Mark Vallen, Abstract Art & The Cultural Cold War, which is a reposting of a review of the book The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters by Frances Stonor Saunders, precipitated by the Sam Francis show at Leslie Sacks Fine Art in Los Angeles.
For those who still regard art as being above politics consider the following. …
It seems to me that there is always a political dimension to Art, whether it is expressly dealt with in the work or not. An artist should be aware of the situation that their work enters and how it fits into and affects that situation. And that is a consideration of politics.
I think Mark’s main points in this piece are that the Abstract Expressionist movement was used by the CIA in its prosecution of the Cold War, the artists concerned were or should have been aware of this; as a consequence the involvement of the CIA in this way led to the eclipsing of figurative work from then on.
These artists were the embodiment of an iconoclastic and fiery individualism, but their artworks contained a total absence of recognizable subject matter, not to mention overt politics.
… realist painters languished in obscurity. It is a travesty the art world has not fully recovered from, and to this day elite opinion favors nonrepresentational over realistic artworks.
Mark’s opinion is that this is a bad thing. He is a figurative painter who addresses political issues head on in his work, and this piece shows that he sees any other method of art practice as wrong.
I like many of the artists that the CIA promoted, and tend not to like figurative works. I think that a piece of Art’s political life is in many cases less about its content, form, technique or physical attributes and more about it’s received meaning, and by that I believe that the audiences’ reception of the work gives it its’ political and social position.
And that’s not to say that a work shouldn’t deal directly with political or social subject matter, just that that’s not the only way to make a point.