Cover image for The American century : art & culture, 1950-2000
The American century : art & culture, 1950-2000
Phillips, Lisa.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Whitney Museum of American Art in association with W.W. Norton, [1999]

Physical Description:
398 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 28 cm
General Note:
Completes the history begun with: The American century : art and culture, 1900-1950 / Barbara Haskell.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition The American century: art & culture 1900-2000 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Pt. 1, 1900-1950 held April 23 to August 22, 1999 and pt. 2, 1950-2000 held Sept. 26, 1999 to Feb. 13, 2000.
Added Corporate Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N6512 .H355 1999 SUPPL. Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



Shortly after the Second World War a group of American artists moved away from representation and realism toward a completely nonrepresentational style which became known as abstract expressionism. Led by Jackson Pollock, Willem DeKooning, and others, it was the first truly American painting style, and it quickly moved the United States into the forefront of innovation. A succession of other movements followed, including Pop Art, and adherents like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein; the performance art of John Cage and others; video art, led by Nam Juin Paik; and installation art of grand proportions.In this expansive volume Lisa Phillips explains the excitement and inventiveness of American artists in the context of the varied and sometimes turbulent social environment as well as the expanding economy of postwar America. Essays by experts in related fields illuminate parallel and diverse developments in architecture, dance, music, literature, painting, sculpture, cinema, and design.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Phillips curated the second half of the Whitney Museum of American Art's revelatory exhibition documenting this century's torrent of all-out visual creativity. In the first installment [BKL Ap 15 99], Barbara Haskell emphasized modern art's multidisciplinary mix, a dynamic that continued unabated in the volatile decades Phillips so adeptly scrutinizes. As New York replaced Paris as the capital of the art world, artists reflected cold war tensions and the transformative effects of the civil rights, women's rights, and antiwar movements by challenging artistic traditions in a frenzy of abstraction and a breaching of the line between fine art and popular culture. Contradictions and balancing acts abound. The urge to bring real life into art, for instance, inspired Warhol, Rauschenberg, and Nam June Paik, whereas the need to escape the chaos and clutter of life was manifested in minimalism. Phillips embraces every facet of American art's last 50 years in her brisk yet gratifyingly inclusive text to the accompaniment of a wealth of illustrations and sidebars on architecture, music, theater, movies, and literature. --Donna Seaman

Library Journal Review

The second installment in the Whitney museum's primer on 20th-century American art fairs somewhat better than the first volume, covering 1900-50 (LJ 6/1/99), thanks to the superiority of the art here. Given the ascendance of the Abstract Expressionists and the continued dominance of American artists through much of the second half of the century, Phillips can more easily maintain the unerringly American focus throughout the narrative (though the rigid marginalization of certain key non-Americans seems all the more chauvinistic). Like its predecessor, however, the volume suffers from a compulsion to contextualize that is both less needed in coverage of these recent years and more problematic in addressing a fractured contemporary art world. Aside from the subjectivity of many of the pronouncements ("The arts...thrived during Carter's administration, in no small part thanks to Joan Mondale"), one wonders at the constant stress on national events and the deemphasis of community politics and changes in the marketing of art. Academic art libraries will want this volume as documentation of a major show, but public libraries can wait and purchase as demand warrants.ÄEric Bryant, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Serving as the catalog to the Whitney's major exhibition of the millennial cusp, this is also the companion to the Museum's April/August exhibition catalog that covered the first half of the 20th century (The American Century, CH, Nov'99). And, while the principal author and editor has changed from the first to the second catalog, from Barbara Haskell to Lisa Phillips, the organization, design, high quality binding, reasonable price, fine images, and overall excellence has been maintained. Phillips, now director of The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, brings eminent qualifications to bear on this project, especially her 22-year tenure at the Whitney, where she cocurated six biennials and served most recently as the Museum's curator of contemporary art. Her superb text, in six large sections, essentially constitutes the catalog: "American Takes Command: 1950-1960"; "Redefining the American Dream: 1950-1960"; "New Frontiers: 1960-1970"; "America at the Crossroads: 1964-1976"; "Restoration and Reaction: 1976-1990"; "Approaching the Millennium: 1990-2000." Phillips has also assembled 19 authors from a wide variety of fields such as literature, film studies, cultural history, theater history, art history, and urban design, and given them freedom to write relatively short sidebars throughout to produce a melange of texts, amplified by a cornucopia of some 600 color images. Highly recommended. All levels. J. Weidman; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art