Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

216 × 138 × 22 mm
256 pages
61 illustrations
01 Oct 2010
  • £25.00

  • This edition is currently unavailable

Since ’45 America and the Making of Contemporary Art Katy Siegel

Art histories of the recent past usually depict art after World War II as wrested from a ravaged Europe by a triumphant United States, or in formal terms, floating free of social meaning. These histories fail to describe how the particularities of American culture shaped contemporary art. Without the European triumvirate of academy, aristocracy, and avant-garde, American artists instead responded to social issues native to the country: race, mass culture, individual success, suburbia, and the atomic bomb, which revived the Puritanical tradition of the apocalyptic imaginary. Katy Siegel examines how these issues came to find their place in art ranging from the works of Norman Lewis, Joan Mitchell, and Robert Rauschenberg to Kerry James Marshall and Mike Kelley, situating them amidst an American literary and political discourse that includes Herman Melville, Ralph Ellison, and Frederick Exley. Since ’45 explores how U.S. culture not only shaped American art, but, given the political and economic dominance of the U.S., has continued to affect contemporary art worldwide, even as the American century fades.

‘Siegel explores the role national identity plays in a global contemporary artworld. Siegel argues for a distinctive American shape to contemporary art, ignored by critics and historians committed to interpreting American art within the context of European modernism . . . illuminating and constructive. Highly Recommended’ — Choice

‘Siegel argues that for artists working in the shadow of the Hiroshima mushroom cloud, social engagement was not a conceptual option but an existential condition . . . the author structures her reading of history on binaries - Black and White, Success and Failure,The One and the Many - that embrace permanent irresolution, opening up her analysis rather than sewing it up. Her love of the sweeping, image-laden rhetoric of the American literary canon inflects her writing with subtle but insistent rhythms of ecstasy and desolation.’ — Stephen Maine, Art in America

‘This book has significant value as a broad cultural history of the past half century and is written in a manner that provokes readers to consider not just the objects and events under discussion but also the conceptual frameworks that we use to make sense of them.’ — Journal of American History

Since 45 offers a pioneering example of a critical history of modern and contemporary art that does not take arts criticality as its essential criterion of value. By demonstrating the continued vitality of certain themes, Siegel is able to show that art of the relatively recent past (such as Abstract Expressionism and Pop) still has lessons to impart, while art of the recent present is engaged in its own historical conditions more than we may often recognise . . . By demarcating the continuities and the transformations in her chosen themes, Siegel demonstrates theenduring relevance of the concept of history.’ — Oxford Art Journal

‘Siegel is a daring and imaginative critic, able to tease out subterranean links among the most disparate bodies of work and follow them across the decades.’ — Bookslut.com

‘Katy Siegels newest addition to art criticism, Since 45, continues to view the art world in a way that opens readers up to newideas without casting judgement. An incisive and fascinating inside-out critique ofAmerican contemporary art.’ — Jeff Koons

‘Katy Siegel has discovered the next great art historical subject: The American Moment, now long faded for reasons that are far from clear. In Since 45, Siegel lays bare the fragile, historical co-existence of European ideas about avant-garde and the American predisposition for designed obsolescence. For fifty years, this schism has demanded both a cool American reason and an ironic European reason for loving the art we love. Katy sorts them out, rediscovers America, and opens a new field of cultural speculation.’ — Dave Hickey

‘Katy Siegel may well be our most insightful critic of contemporary art. It helps that she is also an art historian who puts the contemporary and the modern in perspective, identifying the larger issues that pertain to both. By the same token, the more historical moments in her writing profit from her critical engagement with the present. To read along as she moves through the past six or seven decades of art is to witness the two sides of her expertise enter into harmony. Since 45 reflects Siegel's deep understanding of the course of American culture, presented with remarkable acuity, economy, and wit. This most unusual book, a brilliant critical history, ends up revealing what's crucial right now. Add its utter timeliness to the many reasons why it will last.’ — Richard Shiff, Professor of Art History at the University of Texas at Austin

Show all

Katy Siegel is the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Endowed Chair in Modern American Art at Stony Brook University, New York, and contributing editor at Artforum. She is the author of ‘The Heroine Paint’: After Frankenthaler (2015) and co-author of Art Works: Money (2004).


1 Beginning and End

2 Black and White

3 Success and Failure

4 The One and the Many

5 First and Last


Select Bibliography


Photo Acknowledgements