University of California Press
A House Divided: American Art since 1955
In this exhilarating book, Anne Middleton Wagner challenges readers to rethink the work of a range of post-World War II artists―Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Maya Lin, Bruce Nauman, and Agnes Martin among them―and thus to re-assess the relationship of art to politics and social life. The art of U.S. empire, she argues, is marked by deep dividedness. Painters and sculptors seemed entranced by American symbols, yet used them to enigmatic ends―exuberant, nightmarish, or both. Nor could postwar culture decide if it preserved sites devoted to productive withdrawal―for artists, the special zone called the studio―or simply maintained a margin where numbed subjects rehearsed the rites of vanished self-expression. This book charts the to-and-fro in recent American art between acknowledging the facts of nation and consumerism, and searching for meaningful models. And it shows that this process engages―even structures―national history and the citizen’s self.