no. 3 (2006): 309. 7 Said, Culture and Imperialism, p. 51. See also Geeta Chowdhry, “Edward Said and Contrapuntal Reading: Implications for Critical Interventions in International Relations,” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 36, no. 1 (December 2007): 105, and “An Interview with Edward Said,” in The Edward Said Reader, ed. Moustafa Bayami and Andrew Rubin (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), pp. 419–44. 8 See Nikos Papastergiadis, Cosmopolitanism and Culture (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012), pp. 81–82. 9 Ibid., pp. 91–92. 10 See Martina Corgnati, ed., Italia. Artisti arabi tra Italia e Mediterraneo/Italy: Arab Artists between Italy and the Mediterranean (Milan: Skira, 2008), pp. 23–27. 11 The key text on this phenomenon remains Serge Guilbaut’s How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984). 12 Kobena Mercer, “Introduction,” in Mercer, ed., Cosmopolitan Modernisms (Cambridge, Mass., and London: The MIT Press, 2005), p. 11. 13 This phenomenon was hardly confined to cities such as London and New York. Ernest Mancoba, a central figure in the Northern European CoBrA group, is often omitted from accounts of their development. See Chika Okeke-Agulu, “Modern African Art,” in Okwui Enwezor, ed., The Short Century, exh. cat. (Munich, London, and New York: Prestel, 2001), p. 31; or Willemijn Stokvis, Cobra 3 Dimensions: work in wood, clay, metal, stone, waste, polyester, bread, ceramics (London: Lund Humphries, 1999), p. 16. 14 Stuart Hall, “Black Diaspora Artists in Britain: Three ‘Moments’ in Post-war History,” History Workshop Journal 61, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 5. 15 Frank Bowling, quoted in Rasheed Araeen, “In the Citadel of Modernism,” in Araeen, ed. The Other Story: Afro-Asian Artists in Post-War Britain, exh. cat. (London: Hayward Gallery, 1989), p. 40;this essay also discusses the exclusion alienation felt by the likes of Shemza and Ibrahim El Salahi while attending lectures at the Slade School of Fine Art. The predilection for selecting an increasingly small group of white male artists to represent “Britain” in international exhibitions is discussed in Eddie Chambers, “Coming In from the Cold: Some Black Artists


6. Cosmopolitan Modernisms

Are Embraced,” in Chambers, Eddie, ed., Things Done Change: The Cultural Politics of Recent

University Press, 2013), and Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius, “How the West Corroborated

Black Artists in Britain (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012), pp. 210–11.

Socialist Realism in the East: Fougeron, Taslitzky and Picasso in Warsaw,” Biuletyn historii

16 As Bowling observed, the Young Commonwealth Group comprised artists “from places

Sztuki 2, no. 65 (2003): 303–29.

like Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, Jamaica, Canada, Singapore, India, South Africa,

34 See Guy Brett, “A Radical Leap,” in Dawn Ades, ed., Art in Latin America: The Modern Era,

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and a couple of very good sculptors from the southern part of Rhodesia.”

1820–1980 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 253.

Quoted in Leon Wainwright, “Frank Bowling and the Appetite for British Pop,” Third Text 22,

35 Maria Lluïsa Borrà, “Madí en el París de los años cincuenta” in Maria Lluïsa Borrà, ed.,

no. 2 (March 2008): 196.

Arte Madí, exh. cat. (Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 1997), pp. 102-7.

