American Art

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supchina: 10 Can’t-Miss Artworks At The Guggenheim’s ‘Art And China After 1989: Theater Of The World’

by Alexandra_Munroe on October 27, 2017

originally published on supchina.com
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by AMI LI

“Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World,” on right now at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, is an art show of massive proportions. Taking up the entire rotunda and two additional galleries of the landmark Frank Gehry building, it’s easy to become overwhelmed when there’s a 65-foot dragon soaring above your head.

But between the crowds and the mythical beasts, here are 10 pieces worth a second (or seventh) glance as you make your way through two decades’ worth of Chinese contemporary art.

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Alexandra_Munroesupchina: 10 Can’t-Miss Artworks At The Guggenheim’s ‘Art And China After 1989: Theater Of The World’

Reflections on The Third Mind

by Alexandra_Munroe on May 12, 2012

Originally published in East-West Interchanges in American Art: A Long and Tumultuous Relationship. Reproduced by permission of the publisher.


The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989 was a large-scale exhibition accompanied by a scholarly book of the same name, a series of live performances, a website, audio guide, and public programs organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and presented there in winter 2009. Many years in the making, it explored a set of ideas around the vast, unruly, and often problematic concept of “Asian influence” on visual art of the United States. Europe has long been recognized as the font of mainstream American art movements, but the show explored an alternative lineage aligned with America’s Pacific aspect. Asia’s “influence” on such influential artists and writers as James McNeill Whistler, John La Farge, Arthur Wesley Dow, Ezra Pound, Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, John Cage, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin, and Adrian Piper has been well-documented and treated in previous studies. The Third Mind (Figures 1–3) made the case that this influence was not occasional or eccentric, but was rather a continuous and complex undercurrent that courses through the development of early modern to post-war to neo-avant-garde art. That the nature of artists’ work with these forces varied widely and that “Asia” meant different things to different artists at different periods should not discourage our critical and historical analyses of this profound lineage of ideas, events, and people, it concluded.

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Buddhism and the Neo-Avant-Garde: Cage Zen, Beat Zen, and Zen

by Alexandra_Munroe on June 2, 2009

Originally published in The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989. © 2009 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Used by permission.


In 1958, Alan Watts, the popular philosopher and interpreter of Zen Buddhism, published an essay on Zen and contemporary American culture titled “Square Zen, Beat Zen, Zen.”[1] Watts’s books The Spirit of Zen and The Way of Zen were cult classics among artists and intellectuals from Greenwich Village to North Beach, and together with his weekly KPFA radio talks in San Francisco, contributed to what he now observed was all the “hullabaloo about Zen” among “Bohemian” artists, the Beat writers, and “snobbish” East Asian academics, each of whom he proceeds to decry for their particular distortions.

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Alexandra_MunroeBuddhism and the Neo-Avant-Garde: Cage Zen, Beat Zen, and Zen

Art of Perceptual Experience: Pure Abstraction and Ecstatic Minimalism

by Alexandra_Munroe on April 4, 2009

Originally published in The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989. © 2009 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Used by permission.


From 1961 until his death in 1967, Ad Reinhardt exclusively painted black square canvases measuring five by five feet, each with subtle attenuations of dark tones and a vaguely discernable cross structure trisecting the powdery-dry, matte surface into nine symmetrical squares (Abstract Painting, plate 127). This series coincided with his 1961 trip to Syria, Jordan, and Turkey to study Islamic architecture and decoration, whose repetitive, geometric, symmetrical, and aniconic sacred forms (“imageless icons”) held intense interest for him. In 1962, he wrote to his friend, the Trappist monk and interfaith theologian Thomas Merton, that he had become a “white Muslim,” able to “find [himself] among anti-imagists, anti-idolatrists, pro-iconoclasts, and nonobjectivists.”[1] Reinhardt based his repetitive, prescribed craft, which culminated in his black paintings, on the ritualized and diagrammatic approach to object-making in Islamic as well as Asian cultures. In language that echoes his reverent descriptions of Buddhist sculptures, Tantric mandalas, and Chinese landscape paintings, Reinhardt declared his black paintings to be “pure, abstract, non-objective, timeless, spaceless, changeless, relationless, disinterested painting … object[s] that [are] self-conscious (no unconsciousness), ideal, transcendent, aware of nothing but Art (absolutely no anti-art).”[2] For the 1966 retrospective of his work at the Jewish Museum, he wrote that these works are “a logical development of personal art history and the historic traditions of Eastern and Western pure painting.”[3]

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Alexandra_MunroeArt of Perceptual Experience: Pure Abstraction and Ecstatic Minimalism