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American art: 1900 to present

Last Updated: 2-Mar-2015

This guide is designed as an introductory bibliography for students new to the field of post-1900 American art; as point of reference for students targeting their research; and as a means to highlight relevant primary sources held at the Art & Architecture Library and Special Collections.

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American art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries maintains strong continuity with the art that preceded it. Increasingly, however, as the United States took its place as one of the most powerful nations in the world, America became an art center and American art was increasingly integrated into the globalized, international art scene. Like other national arts, particularly in Europe, American art was influenced by modernism and postmodernism to become a dynamic collection not just of paintings and sculpture, but also of video, performance, Conceptual, and other inventive artistic practices.

This guide was created by Grant Hamming, a Ph.D. candidate in Art History in the Department of Art & Art History.

Moby Dick; or, The whale, by Herman Melville, illustrated by Rockwell Kent. Image ©1930 Rockwell Kent.

Introductory texts

Boston : David R. Godine in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art, c1976.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » NB205 .T87 1976 F
This catalog of an exhibition that took place at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1976 presents a solid breakdown of the major trends and figures in American sculpture until 1976, with contributions of several scholars. It also includes the sculpture of Native Americans and folk artists. Of particular value for someone just embarking on a project is the presence of brief biographies of the artists included in the exhibition, as well as a short bibliography of scholarly works related to each artist. Though the reader will have to consult other sources for more recent sculpture and scholarship, this catalog provides an excellent entry into the field. Wayne Craven has also written an excellent survey textbook on the subject, Sculpture in America. For an examination of more recent sculpture, see one of the more general survey texts on this list, especially American Encounters. [GWH]
Boulder, Colo. : Icon Editions/Westview Press, c2001.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » NA705 .R669 2001
American Architecture: A History is the most comprehensive recent survey of American architecture, examining everything from the art of the ancient peoples who inhabited the North American continent centuries before European arrival in the New World to the postmodern architecture of the late twentieth century. The work contains information on most of the canonical architecture in American history, especially beginning with the middle of the seventeenth century. Each chapter includes a bibliography, and the work as a whole includes a glossary. Though the work is amply illustrated, like most architectural history textbooks the images are primarily in black-and-white. The image database ARTstor contains a wide variety of color architectural images that might usefully supplement this text. For a work that includes some color illustrations as well as a thematic approach that eschews coverage of the entirety of the canon in favor of a thematic exploration of American architecture (and that plays especial attention to more vernacular forms as well as urbanism and city planning), see Dell Upton’s Architecture in the United States.
New York : McGraw-Hill, c2003.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Reference » N6505 .C7 2003
American Art: History and Culture, spanning nearly 700 pages, offers a comprehensive overview, with an emphasis on cultural context, of American art from the Colonial Era to the present. Each section considers a major era in American art and history, with chapters focusing on specific mediums, such as painting or sculpture. Individual chapters begin with a section of historical background, followed by sections exploring important themes as well as individual artists. Though its tone is often dry, and its pacing is deliberate, Craven’s book remains unmatched in terms of comprehensive coverage of American painting and sculpture. The book includes an extensive bibliography that lists many of the most current sources on individual movements and artists as of the book’s publication. Consultation of this bibliography would be an excellent second step in pursuing research on one of the topics explored in the book. For a similarly comprehensive, survey-level examination of American sculpture specifically, see also Craven’s Sculpture in America.
Upper Saddle River, NJ : Pearson/Prentice Hall, c2008.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6505 .A29 2008
American Encounters, which was co-written by some of the top scholars in American art today (including Stanford Professor Bryan Wolf), represents an attempt to re-frame the way that the history of American art is taught. The book retains the combined chronological and thematic focus of earlier books, but it demonstrates sensitivity to the concerns of twenty-first century scholarship while remaining accessible to the beginning student. By framing the history of American art as a series of encounters between and among diverse groups of people and individuals, the authors seek to free American Art History from previous nationalism while more fully exploring American artistic diversity. For example, American Encounters devotes more space to vernacular and folk traditions, especially among women and ethnic minorities, than the still-excellent American Art: History and Culture, found in this guide. While it eschews completeness in terms of tracking the career of any one American artist, it does an exemplary job of giving a more complete picture of American visual culture from the prehistoric to the present. Its bibliography, which has the advantage of being arranged by chapter, and thus chronologically, is also the most current on this list, and provides an excellent entry-point for further research.
Kansas City, Mo. : Hall Family Foundation in association with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art ; New Haven : Distributed by Yale University Press., [2007].
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Reference » TR23 .D385 2007 F
Published to coincide with the exhibition "Developing Greatness: The Origins of American Photography, 1839-1885" at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and based on the Hallmark Photographic Collection, Davis's text moves beyond both exhibition and collection catalog and serves as a detailed survey of nineteenth-century American photography. When used in conjunction with his An American Century of Photography: From Dry-Plate to Digital, the two texts provide the most complete two volume history of American photography available. While The Origins of American Photography does focus extensively on the daguerreotype, there is good coverage of the development of paper photography, and Davis does engage in questions such as the spread of the photographic image in 19th century popular culture. Another excellent nineteenth-century survey, but from the perspective of multiple authors, is Photography in Nineteenth-Century America, edited by Martha Sandweiss, with essays by Sandweiss, Davis, and other noted authors, including Peter Bacon Hales and Alan Trachtenberg.

