In the history of art, only a handful of great artists have been able to articulate the nature of the creative process. Robert Motherwell was one such artist. Not only a seminal painter in the movement eventually referred to as abstract expressionism, he was also a primary theorist and spokesperson for the avant-garde art that developed mainly in New York City during the Second World War. Throughout the formative years of abstract expressionism, Motherwell's presence as artist, editor of a series of pioneering books on modern art, lecturer, and teacher was influential in both illuminating and shaping the development of what he termed "The Enterprise" of abstract art.
This book brings together a representative selection of Motherwell's writings about art, dating from 1941 to 1988. It contains more than sixteen essays, a number of pieces from exhibition catalogs, more than a dozen public lectures, and all the artist's vanguard editorial work. The last includes his introductions to several volumes of the pioneering series Documents of Modern Art, which he began directing and editing in 1944; his contribution to possibilities, the first magazine devoted to modern art and culture in the United States, and his work on Modern Artists in America, a book designed to bring balanced attention to modern art in the conservative political climate that prevailed in 1951. Excerpts from four interviews, a number of letters, and lectures, some never before published, bring the collection to within three years of the artist's death. A new chronology and an updated bibliography provide much new information.
In a New York Times tribute shortly after Motherwell's death, Hilton Kramer memorialized the artist as the "eloquent and articulate champion of the entire Abstract Expressionist movement, an archivist of the modernist movement as a whole" and expressed regret that Motherwell's "long-awaited" collected works had not yet appeared. Here at last is that definitive collection, nearly eighty pieces by the leading spokesperson for abstract expressionism.