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Washington Art Matters: Art Life in the Capital 1940-1990 – June 3, 2013

 

This final project of the Washington Arts Museum (WAM) looks back at a seminal half- century in the city’s cultural history —from federal arts projects and the influx of newcomers in war and post-war times to heady acclaim for the Washington Color School and ambitious experimentation in the 1960s, from artists’ mobilizing on behalf of social and political causes in the 1970s to diversity and exuberant optimism of the 1980s. Authors Jean Lawlor Cohen (editor, independent curator, arts writer), Elizabeth Tebow (art historian) and Sidney Lawrence (artist, writer and critic) create a lively history of the art, personalities and social scenes. Benjamin Forgey, drawing from many years as art and architecture critic for The Washington Star and The Washington Post, contributes an afterword assessing the more recent years. Based on primary sources, the art press and personal interviews, their accounts are illustrated with, in many cases, rarely seen candid photographs of artists, art openings, installations, and parties. Washington Art Matters serves as capstone for WAM, whose primary mission during its 10 years as a nonprofit organization brought attention to Washington art. May this book be a valuable addition to the city’s historical record and an inspiration for future scholarship.

Thanks for the Memories By Kent Morrison on July 3, 2013 For those of us who came somewhat later to the DC art scene, this fact-packed, but readable, insightful, and sometimes just borderline gossipy book, is completely engrossing. There are events and institutions and personal relationships of which a latecomer might not know (e.g., long closed galleries) or be aware of only vaguely. They are now appreciable in context and, because of interviews, author’s personal knowledge, and detail, in veritable (and sometimes with photos, actual) color. Gaps are filled in. Connections between artists and gallery owners and collectors (and between NY and DC — and between money, politics, and art) that make perfect sense are told. But many you wouldn’t be very sure about (let alone understand the consequences of on a particular artist’s work) if you weren’t a participant or keen observer at the time. And you’ll see (literally; there are those photos) artists you know now as very established, but in their younger, thinner, and somewhat more hirsute phases (see, e.g., Rockin’ Robin). A great read! Plus, there are excellent, albeit brief, analyses of how particular artists thought of their work, what influenced changes, and what the critics thought. Wonderful pictures of the art and those on the art scene. So, a history and a commentary, of the people, the times, the place, and the art itself. If you are interested in art, it’s a good book. If you are interested in DC art (and even assuming that the various authors who collaborated on this impressive work must have had their own biases and at least some gaps in knowledge), it’s a must read book. A wonderful and fitting “final contribution” of the Washington Arts Museum, an institution that we latecomers may never have appreciated but for this great gift.

2013book-whywashington

by Jean Lawlor Cohen (Author) , Elizabeth Tebow (Author) , Sidney Lawrence (Author) , Benjamin Forgey (Afterword) , Bussolati (Designer)

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