Eye of the Sixties: Richard Bellamy and the Transformation of Modern Art
By Judith E. Stein
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (July 2016)
Reviewed by Marjorie Heins
Richard Bellamy was that strangest of New York City art dealers: he was totally uninterested in money. He was, however, in love with the challenging and avant-garde, and had an expert eye for the next big thing. In the late 1950s and early '60s, he discovered and championed such subsequent stars of pop art, minimalism, and large-scale sculptural abstraction as Claes Oldenburg, James Rosenquist, Donald Judd, and Lee Bontecou, generously referring them to more commercially savvy dealers when he knew that he couldn't represent them profitably. The art historian Judith Stein has given us a biography of this iconoclastic hero with, as its background, a panorama of the New York art scene in those critical years when new trends, including a return to figuration, displaced the Abstract Expressionist canon that had ruled the realm up through the mid-1950s.
By Karen Karbiener
Walt Whitman is the world’s first New Yorker. Declaring himself as both a “Brooklyn Boy” and a “Manhattanese” at the same time Emerson described the Big Apple as a “sucked orange,” Poe denounced its noise and too-rapid development, and Thoreau felt “sick ever since I came here,” Whitman celebrated the urban roots of Leaves of Grass in many of his greatest poems. “Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son” named the city his spiritual forefather in “Song of Myself,” and “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” is just about everyone’s pick for the greatest New York poem ever written. “Proud and passionate city! mettlesome, mad, extravagant city!” he sings in “City of Ships.” “I chant and celebrate all that is yours.”
But 165 years before this blog post on summer city getaways was scribed for Gotham readers, Walt published his own versions of such pieces in the New York Evening Post and the New York Sunday Dispatch. “Swarming and multitudinous as the population of the city still is, there are many thousands of its usual inhabitants now absent in the country,” he wrote in 1851. “Having neither the funds nor disposition to pass my little term of ruralizing at the fashionable baths, or watering places, I am staying awhile down here at Greenport, the eastern point of the Long Island Railroad.”
By Andrew L. Hargroder
The 1790s was a decade marked by conspiracy-mongering in the United States. Polarized visions over the republic’s future inspired a prevailing mood of both revolutionary optimism for humankind and abrasive paranoia. Countering these anxieties, middle- and working-class Americans formed fraternal and literary clubs designed to foster democratic comity and candor as a public discourse. Among New York’s clubs, a new class of citizen took form, which espoused a more inclusive understanding of rights and political engagement. That allowed non-elites, like Richard Bingham Davis, to contribute to the conversation over the republic’s future.
"Tontine Coffee House” (1797) by Francis Guy. Though this coffee house was a site of frequent political clashes between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans throughout the 1790s, it also provide a sense of NYC architecture and the city's lively streets at the time of Davis and the societies’ activities.
By Marjorie Heins
The art collector Peggy Guggenheim had just opened her avant-garde "Art of This Century" gallery on West 57 Street in the fall of 1942 when her friend Marcel Duchamp suggested that she mount an all-woman exhibition. Guggenheim loved the idea: the show would be radical not only because of its composition but because most of the paintings, drawings, and sculptures on view would be either abstract or Surrealist in style, as befitted Guggenheim's modernist taste.
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