April 30, 2008 - The Jewish Museum - Action/Abstraction
April 30, 2008


Willem de Kooning, Gotham News, 1955, oil on canvas. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo: Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1955, K1955.6. Copyright 2008 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York.

May 4 through September 21, 2008

Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street
New York, NY
Hours: Sat-Wed 11am – 5pm, Thurs 11am – 8pm


In Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976, the first major U.S. exhibition in 20 years to rethink Abstract Expressionism and the movements that followed, 50 key works by 31 artists – among them Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko – will be viewed from the perspectives of rival art critics, the artists, and popular culture.

Beginning in the 1940s, artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning created paintings and sculptures that catapulted American art onto the international stage, making New York City the successor to prewar Paris as the mecca for the avant-garde. Two art critics played a crucial role in the reception of the new American painting and sculpture — the highly influential New York intellectuals Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg. In the pages of magazines as diverse as Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker, ARTnews, and Vogue, these critics wrote incisively about seismic changes in the art world, often disagreeing with each other vehemently. By interpreting the significance of the most daring art of their times, their advocacy propelled the artists and their art to the forefront of the public imagination. By the late 1950s, Pollock and de Kooning were virtually household names and Abstract Expressionism was widely known throughout America and internationally.

Action/Abstraction presents major paintings and sculptures from this decisive era, surveying the first generation of Abstract Expressionists as well as later artists who built on their achievements. Context rooms in the exhibition will feature personal correspondence, magazines and newspapers, film and television clips, and photographs that shed light on the cultural and social climate of the 1940s to the 1970s. The works in the exhibition, arranged in thematic sections, are grouped to evoke the rivalry of Greenberg and Rosenberg and the epic transformation of American art in the postwar period.

Following its New York City showing, Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976 will travel to the Saint Louis Art Museum from October 19, 2008 to January 11, 2009, and the Albright–Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY from February 13 to May 31, 2009. The exhibition has been organized by The Jewish Museum in collaboration with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Saint Louis Art Museum.

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