17 See Sarah Scott, “‘A New Commonwealth’: The Exhibition Commonwealth Art Today and

36 See Ana Maria Belluzzo, “The Rupture Group and Concrete Art,” in Mari Carmen Ramírez

the Opening of the Commonwealth Institute (1962),” in Kate Darian-Smith, Patricia Grimshaw,

and Héctor Olea, eds., Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America, exh. cat. (New Ha-

Kiera Lindsay, and Stuart Mcintyre, eds., Exploring the British World: Identity, Cultural Pro-

ven and London: Yale University Press, 2004), pp. 203–9. The core members of the Ruptura

duction, Institutions (Melbourne: RMIT University Press, 2004), p. 708. In terms of the space

Group were Lothar Charoux (Austria), Waldemar Cordeiro (Italy), Geraldo de Barros (Brazil),

allocated to each nation in Commonwealth Art Today, only India could come close to the prom-

Kazmer Féjer (Hungary), Leopold Haar (Poland), Luiz Sacilotto (Brazil), and Anatol Wladyslaw

inence granted Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom; the Australian contingent was


lauded as “the richest of all” (Robert Wraight, “Commonwealth Art Today,” The Tattler, Novem-

37 As the critic Matko Meštrovic´ recalls, the idea for the inaugural Nove Tendencije exhibition,

ber 21, 1962), while contributions from Ceylon, Nigeria, and East Africa were dismissed as

in 1961, came about through a chance meeting between himself and Mavignier, who had

“semi folk paintings” or works that were “semi-lost” between this and the supposed “London

just visited the Venice Biennale. See Jerko Denegri, “The Condition and Circumstances That

art school” (“Other Exhibitions,” Apollo Magazine, November 1962).

Preceded the Mounting of the First Two New Tendencies Exhibitions in Zagreb 1961–1963,”

18 Mercer, “Black Atlantic Abstraction: Aubrey Williams and Frank Bowling,” in Mercer, ed.,

in Margit Rosen, ed., A Little Known Story about a Movement, a Magazine, and the Computer’s

Discrepant Abstraction (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2006), p. 186.

Arrival in Art: New Tendencies and Bit International, 1961–1973, exh. cat. (Karlsruhe: ZKM

19 See Courtney J. Martin, “Anwar Jalal Shemza’s Art World in London: 1956–60,” in Iftikhar

Center for Art and Media, and Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2011), pp. 19–26.

Dadi, “Calligraphic Abstraction: Anwar Jalal Shemza,” in Dadi, ed., Anwar Jalal Shemza, exh.

38 Manfredo Massironi, “Ricerche visuali,” in Situazioni dell’arte contemporanea. Testi della

cat. (London: Ridinghouse, 2015), p. 30; and Victor Musgrave, “Introduction,” in Gallery One—

conferenze tenute alle Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna di Roma (Rome: Edizioni Librarte,

Ten Years, exh. cat. (London: Gallery One, 1963), n.p.

1976), p. 56.

20 See Mercer, “Black Atlantic Abstraction,” p. 186.

39 See Ljiljana Kolesnik, “Zagreb as the Location of the ‘New Tendencies’ International Art

21 Herbert Read, “Introduction,” in Forty Years of Modern Art 1907–1947: A Selection from

Movement,” in Jérôme Bazin, Pascal Dubourg Glatigny, and Piotr Piotrowski, eds., Art Beyond

British Collections (London: Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1948), p. 1.

Borders: Artistic Exchange in Communist Europe 1945–1989 (Budapest and New York: Cen-

22 See David Medalla, “Signals,” in Araeen, The Other Story, pp. 115–18.

tral European University Press, 2016), pp. 314–16.

23 On the idea of “first,” “second,” and “third” waves of biennials see Anthony Gardner and

40 For an admittedly biased account of the reasons behind Soviet-led exchanges see Karen

Charles Green, “Biennials of the South on the Edges of the Global,” Third Text 27, no. 4 (July

Dawisha, “Soviet Cultural Relations with Iraq, Syriah and Egypt 1955–70,” Soviet Studies, 27

2013): 442–55; Gardner and Green, “South as Method? Biennials Past and Present,” in

(3), July 1975, 418–42

Making Biennials in Contemporary Times: Essays from the World Biennial Forum no 2, São

41 See Frances Stoner Saunders, Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War

Paulo, 2014, pp. 28–36, available online at

(London: Granta Books, 1999), pp. 267–78.

