By Clay Wainscott
So, let me get this straight. You say Abstract Expressionism arose at a time when fascism just defeated, having soiled us in battle, returned to our shores as a rabid fear and hatred of Communism, in contradiction of the most basic tenets of free speech in a free society. It was a time when art, itself, was under siege. Actors, artists, and writers were broken and exiled for less than absolute patriotism, and music was banned from the radio. “This land is your land…,” by Woody Guthrie, was never played.
It was then that a new American art form arose to compete with the classicism of Russia’s cultural catalogue – ballets and symphonies, heroic art and gilded subway stations. It seems our own state department may have helped to launch careers in big international expositions of Abstract Art, may even have helped support the foundations which purchased the art for donation to major museums, tax credits funding lavish galas, and abstract art went up in all of New York’s major banks. So, that was all in the name of cold-war competition with the Soviets, and no crippling of our culture was too high a price just to win, but there is still another level.