Opening Reception on September 21
Hot Cold Cool
Hot Cold Cool presents late 20th century art from five fine art print portfolios in AMUM’s collection.
The post-World War II Cold War was punctuated by the arms race, terrifying episodic
brinksmanship and localized but civilization-threatening “hot” conflicts. The era
was also characterized first in the United States and then in Europe and Japan by
an accelerating consumer economy. One way to deal with whiplashing uncertainty between
The Bomb and the middle-class dream was an attitude of cool detachment.
“Ten Works by Ten Artists,” published in 1964, includes silkscreens by Ellsworth Kelly,
Ad Reinhardt and Frank Stella who though famous at the time have become giants in
American art history. These Minimalist pieces epitomize a dispassionate formalism
of color, material and design, while works by Pop artists Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein
and Robert Indiana register with surpassing coolness mass media, mass consumption
and Madison Avenue. By contrast, the portfolio “American Artists and Writers Protest
the War in Vietnam,” produced in 1967 as part of a series of actions led by sculptor
Mark Di Suvero, among others, contains furious, accusatory images as well as signs
of measured disapproval and a few by artist/supporters like Louise Nevelson working
in their characteristic styles. “Ten Lithographs by Ten Artists” of 1971 represents
an emotional warming trend in American art with a range of figurative work by artists
such as Philip Pearlstein, Philip Guston and Red Grooms.
Beyond American frontiers, artists on both sides of Europe’s Iron Curtain and on
other continents shared their work through the medium of international print exhibitions.
Many of these events occurred in Communist nations because art was a rare form of
officially acceptable exchange. Artists in the Soviet orbit could rarely go out,
but their art travelled via post to France, Italy, Belgium, Argentina, Japan and the
US, and artists and curators from outside sometimes obtained visas to attend exhibitions
in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. The World Print portfolios represent
international art that was shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art during
the 1970s. In all international exhibits, the brittle environment of the Cold War
and the desire for cultural exchange encouraged “cool” art that avoided overt criticism