Making-Biennials-in-Contemporary-Times_Home-Print.pdf?faa01f (accessed June 2016);

42 Partha Mitter, The Triumph of Modernism: India's Artists and the Avant-Garde, 1922–1947

and Gardner and Green, Biennials, Triennials and documenta. The Exhibitions that Created

(London: Reaktion Books, 2007), pp. 13–14.

Contemporary Art (Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016).

43 See Ekaterina Andreeva, Yevgeny Mikhnov: Endless Multitudes, exh. cat. (Saint Peters-

24 See Nancy Jachec, Politics and Painting at the Venice Biennale 1948–64: Italy and the

burg: Novy Museum, 2010), pp. 24–25.

Idea of Europe (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2007), pp. 155–77.

44 See Yoshihara Jiro, “A Statement by Jiro Yoshihara: Leader of Gutai,” Martha Jackson Gal-

25 See Walter Grasskamp, “To Be Continued: Periodic Exhibitions (dOCUMENTA, for Ex-

lery press release, September 17, 1958. Quoted in Alexandra Munroe, “All the Landscapes: Gu-

ample,” Tate Papers no. 12 (October 2009), available online at

tai’s World,” in Ming Tiampo and Munroe, eds., Gutai: Splendid Playground, exh. cat. (New York:

publications/tate-papers/be-continued-periodic-exhibitions-documenta-example (accessed

Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2013), p. 21. For an extensive list of such texts see Tiampo,

June 2016); and Chin-Tao Wu, “Biennials without Borders?,” New Left Review 57 (May–June

Gutai: Decentering Modernism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011), pp. 184–85.

2009): 15.

45 Haga To¯ru, “The Japanese Point of View,” in Avant-Garde Art in Japan (New York: H. N.

26 Lourival Gomes Machado, “Introducão,” in I. Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna de São

Abrams, 1962), n.p., quoted in ibid., p. 30.

Paulo: Catálogo, exh. cat. (São Paulo: Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, 1951), p. 14.

46 Mitter, The Triumph of Modernism, p. 14. See also Keith Moxey, “A “Virtual Cosmopolis’:

27 H E Vu˜-Va�n-Mâu et al., First International Exhibition of Fine Arts of Saigon, exh. cat. (Sai-

Partha Mitter in Conversation with Keith Moxey,” The Art Bulletin 95, no. 3 (September 2013):

gon: Tao-Đàn Garden, 1962), p. 6. Quoted here from Gardner and Green, “South as Method?


Biennials Past and Present,” p. 31.

47 As Okeke-Agulu has observed, the development of a Pan-African artistic identity nec-

28 See Gardner and Green, “Biennials of the South,” p. 445.

essarily had to be developed in Europe, for, with the exception of Egypt and South Africa, “it

29 Ibid., p. 450.

would take the aftermath of World War II to set the stage for modern art” on the continent

30 In addition to Ljubljana, the inaugural Biennale der Ostseeländer (Biennial of Baltic states),

itself. Okeke-Agulu, “Modern African Art,” p. 30.

in the East German city of Rostock in 1965, allowed for creative exchange among artists

48 See Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Its Double Consciousness (Cambridge,

across a wide spectrum of styles and ideologies. See Elke Neumann, “Kunst am Meer des

Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993).

Friedens. Die Biennale der Ostseeländer, eine Ausstellung mit internationale Beteiligung in

49 See Bennetta Jules-Rosette, Black Paris: The African Writers’ Landscape (Urbana and

der DDR und ihr Einfluss auf die Kunsthalle Rostock,” in Jörg-Uwe Neumann, ed., 1965/2015.

Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998), pp. 49–78.

Die Biennale der Ostseeländer. Der Ursprung der Kunsthalle Rostock, exh. cat. (Rostock: Kun-

50 The transnational intention of the program was indicated from the outset, with the name

sthalle Rostock, 2015), pp. 8–31.

