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Published Tuesday, December 11, 18 | By PaulvHill

contributed by Ronna Fleischman Sculpture is unique among the fine arts in America in that it has generally been a public medium.  It fills common spaces, commemorates national and local heroes, adorns buildings.  In addition to being integral to the history of American art, it also reflects some of the most important issues in the history of American society. American patronage of sculpture dates back to 1781, when Jean-Antoine Houdon, a French sculptor, was commissioned by Virginia to create a statue of George Washington. But it wasn’t until the third decade of the nineteenth century that America produced its first professional native sculptures. Read More 

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Published Tuesday, December 11, 18 | By PaulvHill

contributed by Ronna Fleischman American literature has, from its beginning, explored the country’s great diversity, which makes it difficult to perceive that it is all representative of the same culture. However, the commonalities define what it means to be American. From colonial times to the present, American writers strove to question, to argue, and to define themselves against a varied landscape and rapidly changing world. The writings of the colonists were mainly official documents prepared for the governing officials and for the general enlightenment of Englishmen at home, and as such may be thought to hold greater importance in a historical context than a literary one. Yet the settlers were faced with strange and exciting new adventures which stimulated the imagination and their writings were often poetic, romantic and dramatic. Read More 

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Published Tuesday, December 11, 18 | By PaulvHill

contributed by Ronna Fleischman Americans have long viewed dancing not only as a social institution which brought men and women together in a socially acceptable venue, but as an expression of personal ability in movement and rhythm. FOLK / COUNTRY DANCES In the eighteenth-century, dance events were considered fashionable among the white social elite in urban societies, and displaying a new technique was paramount to being admired by one’s peers. At the same time, African-American slaves would gather in groups, engage in dances from their homeland, and reaffirm their sense of heritage and community. Read More 

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Published Tuesday, December 11, 18 | By PaulvHill

contributed by Ronna Fleischman The history of Chinese dance dates back over 5000 years, when primitive cultures would perform ritual enactments of religious expression, in hopes of a prosperous hunt or a needed rain. But even in ancient times, dance was regarded by the Chinese as a physical exercise to harmonize the body and mind. Over the years, simple Chinese folk dances developed into intricate and beautiful performances that still exist in Chinese culture today. Read More 

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Published Tuesday, December 11, 18 | By PaulvHill

contributed  by Ronna Fleischman

Although developed in Europe, photography became extremely popular in the United States—especially in New York City—where in the late 1850’s hundreds of artists built lavish portrait studios on the upper floors of buildings around Broadway, and in other major American cities from Boston to San Francisco.  The medium’s success was built upon the idea that the average person who desired a simple likeness of himself, or more likely to send to a loved one, could attain such a portrait, whereas a large variety of groups were previously excluded from official portraiture.

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Published Tuesday, December 11, 18 | By PaulvHill

contributed by Ronna Fleischman

As with other art forms, American artists have long used the medium of paint and brush to express a national identity, question traditional thinking, and promote controversy. For the past three centuries, individuals, regions, movements, and schools have explored and evolved the various aspects of the American experience through painting.
Most early American art consisted of historical painting, battle scenes and especially portraits.  John Smibert, who landed at Newport in 1729, was America’s first portrait painter of distinction to attempt to carve out an existence in colonial America.  Benjamin West was a Neoclassical painter who had a profound influence on several generations of American artists. And John Trumbull, who introduced romanticism to American painting, is known as the artist of the American Revolution.

With westward expansion of settlement came the transcendent beauty of frontier landscapes to the attention of American painters. The Great West became a distinct genre, which emphasized the sheer size of the land and the cultures of the native people living on it.

Asher B. Durand’s “Kindred Spirits” (1849)

The first painting school of American art was The Hudson River School, whose painters carefully detailed their landscapes with romantic, almost glowing lighting. Asher B. Durand and Thomas Cole were prominent artists of this School. The Hudson River painters set out to “ignore the courtly muses of Europe and define a distinct vision for American art.  The vast nation lay before them, which they celebrated with a sense of awe for its majestic natural beauty and a feeling of optimism for the enormous potential it held.  By the 1830s, landscape painting had become the vehicle for depicting a national identity.

