How, When, and Why Modern Art Came to New York

Marcus de Zayas, Author, Francis M. Naumann, Editor, Marius De Zayas, Author
Marcus de Zayas, Author, Francis M. Naumann, Editor, Marius De Zayas, Author MIT Press (MA) $40 (260p) ISBN 978-0-262-04153-9
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
Paperback - 260 pages - 978-0-262-54096-4
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In 1907, de Zayas and the rest of his family was forced into exile for his father's opposition to Mexican president Porfirio Diaz. Shortly after arriving in New York, de Zayas took up his own cause: a writer, caricaturist and close associate of Alfred Stieglitz, he became a perceptive and unrepentant propagandist for the avant garde. In the late 1940s, at the urging of the Museum of Modern Art's director, Alfred Barr, de Zayas pulled together this dissection of the ""hard labor"" of introducing modernism to New York. His commentary, dated but still lively, emerges as though from a time capsule from an era when modernist art had the power to shock and offend. Chronological sections describing exhibits at Stieglitz's ""291"" Gallery and it's spinoff, de Zayas's own Modern Gallery, illustrate the initial American response to artists who have since been canonized, from Matisse and Picabia to Picasso and Cezanne. Many American critics writing for the mainstream press simply despised their work. Three decades later, de Zayas quoted from those reviews with impunity knowing that history had already vindicated his critical acumen. While some of his comments seem antiquated, the value of this book is its immediacy. De Zayas was one of the first writers to attempt to explain the tenets of modernism to the American public, and his prose reveals an insider's perspective on a seminal moment in art history. Although a more detailed introduction to this edition would have been helpful, Naumann (New York Dada) has included appendices of real historical interest, from the author's correspondence with Stieglitz to exhibition lists from the Modern and the de Zayas galleries. (Oct.)
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