“Black Orpheus” coming from the title of Jean-Paul Sartre’s introductory essay to Léopold

31 See Matthew Cullerne Bown, Art under Stalin (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1991), pp.

Sédar Senghor’s collection of negritude poetry. The best analysis of the activities of the vari-


ous Mbari clubs, and of the influence of Ulli Beier and Black Orpheus, is Okeke-Agulu's book

32 The art historian Martin Warnke has provocatively argued that whereas Western Euro-

Postcolonial Modernism. Art and Decolonialization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria (Durham and

pean artists were almost exclusively fixated on the art capitals of Paris, London, and New

London: Duke University Press, 2015), esp. pp. 131–81.

York, artists from socialist countries such as the GDR had a far broader artistic experience,

51 See Omidiji Aragbabalu (a pseudonym of Beier’s), “Souza,” Black Orpheus 7 (1960): 16–

traveling and working in countries such as Bulgaria, Cuba, India, Italy, Poland, and the USSR,

21, 49–52, and Beier, “Two American Negro Painters,” Black Orpheus 11 (1962): 25–27.

including the Soviet states of Central Asia. See Warnke, “Gibe s den DDR-Künstler?,“ in M.

52 Okeke-Agulu, Postcolonial Modernism, p. 152.

Flake, ed., Auf der Suche nach dem verlorenen Staat. Die Kunst der Parteien und Massenor-

53 Ibid., p. 154.

ganisationen der DDR (Berlin: Ars Nicolai, 1994), pp. 40–47.

54 Clifford, “Mixed Feelings,” in Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins, eds., Cosmopolitics: Think-

33 See Sarah Wilson, Picasso/Marx and Socialist Realism in France (Liverpool: Liverpool

ing and Feeling Beyond the Nation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1998), p. 362.

Damian Lentini



Affandi Fateh Al-Moudarres Siah Armajani Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian Frank Bowling Avinash Chandra

Uzo Egonu Ibrahim El Salahi Erol (Erol Akyavas¸) Eva Hesse Jacob Lawrence Evgeny Mikhnov-Voitenko

Uche Okeke Sadequain Jewad Selim Twins Seven Seven Anwar Jalal Shemza Ahmed Shibrain

Gazbia Sirry Francis Newton Souza Mark Tobey Susanne Wenger Ramsès Younan Charles Hossein Zenderoudi


Uche Okeke Ana Mmuo (Land of the Dead) 1961 oil on board National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.


Francis Newton Souza Degenerates 1957 oil on board Aicon Gallery, New York



Twins Seven Seven Devil's Dog 1964 ink and gouache on paper Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth


Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian Night Flight of Dread and Delight 1964 oil on canvas with collage North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh


Susanne Wenger Yemoja 1958 batik Neue Galerie Graz




Ibrahim El Salahi Vision of the Tomb 1965 oil on canvas The Africa Center, New York


Uzo Egonu Mask with Musical Instruments 1963 oil on canvas Egonu Estate c/o Grosvenor Gallery, London



Gazbia Sirry The Fortune Teller 1959 oil on canvas Collection of the Artist, Cairo

250 Fateh Al-Moudarres Icon of Moudarres 1962 oil and gold leaf on canvas Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah



Jewad Selim Baghdadiat 1956 mixed media on hardboard QM/QF - Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha


Affandi Mexico, Mother and Child 1962 oil on canvas Museum Lippo, Jakarta


Evgeny Mikhnov-Voitenko Composition (on a White Background) Late 1950s oil on canvas The State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg




Ibrahim El Salahi The Prayer 1960 oil on Masonite Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth


Mark Tobey Verso i Bianchi (Towards the Whites) 1957 tempera on paper GAM - Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin



Ahmed Shibrain Untitled 1963 ink on paper Iwalewahaus, Universität Bayreuth


Erol (Erol Akyavas˛) The Glory of the Kings c. 1959 oil on canvas The Museum of Modern Art, New York