Focused studies

Rev. and expanded ed. Berkeley : University of California Press, c2003.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6538 .N5 L38 2003
African American Art and Artists is the most complete current survey of African American art. Lewis follows a chronological approach for her study of the topic, beginning with the landing of the first African indentured servants in Virginia in 1619 and ending in 2000. The work’s focus is in the twentieth century, as documentary evidence of earlier African American artists is often hard to come by. Her approach relates the artistic expression of African Americans to the wider history of American art and history. More importantly, however, it also explores that artistic expression on its own terms, as a unique feature of Black American cultural life. Within each chapter the artists are generally arranged by medium. For a thematic approach to African American Art that also demonstrates a profound engagement with discourses of feminism and postmodernism as well as race and ethnicity, see Sharon F. Patton’s African-American Art. For an exploration of African American art in the nineteenth century see Kirsten P. Buick’s essay “A Way Out of No Way” in the catalog The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art. [GWH]
1st ed. New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2008.
Green Library » Stacks » PN1993.5 .U6 L46 2008
This work presents a chronological history of American film, beginning with the end of the nineteenth century and ending with the beginning of the twentieth. Lewis focuses on Hollywood cinema throughout its major periods, but he also examines independent filmmakers. Each chapter contains key contextual material about American society that supports a history not only of directors and actors, but also of the various behind-the-scenes actors who make movies possible. The volume also contains an ample bibliography for further reading on each of Hollywood’s major eras. Lewis’s book mostly, however, examines canonical films while downplaying issues of gender, race, and class. For a survey of these issues, once again mostly in the context of Hollywood, see Harry Benshoff and Sean Griffin’s America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies. Lewis’s book also omits the important and interesting work of American avant-garde filmmakers. For an excellent overview of their work, see P. Adams Stitney’s Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde.
This book represents the first serious survey of art produced by Asian Americans. Like most histories of the art of minorities in the United States, the bulk of its information is on the twentieth century, for which there are more documentary sources and more remembered artists. Nevertheless, the volume offers an able synthesis of recent scholarship on Asian American art, and the endnotes following each chapter provide ample opportunity for further exploration. The chapters, which are arranged via a mixture of theme, medium, and geography, were each written by a different author, exposing the reader not only to a diversity of artistic production, but also to different scholarly methods. The book also provides helpful biographies of individual artists, as well as a chronology of Asian American art and history. One of the book’s weaknesses is that it does not cover the relatively small number of Asian immigrants who arrived in the United States before 1850, but this is a mostly minor omission. For information on Asian American artists since 1970, one should consult the exhibition catalogs Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian-American Art and One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now.
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c2003.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N8232 .H37 2003
Harris, an artist as well as art historian, traces the representation of blackness, one of the most fraught categories of personhood in the United States, throughout American history, from the colonial era to the contemporary. His approach views race as a social construction and seeks to understand how stereotyped representations of blacks in visual culture served to construct and reinforce white identity while also helping to construct negative black self-identity. A central focus of the book is on African American self-representation. The book lacks a separate bibliography, though sources can be found through examination of footnotes. For an earlier work that ably focuses on nineteenth-century white representations of blackness, and that reaches many of the same conclusions and also contains a bibliography, see Albert Boime’s The Art of Exclusion: Representing Blacks in the Nineteenth Century.
4th ed. New York : Abbeville Press, 2006.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6494 .E27 B4 2006
Beardsley’s book takes as its starting point the Land Art movement in the late 1960s. Artists such as Robert Smithson and Robert Morris, as part of a more general contemporary re-engagement with the landscape, began to take action to directly influence the land, to build their works out of it. Monumentality and a resistance to commodification drove these artists to create massive works in often far-away and remote locales. After the middle of the 1970s, when enthusiasm for this sort of work had begun to wane, many artists remained engaged with the physical landscape, but on a smaller, gentler, and perhaps more ethical scale. This book traces these developments through the end of the twentieth century. It is amply illustrated and provides a very useful bibliography on individual artists as well as larger trends and movements not only in the United States but in Europe as well. For an examination of Land Art in the context of the 1960s, especially dealing with the concept of time, see Stanford Professor Pamela Lee’s Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960's.
New York, N.Y. : The Studio Museum in the Harlem : Harry N. Abrams, 1987.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6538.N5 H286 1987 F
