College of Communications and Fine Arts Art Museum of the University of Memphis
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Hot Cold Cool (Didactic)

Hot Cold Cool presents late 20th century art from four 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 or confrontation.


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Last Updated: 10/26/12