Cold War Modernists: Art, Literature, and American Cultural by Greg Barnhisel

By Greg Barnhisel

Ecu intellectuals of the Nineteen Fifties pushed aside American tradition as not anything greater than cowboy video clips and the A-bomb. In reaction, American cultural diplomats attempted to teach that the us had anything to provide past army may perhaps and advertisement exploitation. via literary magazines, touring paintings shows, traveling musical indicates, radio courses, booklet translations, and meetings, they deployed the innovative aesthetics of modernism to prove--particularly to the leftists whose chilly battle loyalties they was hoping to secure--that American artwork and literature have been aesthetically wealthy and culturally significant.
Yet through repurposing modernism, American diplomats and cultural gurus grew to become the avant-garde into the institution. They remade the as soon as progressive circulate right into a content-free number of creative concepts and kinds compatible for middlebrow intake. chilly struggle Modernists records how the CIA, the country division, and personal cultural diplomats reworked modernist paintings and literature into pro-Western propaganda in the course of the first decade of the chilly struggle. Drawing on interviews, formerly unknown archival fabrics, and the tales of such figures and associations as William Faulkner, Stephen Spender, Irving Kristol, James Laughlin, and Voice of the USA, Barnhisel unearths how the U.S. govt reconfigured modernism as a trans-Atlantic circulate, a joint recreation among American and eu artists, with profound implications for the artwork that and for the nature of yankee identification.

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The challenges of fascism and the Cold War, though, moved Western critics to begin to interpret modernist texts as endorsements of Western freedom and plurality and rejections of totalitarianism. 45 The problem, of course, with positing modernism as a kind of endorsement of pluralistic Western human- 38 FREEDOM , INDIVIDUALISM , MODERNISM ism is that so many modernist texts and other artworks called those values into question or explicitly attacked them. And although public acceptance of modernism rapidly advanced in the 1950s, many conservative critics, artists, and public figures continued to insist that modernism was in fact inherently radical and pointed to the involvement of many American modernist artists and writers with communism and the Popular Front in the 1930s.

And although in the eyes of many of the artists and critics discussed in this book, the project just tamed and dumbed down the most important artistic movement of the century, it also brought the great works of modernism to populations that might never have read Faulkner, attended a show of abstract expressionist painting, or seen a modern dance recital. Cold War modernism brought modernist techniques to the mainstream, enriching the kinds of creative works that mass publics already knew: genre fiction, Hollywood filmmaking, corporate architecture, Broadway theater, commercial design.

41 In this model, modernism—art withdrawn into a world where art is its own justification— may exhibit stylistic or formal characteristics that implicitly attack bourgeois certainties such as realist representation. ” Modernism in its undiluted form may not be to the taste of the middle classes, but middlebrow art that incorporates modernist elements gives them the sense of consuming something daring and refined yet still uplifting and suggests to them that modernism itself need not be threatening and foreign.

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