Lighthearted paintings depicting everyday life gained popularity around the mid-1800’s, however, the mood of the nation quickly darkened following the Civil War. Thomas Eakinsand Winslow Homer expressed a stark realistic world view. Their mature art demonstrated their uncompromising commitment to truth.

Toward the end of the century, avant-garde movements such as Impressionism were embraced by American painters.  Exhibitions of Impressionist works were held in American cities and sales were strong. In 1886, with a series of brilliant images of New York’s new public parks, William Merritt Chase became the first major American painter to create impressionist canvases in the United States.  Theodore RobinsonMary Cassatt and Childe Hassam, among others, helped to firmly validate the impressionist style of painting for American artists.

Asher B. Durand’s “Kindred Spirits” (1849)

Controversy has always been a motivation for American artists, and much of American painting since 1900 has been a revolt against tradition. The Modernist painters experimented with a variety of new styles that challenged conventional thinking. George Bellows and Edward Hopper painted in a language of abstraction that spoke of anxiety and alienation, and challenged the notion that America held the promise of paradise.

Georgia O’Keeffe was another major figure pushing the boundaries of modern American artistic style. She is chiefly known for paintings of flowers, rocks, shells, animal bones and landscapes in which she synthesized abstraction with representation.

The Harlem Renaissance in the first half of the 20th century was both a celebration of black culture and a plea against prejudice.  Black American artists looked to their unique racial experience as the source of artistic inspiration.  One of the most prominent artists of the Harlem Renaissance was Aaron Douglass who created many paintings of black subjects, cultivated wealthy patrons to support the movement, and worked as an activist.

In the 1940’s, the Abstract Expressionists came together in New York City’s Greenwich Village, where they addressed the great question of human existence through art.  They emphasized form and color within a nonrepresentational framework.  Their paintings were often shapes, lines and abstract forms not intended to depict reality.  Jackson Pollock initiated the revolutionary technique of splattering paint directly on a canvas to achieve a subconscious interpretation of his inner vision.

Andy Warhol, “Marilyn Monroe” (1967)

In the 1960’s, as both a development of and a reaction to Abstract Expressionism, American Pop Art was born. The sentiment surrounding the former was that it had become to elitist. Pop Art attempted to reverse this trend by once again introducing the image as a structural device and pull art back from the edge of abstraction. Pop Art was an affirmation of pop culture, consumerism, optimism, music, art and youth culture. The artist that embodied the spirit of the movement was Andy Warhol, who elevated its imagery to museum status.

Although digital technologies have permeated the art world in the last few decades, painting is still very much alive in America. Artists are more free to paint what and how they want. There is no consensus, nor need there be, as to a representative style of the age. An anything and everything goes attitude prevails, and only the marketplace is left to judge their merit.  However, magnificent and important works of art continue to be made in a wide variety of styles, perpetuating the plurality of American art.

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Published Tuesday, December 11, 18 | By PaulvHill

contributed by Ronna Fleischman

In just the past two decades, America has embraced the emergence of the new media art world, which uses the computer as subject matter, production tool and artistic medium all at once.  By the year 2000, a surprising number of American museums, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center and the Whitney Museum of American Art, were regularly presenting digital and online works.  An abundance of artists and iconic works are being exhibited before large audiences in galleries and online, and their impact has been widely discussed by well-known theorists and critics.

Hydro74 Skateboard Graphics

Joshua M. Smith (aka “Hydro74”), an Orlando based designer, was rated one of the top digital artist in America in 2009. As a college student, Joshua began taking visual communications courses which focused on the digital side of design. He has gone on to work with major sports and companies and record labels. In an interview, he explains his passion “to push the boundaries in doing what I feel is relevant to the market as well as extract various elements and trends to be able to offer them up in my own personal work.”

Hydro74 Skateboard Graphics

In the summer of 2011, the Museum of Modern Art in New York was among the first to showcase Microsoft’s newly developed digital art software.  It used Microsoft Digital Art, a realistic painting program that simulates the experience of traditional painting and drawing, to enhance viewers’ experience in an interactive exhibit. Viewers could play with the technology and learn how it can be used in an authentic creative experience.

Whether digital art is a revolution or simply the evolution of fine art in the modern world, harnessing modern technologies to achieve a higher level of visual aesthetic and emotion will certainly continue to be explored in American culture.

 

 

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