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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Since ’45

America and the Making of Contemporary Art

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Since ’45

America and the Making of Contemporary Art

Since ’45 details the collision of American history and modern art. Since World War II, New York has been the indisputable center of the art world, and as Katy Siegel shows, it has had a profound influence on the preoccupations that contemporary art would  come to have. Tracing art history over the past decades, she shows how anxieties over race, mass culture, the individual, suburbia, apocalypse, and nuclear destruction have supplanted the legacy of European artistic traditions. 

Siegel’s study encompasses a variety of works, including Rothko’s planes of color, Warhol’s serial silkscreens, Richard Prince’s cowboys, Robert Longo’s Men in Cities, Faith Ringgold’s Black Light, and Laurie Simmons’s dollhouses, and moves fluidly from discussions of artists’ works, art museums, and galleries to cultural influences and significant historical events. Rather than arguing on nationalist grounds or viewing American culture as representative of a now-devalued nation, Siegel explores how American culture dominated not only American artists but created conditions that now, after the full globalization of the art world, affect artists around the world. Since ’45 will interest all readers engaged in post-war and contemporary art in the United States and beyond.

254 pages | 60 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2011

Art: American Art

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“Katy Siegel may well be our most insightful critic of contemporary art. It helps that she is also an art historian who puts the contemporary and the modern in perspective, identifying the larger issues that pertain to both. By the same token, the more historical moments in her writing profit from her critical engagement with the present. To read along as she moves through the past six or seven decades of art is to witness the two sides of her expertise enter into harmony. Since ’45 reflects Siegel’s deep understanding of the course of American culture, presented with remarkable acuity, economy, and wit. This most unusual book, a brilliant critical history, ends up revealing what’s crucial right now. Add its utter timeliness to the many reasons why it will last.”

Richard Shiff

“Katy Siegel has discovered the next great art historical subject: The American Moment, now long faded for reasons that are far from clear,  In Since ’45, Siegel lays bare the fragile, historical co-existence of European ideas about avant-garde and the American predisposition for designed obsolescence. For fifty years, this schism has demanded both a cool American reason and an ironic European reason for loving the art we love. Katy sorts them out, rediscovers America, and opens a new field of cultural speculation.”

Dave Hickey

"Katy Siegel’s newest addition to art criticism, Since ’45, continues to view the contemporary art world in a way that opens readers up to new ideas without casting judgement. An incisive and fascinating inside-out critique of American contemporary art."–Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons

“Critic/art historian Siegel explores the role national identity plays in a global   contemporary art world. Siegel argues for a distinctive American shape to contemporary art, ignored by critics and historians committed to interpreting American art within the context of European modernism. . . . Highly recommended.”


“Siegel is a daring and imaginative critic, able to tease out subterranean links among the most disparate bodies of work and follow them across the decades.” 


“Siegel argues that for artists working in the shadow of the Hiroshima mushroom cloud, social engagement was not a conceptual option but an existential condition. Her love of the sweeping, image-laden rhetoric of the American literary canon inflects her writing with subtle but insistent rhythms of ecstasy and desolation.”

Stephen Maine | Art in America

Table of Contents

1 Beginning and End
2 Black and White
3 Success and Failure
4 The One and the Many
5 First and Last
Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements

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