This catalog to a landmark exhibition represents a key step in re-inserting the art of the Harlem Renaissance into narratives of both that cultural period and of American Art. From 1919-1929, the Black culture that had originated in the rural South consolidated itself in the Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem. This catalogue considers artists of the period, including Aaron Douglas, Meta Warrick Fuller, Palmer Hayden, and William H. Johnson as important to the larger movement as such literary figures as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. The essays also seek to integrate the work of these artists with that of later Black artists, and thus to see them as part of a longer cultural tradition and not just isolated phenomena. For an exhaustive study of Romare Bearden, one of the key figures of Black art from the 1930s to the 1980s, see Myron Schwartzman’s Romare Bearden: His Life and Art.
Houston : Museum of Fine Arts ; New York : Abbeville Press, c1987.
Green Library » Stacks » N6538 .H58 B43 1987 F
This exhibition catalog focuses on well-known artists of the 1970s and 1980s, a period when the art of Hispanic Americans was increasingly accepted as part of the American art scene. The text situates these artists in the context of contemporary art and culture, while also exploring what makes them unique. The brief bibliography at the end of the book provides other avenues for exploring contemporary Latino art, though unfortunately only hints at avenues of exploration for earlier art by Hispanic Americans. For information on earlier artists one should consult American Encounters, a survey textbook found in the Introductory Texts section of this guide.
New Haven : Yale University Press, c2001.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6512.5 .M5 M49 2001
Like many art movements that were named by critics rather than practitioners, Minimalism was never really a coherent group so much as a shifting array of artists who shared a similar set of concerns. Meyer’s approach to Minimalism, then, is to examine each of the major practitioners as his own discrete movement, but also to realize that artists like Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Carl Andre could only be fully defined in relation to one another (NB: For an introduction to the critical literature surrounding Minimalism's almost solely male membership, see Anna C. Chave's influential essay "Minimalism and the Rhetoric of Power," in Power: Its Myths and Mores in American Art, 1961-1991.). Meyer’s book covers the movement in a generally chronological fashion, beginning in the late 1950s and ending in 1968. Since Minimal artists were some of the most active writers and theoreticians in the 1960s, the book pays particular importance to their writings as well as those of critics, providing a rich view of the documentary history of the movement. The book’s extensive bibliography provides an ample introduction to further sources.
London : Thames & Hudson, 2004.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » E98 .A7 P36 2004
Penney, a leading scholar of Native American Art, presents in this book a brief but thorough survey of the art of indigenous Americans from prehistory to the present, with a focus on artistic production prior to the twentieth century. The book is arranged geographically and thematically, due to the difficulty of pinpointing the individual artists, and sometimes even cultures that may have produced works of art. Penney follows recent thinking in art history and anthropology in stressing how American Indians had very different conceptions of art than their European counterparts. This leads him to take a material culture approach that borrows much from anthropology and archaeology. In addition to the text itself the book contains a brief bibliography, arranged by chapter, which can provide additional sources on individual subjects. For a lavishly-illustrated volume that provides more examples of Native art but has less text and no bibliography, see Penney’s Native American Art. For more in-depth explorations of twentieth century Native art, see Native American Art in the Twentieth Century: Makers, Meanings, Histories, edited by W. Jackson Rushing III.
Berkeley : University of California Press, c2006.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6512.5 .E4 Z875 2006
Zurier’s book examines the major art movement in New York during the American Progressive Era. Painters such as William Glackens, George Bellows, Robert Henri, and John Sloan, now known as the Ashcan School, emerged from the worlds of commercial and journalistic illustration to become painters representing urban life and vision. The book examines these painters in the wider context of popular culture, including comics, newspapers, and movies, since it is from those modern worlds which they drew much of their influences. One of Zurier’s key points is that these painters, with their light, realist style that seemed to glory in the bustle of city streets, helped transform cities in the American mind. While in the nineteenth century cities were places of dread and vice, by the beginning of World War I they were increasingly heralded as the saviors and shapers of mankind. Another realist painter of the same generation who achieved fame later in his life, Edward Hopper, is ably explored in the 2007 exhibition catalog Edward Hopper.
New York : H.N. Abrams, 1990.
Green Library » Stacks » N6494 .P6 L58 1990
Livingstone presents a survey of the history of Pop Art in America, Britain, and Western Europe, primarily in the 1960s. This well-illustrated volume covers all of the major artists who have come to be associated with the term “Pop.” Importantly, he also spends his first chapter looking at Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and other artists of the 1950s who are often considered to be precursors to the Pop Art of the 1960s. He also examines the so-called Neo-Pop movement of the 1980s. The book’s bibliography presents a good jumping-off point for further research, as it includes not only books, but also articles and exhibition catalogs. For a compelling scholarly account of Pop Art that focuses more particularly on the United States and that also examines that art’s relationship to feminized consumer culture, see Cécile Whiting’s A Taste for Pop: Pop Art, Gender, and Consumer Culture.