Siah Armajani Shirt #1 1958 cloth, pencil, ink, wood The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Anwar Jalal Shemza The Fable 1962 oil on hand dyed cloth on mountboard The Estate of Anwar Jalal Schemza, London



Charles Hossein Zenderoudi The Sun and the Lion 1960 ink, watercolor and gold paint on paper mounted on board Grey Art Gallery. New York

261 Ramsès Younan Arabesques 1961 oil on board May and Adel Youssry Khedr Collection, Cairo



Sadequain Seascape with Three Boats 20th century oil on wood The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Sadequain Cactus 1960 oil on canvas Mr. Taimur Hassan c/o Grosvenor Gallery, London


Frank Bowling Swan 1 1964 oil on canvas Private Collection


Frank Bowling Swan II 1964 oil on canvas Collection of the Artist, London

265 615


Eva Hesse Untitled (Study for or after "Legs of a Walking Ball") 1965 ink and gouache on paper Private Collection, Munich


Eva Hesse Untitled 1965 ink and gouache on paper Museum Wiesbaden


Gustav Metzger Drawings 1945–59/60 different materials on paper Collection of the Artist




Avinash Chandra Early Figures 1961 oil on board Leicestershire County Council, Artworks Collection


Jacob Lawrence Four Sheep 1964 gouache on paper Andrew and Ann Dintenfass


Section Introduction Galia Bar Or Atreyee Gupta Chika Okeke-Agulu Plates




ationalism” was a word in constant motion during the postwar period. Artists in the United States and Europe often declined to align themselves with their national governments, which had proven corrupt and militaristic. Nationalism had a different valence, though, for artists in countries that had newly struggled for and won independence—such as China, Cuba, India and Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria, the Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, and Thailand—and these artists sought cultural forms to shape new national identities. Nigerian artists, for example, played institutional roles, acting on their commitment to the importance of culture in establishing identity. There was a struggle to define what was truly national in regional identities, apparent, for example, in the debate between advocates of discarding cultural tradition, in the effort to become both independent and modern, and artists who saw indigenous identity as central to a new nationhood. In many countries the choice would be described as one of East versus West, with “the West” representing Europe, the future, education, and technological progress and “the East” representing indigenous knowledge, non-Western identity, the past, and tradition. How, then, to support locally distinctive cultural self-confidence? Artists in the Progressive Artists’ Group that flourished in India in the years after independence in 1947 found different solutions, including international exhibitions and local institution-building. In the United States, on the other hand, artists involved with the civil rights movement challenged racially biased notions of American identity, although their work could also take on a nationalist coloration.




7. Nations Seeking Form


t first glance Naftali Bezem’s drawing Untitled of 1952 (fig. 1) looks like a placard promoting the “New Man.” Its compositional structure recalls the Communist symbol, except that neither a hammer nor a sickle but a pickaxe is clasped like a vise by the figure’s hand, while his bare arm is tattooed with a number, sending us to a reversal of this compact drawing’s apparent gestalt and to a different context for its urgency. The worker’s pose frames a singular face, whose bushy eyebrows, wide-open, inward-gazing eyes, a long gash along the cheek at the corner of the

antinomy between the article’s title and its subject: “In the first place we don't like to be called ‘refugees.’” She added later, “The less we are free to decide who we are or to live as we like, the more we try to put up a front, to hide the facts, and to play roles.” 1 My choice of this drawing was determined by the gaze that it casts on the problematic present moment of 2016, in Israel, in the Middle East, and in the world as a whole. This picture of a past seems to gleam into the picture of the present, giving it a new context, at the center of which is the incompatibility that Arendt posited behind the charged connection between memory-building and society-building. The portrait, as noted, was drawn in 1952—four years after the creation of the State of Israel, established in part as a solution to the refugee

