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Boston Modern
Figurative Expressionism as Alternative Modernism
Judith Bookbinder

Revisiting New England

University of New Hampshire Press
2005 • 388 pp. 93 illus. 6 x 9"
Art History

$35.00 Hardcover, 978-1-58465-488-9

[Bookbinder] punctuates this history with thoughtful analyses of individual artworks . . . she tells an interesting story about the role of institutions and formal education in American cultural history and makes an important contribution to this history.The New England Quarterly

A fresh, incisive study of the expressionist approach to modern art in Boston.

In Boston Modern, Judith Bookbinder firmly establishes Boston figurative expressionism as an integral part of American modernism, one that presents an alternative approach to the trajectory of abstract art in the turbulent decades bracketing the Second World War. The works of the movement’s most remarkable artists boldly confront issues of personal and group identity in the modern world, consider the role of the artist as witness to violence, prejudice, and corruption in modern society, and intricately reinterpret the nature of the creative process and its formal and spatial implications. Within Boston’s unique and surprisingly receptive Anglo-Saxon and academic tradition, Karl Zerbe, Hyman Bloom, Jack Levine, David Aronson, Philip Guston, and others, many of whom were Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe or their children, struggled to clarify their identities as outsiders in an insider’s world and as modern artists. Although at first critically and popularly well received throughout the country, Boston figurative expressionists were increasingly marginalized by the development of abstract modernism centered in New York.

However, by giving voice to the ethos of a community in flux, the movement continues to inspire artists today. The vibrant dialogue the group established between their individual perspectives and the aesthetic conventions taught at Boston’s academic institutions is here at last given the prominent treatment it deserves. Lavishly illustrated and skillfully presented, Boston Modern definitively challenges widely accepted notions of modernist discourse in American art history.

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“Judith Bookbinder has delivered the first comprehensive study of its kind. Richly documented and lucidly written, Boston Modern is erudite and beautifully synthesizing at once. It fills a scholarly gap in the history of modernism and brings to life a regional legacy whose sources and significance extend far beyond regionalism.”Asher D. Biemann, University of Virginia

"In her rich investigation of figurative expressionism, Judith Bookbinder expands our knowledge and understanding of American modernism and repositions the city of Boston at the center of a vital and socially engaged art tradition. Boston Modern is a compelling story of three generations of extraordinary painters that explores the relationship of their ethnic, class, and religious identities to their humanist commitment and artistic achievement."Lois Palken Rudnick, author of Utopian Vistas: The Mabel Dodge Luhan House and the American Counterculture

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JUDITH BOOKBINDER teaches art history at Boston College. She has organized exhibitions at many museums and galleries in the Boston area; her numerous publications include In a Perfect World: Bermuda in the Context of American Landscape Painting (2002) and Margaret Sutermeister: Chronicling Seen and Unseen Worlds, 1894–1909 (1993).

Thu, 23 Oct 2014 12:31:47 -0500