New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, 1993.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » ND212.5 .A25 L45 1993
Leja’s book examines what he, following other art historians, terms the New York School. The work comprises an impressive synthesis of previous scholarly perspectives that leads to a view that more closely integrates Abstract Expressionist painting with wider currents in American society during the 1940s. Rather than seeing artists such as Willem De Kooning and Jackson Pollock as in dialogue with only a small core of intellectuals and fellow artists, Leja examines their works in relation to film noir, popular philosophy, and other more mainstream discourses. Through these means, he brings these singular personalities into a dialogue with the entirety of American culture. For an earlier, hugely influential account of the history of Abstract Expressionism that both informs and provides a foil for Leja’s work, see Serge Guilbaut’s How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art.
New York : Whitney Museum of American Art in association with W.W. Norton, 1999.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6512 .H355 1999
This exhibition catalog from the Whitney Museum of American Art presents, along with its sister catalog The American Century: Art and Culture, 1950-2000, an exhaustive review of American art and culture from the twentieth century. Beginning with the remnants of Guilded Age culture and ending with the identity and video art of the end of the century, these two exhibitions covered virtually every aspect of American visual culture in between. This includes not only painting and sculpture, but also cinema, architecture, design, illustration, music, and urban planning. Richly illustrated and well-annotated, these two works represent perhaps the most wide-ranging introduction to twentieth century American art available.
Berkeley : University of California Press, c1999.
Green Library » Bender Room » N6512 .C597 1999 F
Written by Stanford Professor Emerita Wanda Corn, The Great American Thing traces the parallel, and intertwined, developments of American nationalism and American modern art. Corn demonstrates how American artists and critics, reacting to the disjunction of the First World War, began to seek a stronger identification with their American roots. These artists, many of whom began to eschew travel to traditional European art centers, argued for a more home-grown conception of American art that was shot through with the strong American nationalism that emerged through the interwar period. Through an examination of such figures as Alfred Stieglitz, Marcel Duchamp, Gerald Murphy, Joseph Stella, Charles Demuth, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Charles Sheeler, among others, Corn traces the rise of the first wave of American modernism, as well as continuing debates among American artists about their relationship(s) to Europe. For a more in-depth study of this first American avant-garde that focuses on issues surrounding homosexuality, see Jonathan Weinberg’s Speaking for Vice: Homosexuality in the Art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and the First American Avant-Garde.
This monumental compilation brings together well-known scholars and artists to look back at the monumental decade of the 1970s and the immense impact the Feminist movement had on the art world. The contributors see Feminist art as part of the challenge not only to the power of white, straight men but also to the very discourses of modernism that began to unravel in the 1970s. In this book, feminism becomes a key means of expressing the burgeoning postmodern sensibilities of the end of the twentieth century. The work also explores the impact of feminism on art in the 1980s, and a bibliography points the way to additional avenues of study.
Berkeley : University of California Press, c2001.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N72 .R4 V57 2001
This anthology takes a visual/material culture approach to the study of the intersections of American art and religion. By examining not only fine art but also a diverse array of more vernacular forms, editors Morgan and Promey hope to shed light on a subject that they feel has been under-studied. Contributions cover a diverse array of art forms, including not only painting, sculpture, and architecture, but also illustration, printmaking, postcards, and book illustration. In addition to individual contributions, the volume provides an ample bibliography that can act as a jumping-off-point for further research. A year before the publication of this book, Morgan and Promey co-curated an exhibition, "Exhibiting the Visual Culture of American Religions," that provides a number of high-quality color images as well as brief introductions to individual works and a wealth of bibliographic material.
Washington : Published for the National Museum of American Art by the Smithsonian Institution Press, c1991.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » F596 .W493 1991
The catalog to a landmark exhibition of the same name, this book deals with one of the most pervasive and popular of American myths: that of the Wild West. With contributions from several important scholars of American art, The West as America traces how various artists and other cultural producers represented the West, not as it really was, but as Eastern Seaboard society wished for and needed it to be. Topics include representations of progress, American Indians, settlement, capitalism, and nostalgia. Though the exhibition itself was hailed by many scholars for its groundbreaking revisionist historical approach, conservative elements of mainstream culture seized on it as a demonstration of the liberal bias of the academy. The catalog thus serves not only as a strong introduction to the American West in art, it also provides an entry into wider cultural discourses about art in the early 1990s. For an in-depth look at Frederic Remington, an important turn-of-the-twentieth-century artist of the West, see Frederic Remington and Turn-of-the-Century America by contributor (and Stanford professor) Alexander Nemerov.