Fig. 1. Naftali Bezem. Untitled. 1952. Charcoal on paper, 40.5 × 56 cm. Collection of the Artist

mouth, and swollen under-eye bags signify a traumatic time concurrent with the time of the New Man. This is a refugee, a survivor—a multifaceted portrait in the role of a worker, strained, desperate, yet resolute and self-conscious. Bezem, born in 1924 in Essen, Germany, had arrived in Palestine at the age of fifteen. His parents and family had been murdered in Auschwitz. This essay thus opens with a first-person-plural statement of the political (“we refugees”), a move that Hannah Arendt followed precisely in her own seminal article “We Refugees,” written in 1943, and that she acutely problematized in her own opening sentence by emphasizing an

crisis created by World War II. A decade earlier, with the triad of state, territory, and nationality offering no solution to wartime refugees, most of the democratic countries had closed their gates, abandoning outsiders to concentration camps and to death—and signifying the collapse, at a time of urgent need, of the French Revolution’s legacy of human rights. In Bezem’s drawing, beneath his role as a worker in a new society, the refugee/survivor component asserts an inviolable ethical obligation that challenges the representational space of the sovereign state. The time period reflected in the drawing is that of the worldwide refugee experience following World War II, particularly the displaced-persons

Galia Bar Or


camps and population transfers in many of the countries of Europe. In the Middle East, too, the Arab–Israeli War of 1948 (actually November 1947–March 1949) and the establishment of the State of Israel had turned hundreds of thousands of Arabs into refugees who would become part of a distinct nation among the Arab nations; and 1.2 million Jewish refugees, half of them survivors of the Holocaust and half of them from Arab countries, were on their way to Israel, to become part of a separate nation among the Jewish dispersions. The presence of refugees on a large scale is a defining characteristic of the Israeli situation, over and above what is happening in Europe today. In the course of just a few years, refugees from Europe and the Arab countries tripled the Jewish population of the region, producing a profound demographic change. Against the threat of chaos, and with a statist melting-pot idea in mind, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, adopted a state-centered policy oriented to the West. Bezem’s drawing proposes a problematization of a sovereign national identity and represents the beginnings of an art critical of constitutive contradictions during the early years of the state. Does the drawing propose a class identity that takes precedence over a state-citizen identity? In the same year, Bezem completed a large painting that would become iconic: To the Aid of the Seamen, relating to the “Seamen’s Revolt” in the port of Haifa, a strike that received extensive support on the left and among kibbutzim in the area. The strike was directed against Mapai, the political party dominant in both the government and the Histadrut (the General Federation of Labour in Israel). In a role unusual for a trade union organization, the Histadrut owned major branches of the state’s economy, including the shipping company. Bezem’s complex image of a man who is both a worker and a refugee/survivor also problematizes statist national identity: refugees in a new country are expected to forget their former allegiance and to become patriots. As Arendt poignantly noted in 1943, writing as a refugee in the United States, no one wants to hear about refugees, concentration camps, and death.2 This was also the case in Israel, although the nation’s status as a “land of refuge” had been the principal rationale for its establishment. Almost all of its artists were refugees and new immigrants themselves, having arrived after the state’s establishment or not much earlier. At about the same time that Bezem drew this portrait, Yosef Zaritsky, leader of the New Horizons (Ofakim Hadashim) artists’ group, painted Yehiam (1952; plate 282). Most of the New Horizons painters barely engaged with the subjects of the refugees or the transit camps for immigrants, a subject identified instead with critical, social, figurative art. This may seem surprising, since the first New Horizons exhibition, held at the Tel Aviv Museum in 1948, was identified with the character of the state, being seen as the dominant representative of Israeli identity. Yet the New Horizons artists hardly related either to the refugee status, a major aspect of consciousness in the region at the time, or to the subjects of Judaism, war, bereavement, loss, national revival, pioneering, and so on. Zaritsky’s generation, which had arrived in Palestine in the 1920s (many of them refugees from the infamous pogroms carried out while


Symon Petliura was a