By Judith Baughman
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Additional resources for American Decades: 1950-1959 (American Decades)
Pollock's drip paintings, also called "the art of obliteration" because during one period they consisted of recognizable forms almost completely covered by random paint drippings, symbolized the spirit of the time: negate the past with spontaneous action in the present. Larry Rivers said his 1953 painting George Washington Crossing the Delaware was conceived as a "disgusting, dead, and absurd" painting of "a national cliche" calculated to outrage viewers. " Audience Response. To the dismay of the angry young artists, critics and viewers responded enthusiasti- AMERICAN DECADES: 1950-1959 cally if with some bewilderment.
Yet they dreaded the centralization of power and the impersonality of life in the atomic age. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), British novelist George Orwell's novel about a totalitarian government that imposed absolute uniformity of thought and action, was read as a warning about the future. "Big Brother is watching you," a refrain from the novel, became a slogan for people who feared the effect of a social organization so powerful that it could control thought and stifle creativity. The 1950s are remembered as a time of complacency.
One of Pollock's paintings sold for $13,600 in 1950; after his death in 1956, prices soared. A Mark Rothko painting brought $8,950 in 1950, a time when the standard price for a contemporary painting was $500, and in 1959 Rothko was commissioned to do a painting to hang in the posh Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan. But even the successful rebels found reason for complaint. Both Pollock and Rothko were members of a group called "The Irascibles" whose 1951 boycott of a juried competition for eighty-five hundred dollars in prizes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was their declaration of war on the art-world establishment.
American Decades: 1950-1959 (American Decades) by Judith Baughman