Sunday, December 31, 2023

the last book I ever read (The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever, excerpt two)

from The Slip: The New York City Street That Changed American Art Forever by Prudence Peiffer:

The voice of this generation of artists, the critic Paul Rosenfeld, pens his manifesto Port of New York: Essays on Fourteen American Moderns in 1924. He discusses New York’s harbor and the transatlantic ocean liners as the influence and training of European artistic practice, before Americans return home to their native soil to establish a unique tradition in arts and letters. The “creators” he highlights, among them the photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, and the painters Arthur Dove and Georgia O’Keeffe, give him “the sensation one has when, at the close of a prolonged journey by boat, the watergate comes by, and one steps forth and stands with solid under foot.” His essay is a stake in the ground: American art has arrived.

This awakening of a pioneering and uniquely American creativity is rooted in a post–World War I nationalism and a kind of colonial manifest destiny, hammered into the piers of New York Harbor and its gritty, democratic openness to the sea: “Perhaps,” Rosenfeld muses in his epilogue, “the tradition of life imported over the Atlantic has commenced expressing itself in terms of the new environment, giving the Port of New York a sense at last, and the entire land the sense of the port of New York . . . through words, lights, colors, the new world has been reached at last.”

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