Ashmolean Museum Oxford

America's Cool Modernism Catalogue

by Katherine Bourgignon


As some American artists began to eliminate people and remove extraneous details from their compositions, they often employed neat, orderly brushwork or close-up, unemotional photography.

Artists as diverse as Patrick Henry Bruce, John Covert, Georgia O'Keeffe, Paul Strand and Arthur Dove navigated European and American avant-garde circles, picking and choosing new ideas and methods. Inspiration ranged from cubism and machine parts to new technologies, and they found ways to bring order to the modern world through extreme simplification. For them, abstraction involved absence and presence - the evacuation of human beings but also the desire to depict something that would not otherwise be visible or to render visible unseen natural processes like the passage of time, sound waves, or weather patterns. Their artworks provide a new context for the precisionist works in the subsequent sections and point to modern ideas about what art could be. How does a crisp painting technique relate to an aesthetic of absence?

Katherine Bourgignon is a curator at the Terra Foundation for American Art in Paris. She has conducted research into a variety of transatlantic ties among American and European artists and acted as curator for several exhibitions devoted to American art. Leo Mazow is the Head of the Department of American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Lauren Kroiz is an Associate Professor of 20th Century American Art at the University of California, Berkeley.


Book contains: 184 pages.

Dimensions: 22.12 x 1.75 x 27.99cm