New York School (art)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The New York School was an informal group of American poets, painters and musicians active in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s in New York City. The poets, painters, composers, and musicians often drew inspiration from Surrealism and the contemporary avant-garde art movements, in particular action painting, abstract expressionism, Jazz, improvisational theater, avant-garde music, and the interaction of friends in the New York City art world's vanguard circle.


The Poets

Concerning the New York School poets, critics argued that their work was a reaction to the Confessionalist movement in contemporary poetry. Their poetic subject matter was often light, violent, or observational, while their writing style was often described as cosmopolitan and world-traveled. The poets often wrote in a direct, and immediate, spontaneous, manner reminiscent of word/paintings, and stream of consciousness writing, often using vivid, and visual imagery. They drew on inspiration from Surrealism and the contemporary avant-garde art movements, in particular the action painting of their friends in the New York City art world circle like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.

Poets most often associated with the New York School are John Ashbery, Ted Berrigan, Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara, Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, Michael Andre, Barbara Guest, Kenward Elmslie, Ron Padgett, James Schuyler, and Sam Abrams.

O'Hara was at the center of the group before his death in 1966. His numerous friendships and post as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, he provided connections between the poets and painters like Jane Freilicher, Fairfield Porter and Larry Rivers (also his lover). There were many joint works and collaborations: Rivers inspired a play by Koch, Koch and Ashbery together wrote the poem "A Postcard to Popeye", Ashbery and Schuyler wrote the novel A Nest of Ninnies, and Schuyler collaborated on an ode with O'Hara, whose portrait was painted by Rivers.

Although they admired each other, the poets Koch, O'Hara, Schuyler and Ashbery were quite different as poets, yet they had much in common personally:

  • Except for Schuyler, all overlapped at Harvard,
  • Except for Koch, all were homosexual,
  • Except for Ashbery, all did military service,
  • Except for Koch, all reviewed art
  • Except for Ashbery, who soon moved to Paris, all lived in New York during their formative years as poets.

All four were inspired by French Surrealists like Raymond Roussel, Pierre Reverdy and Guillaume Apollinaire. David Lehman, in his book on the New York poets, wrote, "They favored wit, humor and the advanced irony of the blague (that is, the insolent prank or jest) in ways more suggestive of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg than of the New York School abstract expressionist painters after whom they were named."<ref name=nyt/>

The Beats

There are also commonalities between the New York School and the members of the Beat Generation poets also active in 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s New York City. Including Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, LeRoi Jones, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Diane DiPrima, Diane Wakoski, Anne Waldman, Tuli Kupferberg, Ed Sanders, Norris Embry, and several others.

The composers

The term also refers to a circle of composers in the 1950's who orbited around John Cage: Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, Christian Wolff, and David Tudor above all. Their music paralleled the music and events of the Fluxus group, and drew its name from the Abstract Expressionist painters above. What brought these artists together was a faith in the liberation of the unconscious and an excitement drawn from the street energies of Manhattan. In the 1960s the work of the avant-garde Minimalist composers La Monte Young, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley became prominent in the New York art world.


The new Bebop and cool Jazz musicians in the 1940s and 1950s featuring Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Ahmad Jamal, Gerry Mulligan, Dave Brubeck, and many other great Jazz musicians set the tone for the New York School and Abstract expressionism. Later new jazz musicians like Archie Shepp, Ornette Coleman, Roland Kirk, Pharoah Sanders, the evolving Miles Davis, and John Coltrane created the sounds for the new and more cool Hard-edge painters, Minimal artists, Color field painters, Lyrical Abstractionists, and Pop artists of the sixties.

New York School artists

Painters, sculptors and printmakers associated with Abstract expressionism, Action painting, Fluxus, Color field painting, Hard-edge painting, Pop Art, Minimal Art, Lyrical Abstraction, and other movements associated with New York City. During the 1950s through the early 1960s they often congregated at the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village and during the mid 1960s through the early 1970s at Max's Kansas City on Park Avenue South between 17th and 18th Streets.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "New York School (art)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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