FRAMING AMERICA: A Social History of American Art

Frances K. Pohl, Author . Thames and Hudson $75 (560p) ISBN 978-0-500-23792-2

Even if the ultimate outcome of the culture wars is still in some dispute, it is clear that revisiting art's "greatest hits," from America or anywhere else, is not sufficient for a basic understanding of art history. Framing America's focus is determinedly and liberatingly inclusive, showing how popular and vernacular arts have had just as great cultural and inspirational impact as the work of trained artists. Pohl, professor of art history at Pomona College, proves her case again and again with revealing juxtapositions and inspired close readings, from the objects plundered by Cortés to those fabricated by Jeff Koons. Native art, folk art and "Outsider" art, as well as many previously neglected female artists and artists of color are present in Pohl's narrative, never as victims of special pleading but as essential components in a vibrant mosaic. An examination of depictions of the Old West introduces to great effect drawings of startling iconic simplicity done by some of the victors of the Battle of Little Big Horn; an account of the construction of the Statue of Liberty is viewed against the Haymarket riot and trials; the Tilted Arc controversy leads to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. And if the section dealing with recent developments is somewhat more cautious than the rest, Pohl at least steers clear of millennial pronouncements. Written less as a series of static tableaux than as a set of provocations for discussion and exploration, this large, satisfying and beautifully produced volume, with 665 illustrations (half of them in color), will be of value not only to students and scholars, but to anyone interested in the contradictory forces at the heart of American life. (Oct. 28)

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 560 pages - 978-0-500-28334-9
Open Ebook - 616 pages - 978-0-500-77166-2
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