November 8, 2007 - Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) - BE-BOMB
November 8, 2007


Les Américans en Amérique
120 x 77,5 cm
Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine (BDIC) et Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine

BE-BOMB: the Transatlantic War
of images and all that Jazz. 1946-1956

Untill 7 January 2008

Curator: Serge Guilbaut
Coproduced by: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (MNCARS) in Madrid.
Plaça dels Angels, 1
08001 Barcelona

“Be-Bomb: the Transatlantic War of images and all that Jazz. 1946-1956″ analyses the aesthetic quarrels of the period between 1946 and 1956, the time when New York replaced Paris as the nerve centre of modern art. Curated by the French historian Serge Guilbaut, the exhibition sets out to compare and contrast the art produced in France and the USA in those years in order to understand how and why some works became, if only for a short time in each country, cultural icons that contained fabulous but limited symbolic powers and then turned into media signs that could be commercialised with great success.

The show also studies the reasons why the popular icons of one culture were not recognised by the other at that particular moment. After the victory of American abstract expressionism, the American critics despised French artistic production because they regarded it as pointless and meaningless. Faced with the imposing presence of the victorious movement of abstract expressionism, the French art scene, in its fragmented wealth, seemed incapable of projecting a single voice or direction for the future, as Paris had done in
the past.

To study the history of French and American art after the Second World War is a considerable challenge, not only because the period has not been properly studied (despite the attempts by some museums in recent years) but because the consensus among investigators has been deeply shaped by the success of American art. The French art of that period has been regarded as weak and irrelevant, but the interesting thing is that at that moment it displayed the essential features of Western art: the same debates about realism, geometrical abstraction and forms of abstract expressionism. The specific aspect of the French scene was the extreme politicisation of artistic expression in a culture still contained in a violent, revolutionary tradition, at a time of strong tensions arising from the divisions of the Cold War.

The exhibition, which follows a strict chronological order, includes works by famous painters such as Arshile Gorky, Hartung, Fernand Léger, Wassily Kandinsky, Willem de Kooning, Henri Matisse, Michaux, Motherwell, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, de Staël, Soulages, van de Velde or Wols, but also by others who were important at the time but have been forgotten by the general public (Giuseppe Capogrossi, Vieira da Silva, Howard Daum, Gertrude Barrer, Alfred Manessier and Steve Wheeler, or the Afro-Americans Romare Bearden and Byron Brown). Their paintings, which in their day became major reference points amidst the ‘chaos’ of everyday life, are analysed in relation to their particular history and discussed in the framework of the problems of the moment.

The show aims to break the holiness of the white cube and the straitjacket of formalism to introduce different kinds of discourse into the discussion: films, newspapers, fashion, archives and radio programmes which are confronted with the works of art to develop a hypothesis about some of the reasons that explain why certain specific works were successful and others were not even shown, much less discussed.

MACBA, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona

Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)
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