Source texts

Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall [1965]
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6505 .M26
This work is the first major sourcebook focusing on American art, and as such it had an enormous influence on an entire generation of scholars. The book is generally organized thematically, though these themes also have broader chronological cohesion. McCoubrey tracks the history of American art from its earliest emphasis on portraiture, through the rise of the great nineteenth century landscape schools to modernism and, finally, Abstract Expressionism. The sources have primarily been penned by artists, though critics, patrons, and literary figures are also included. Two later compilations, Patricia Hills’s Modern Art in the USA and Sarah Burns and John Davis’s American Art to 1900 present more numerous as well as more diverse sources, but McCoubrey’s book remains an excellent introduction to the documentary history of American art. [GWH]
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2003.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » NA705 .B759 2003
This book compiles a number of important sources dealing not just with architecture, but with the entirety of America’s built environment. The built environment encompasses architecture (both formal and informal) as well as vernacular building styles, urban planning and space, the creation of parks, and other manipulations of the landscape. The book contains sources from the American Revolution to the turn of the twenty-first century. Thematically organized, the text minimizes its attention on great and monumental buildings such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater or the U.S. Capitol, instead focusing on the much more common, everyday architecture which has had the greatest effect on everyday Americans. For an earlier work that has more of a traditional focus on the “great works” of American architecture, see Leland M. Roth’s America Builds: Source Documents in American Architecture and Planning.
New York : Princeton Architectural Press : Smithsonian Archives of American Art, c2010.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6505 .K47 2010
This book, more light-hearted in tone than many of the large compilations of documents found in this section, is far from a complete look at any one topic. This compilation samples the archives of a number of Americans, mostly artists but also thinkers and other writers, from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its value lies not only in the window it provides into the working processes of a number of important American (and occasionally European) artists, but also in that it provides an introduction to some of the conditions of archival work. A look at this book will show that primary sources are not always neatly typed and printed like they are in source books, but rather contain all the messy penmanship, doodling, and other distractions of everyday handwritten materials. Additionally, it provides a window into the vast, useful collections of the Archives of American Art. Kirwin also edited a similar volume of illustrated letters from the Archives of American Art, entitled More Than Words: Illustrated Letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. [GWH]
Upper Saddle River, NJ : Prentice Hall, c2001.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6512 .H47 2001
Hills’s book focuses on documents relating to art in America during the twentieth century. It provides sources not only from artists, but also from critics, scholars, politicians, and literary figures. The book is arranged chronologically, with an introductory essay to each section as well as a brief introduction to the person(s) or event(s) described by each document. As Hills notes, the book deals extensively with issues of identity. This is appropriate, as identity was one of the key concerns of American art, as well as culture, during the twentieth century. A “For Further Reading” section at the end provides a good overview of other sources, both primary and secondary, on each topic. Barbara Rose’s earlier Readings in American Art, 1900-1975 presents many of the same sources but also some that are not found in Hills’s volume.
London : Phaidon, 2005.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6494 .P6 P67 2005 F
This work presents a retrospective look at one of America’s most popular art movements. The survey by scholar Hal Foster presents an able history of the movement, from its British antecedents to its apotheosis in New York. Equally valuable is the richly-illustrated thematic and chronological survey of the movement through its principal artists and their works. Additionally, fully half the volume is given over to a compendium of important documents by and about Pop artists. Befitting the genre’s eclectic nature, these writers include not only artists, scholars and critics, but filmmakers, musicians, and literary figures. Many of the passages are abridged, but each is followed by a citation that allows the reader to track down the original in full. This book is part of a series on contemporary art that also presents notable coverage of such movements as Dada, Minimalism, and Conceptual art.
Berkeley : University of California Press, c1996.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Stacks » N6490 .T492 1996
This massive volume contains a large number of sources from essentially every notable contemporary artist, as well as many critics. Arranged by movement, the book covers art from Abstract Expressionism (here termed Gestural Abstraction) through Minimalism, Pop, Environmental, Performance, and several others. The final section of the book contains a more general grouping of theories. It is important to note that this book covers not only American art, but all contemporary art. Since art after World War II has become much more globalized, and has often been centered around New York City, many of the major artists of this period have been American. Two other books from this series, Theories of Modern Art and Nineteenth-Century Theories of Art mostly focus on European art, but do contain some sources written by and about Americans.

