Beginning with responses to fascism in the 1930s and ending with protests against the Iraq wars, David McCarthy shows how American artists—including Philip Evergood, David Smith, H. C. Westermann, Ed Kienholz, Nancy Spero, Leon Golub, Chris Burden, Robert Arneson, Joyce Kozloff, Martha Rosler, and Coco Fusco—have borne witness, registered dissent, and asserted the enduring ability of imagination to uncover truths about individuals and nations. During what has been called the American Century, the United States engaged in frequent combat overseas while developing technologies of unprecedented lethality. Many artists, working collectively or individually, produced antiwar art to protest the use or threat of military violence in the service of an expansionist state. In so doing, they understood themselves to be fighting on behalf of two liberal beliefs: that their country was the guarantor of liberty against empire, and that modern art was a viable means of addressing the most compelling events and issues of the moment. For many artists, creative work was a way to participate in democratic exchange by challenging and clarifying government and media perspectives on armed conflict. Charting a seventy-five-year history of antiwar art and activism, American Artists against War, 1935–2010 lucidly tracks the continuities, preoccupations, and strategies of several generations.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Violence, Art, and the American Century
1. Artists against War and Fascism
3. End Your Silence
4. A Network of Artist-Activists
5. Not in Our Name
David McCarthy is Professor of Art History at Rhodes College and author of The Nude in American Painting, 1950–1980; Pop Art; and H. C. Westermann at War: Art and Manhood in Cold War America.
"An outstanding volume... American Artists Against War, 1935-2010 is a major contribution to the growing history of American political art."—Paul von Blum Truthdig
"McCarthy. . .writes elegant descriptions of artwork and pairs them with strong analysis. Thus individual artworks function like landing places throughout the book: the reader moves from one discussion to the next, picking up historical context and expert opinions along the way."—Chapter 16
"American Artists against War, 1935–2010 is a welcome addition to scholarship on twentieth-century American art. Well researched and sensitive to the specificities of historical context, David McCarthy’s work offers a broad overview of artists’ opposition to warfare undertaken in the name of capitalist democracy."—Jody Patterson Journal of American History
"[McCarthy's] study is the first to thoroughly examine our artists’ devotion to expressing their beliefs in work and art."—Journal of American Culture
"David McCarthy’s book is an important contribution to the history of twentieth-century American political art, demonstrating the remarkable number of artists who created and curators and critics who promoted antiwar art. This text should be of broad interest to both scholars and general readers."—Cécile Whiting, author of Pop L.A.: Art and the City in the 1960s
"In this dauntingly ambitious yet highly accessible book, McCarthy has accomplished something completely unique. Though many have written about art inspired by war, this is the first comprehensive attempt to contextualize it within the political history of a seventy-five-year period. Further, as the title suggests, it places a greater focus than previous works on the role of artist as citizen in time of war, thus demonstrating that creative activism has a long and proud trajectory in this country."—Nina Felshin, curator, writer, activist, and editor of But Is it Art? The Spirit of Art as Activism