Primary sources

New York, The John Day Company [1943]
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Locked stacks (Small): Ask at circulation desk » E184 .A1 A47 1943
Alland, a Russian immigrant, was one of the foremost leftist documentary photographers of the 1940s. This book presents a series of photo essays, along with minimal, first-person text, documenting the varied lives of Americans of sixty different national origins. The photos and text, which are loosely arranged into categories exploring such themes as family life, religion, and national service, emphasize the common ground that can be found among seemingly different people. The text, as well as the introduction by Nobel Prize-winning novelist Pearl S. Buck, emphasizes the necessity of national unity in resistance to fascism. Published as it was during the height of World War II, the book has strong propagandistic overtones. It is also an example of the trend of left-leaning Americans fervently supporting the war effort because they saw fascism as the true threat to liberty and social justice in the world. For a deeper exploration of Alland’s photographs, see the exhibition catalog The Committed Eye: Alexander Alland’s Photography.
[Calif.?] : Ruscha, c1970.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Locked stacks (Small): Ask at circulation desk » N7433.4 .R951 B11 1970
Ed Ruscha, often identified with both the Pop and Conceptual movements, is seen as a pioneer of a particular form of artist's book, mechanically produced in relatively large numbers and therefore accessible to many. This book, which consists of small, snapshot-like photographs and minimal text, may be seen as a kind of playful reimagining of the documentary tradition exemplified by Walker Evans. The first page of the book is a photograph of an infant with the weight “15 lbs. 8 oz.” printed below it. The following twenty-two pages depict varying cakes, also with their weights printed below them. The cakes range from the mundane to the extraordinary, from homemade birthday cakes to professional wedding cakes, with a number of them being pre-packaged snack cakes like those one would purchase in a convenience store. The title, which is simultaneously punning and drily accurate, perfectly encapsulates Ruscha’s playfulness. For a further exploration of Ruscha’s works, which often incorporate verbal elements and puns, see the catalog for the 2000 exhibition Ed Ruscha.
Special Collections » Manuscript Collection » M0690
Blackface minstrelsy was one of the most popular and enduring musical and performance genres in the United States from before the Civil War to after World War II. Usually performed by white men who had darkened their faces with burnt cork, minstrel shows presented a buffoonish and cartoonish racial caricature of African American physiognomy and behavior. It served as one of the primary cultural bulwarks of the Jim Crow period, contributing to negative white perceptions of black people for over a century. One of the most notable features of this art form was its sheet music, which often featured lavishly illustrated and lithographed caricatures of African Americans as part of the cover art. This collection, the finding aid for which can be found online, presents an overview of how these caricatures were drawn over nearly a hundred years, offering a glimpse into the changing, yet eternal, nature of these representations. For the definitive account of blackface minstrelsy and its relation to American culture, see Eric Lott’s Love and Theft.
[Pasadena, Calif. : Typecraft], c1997.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Locked stacks (Small): Ask at circulation desk » PS3573 .A425345 F74 1997
This book is the 1997 entry in the Peter Norton Christmas Project, an effort by noted collector Peter Norton to substitute the annual tradition of Christmas cards with an actual piece of work by a living artist. Walker is most known for her works of large silhouette cutouts depicting events from black folklore and history. This work represents an adaptation of those works, as it presents “A Curious Interpretation of the Wit of a Negress in Troubled Times” through a pop-up book that borrows her silhouette aesthetic, though now represented in three dimensions. Like many of Walker’s works this book touches on themes of slavery, freedom, race, and sexuality. For a more general exploration of Walker’s work, see Gwendolyn Dubois Shaw’s Seeing the Unspeakable: The Art of Kara Walker.
Chicago, The Lakeside press, 1930.
Special Collections » Rare Books Collection » 71 07673
This one-thousand-copy limited edition combines one of the classics of nineteenth-century American literature with one of the foremost illustrators of the early twentieth. Kent, a painter, illustrator, and printmaker, was commissioned to illustrateMoby Dick just as it was regaining its popularity after over half a century of oblivion, and this edition is often credited with helping to revive the book’s popularity. Melville’s sprawling Romantic novel of good and evil, sin and redemption, became increasingly popular with modernists, who were attracted to its kaleidoscopic, freewheeling, and experimental character. Kent’s spare, angular, and black-and-white style thus contrasts with as well as complements Melville’s prose. Stanford Libraries’ Special Collections possesses a wide variety of other works written and/or illustrated by Rockwell Kent.
[New York] : Johnson Reprint Corp., 1982.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Locked stacks (Medium): Ask at circulation desk » NC139.P6 A4 1982 F
This book is a facsimile reproduction, one of 525 made, of a bound Japanese mulberry paper notebook that Pollock used from 1950-53. During much of this time Pollock mostly used the book as a jotting pad located next to his telephone. The later pages of the book, however, transition to a sketchbook whose images and ideas that bear close relation to much of his more finished work of the period. The abstract shapes in monochromatic black are especially reminiscent of a series of ink drawings on Japanese paper that Pollock executed around the same time. In his mature career Pollock generally did not use sketchbooks, so this item’s existence is relatively unique. The last few years of his life, as his celebrity and alcoholism began increasingly to weigh on him, saw relatively little artistic production. An excellent, separately bound, introduction by William S. Lieberman presents a thoughtful elucidation of the book’s content. See also The Jackson Pollock Sketchbooks in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a collection of three facsimiles, also in the Locked Stacks. For a scholarly evaluation of Pollock’s career, see the exhibition catalog Jackson Pollock.
New York, Horizon Press, 1954.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Locked stacks (Small): Ask at circulation desk » NA7208 .W68
This book by perhaps America’s best-known architect presents the philosophy and design tenets underlying the organic architecture which Wright popularized and for which he became famous. These include a greater integration of building with landscape, a more human-scaled construction, and a holistic approach to architecture that includes design and interior decoration in the overall plan. The book is replete with images, including both technical drawings as well as photographs of many of Wright’s buildings. The Art Library also holds a compilation of his drawings, Selected Drawings Portfolio.
[New York?] : Buffalo Press, 1973.
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Locked stacks (Small): Ask at circulation desk » N6537 .M43 A4 1973
Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978) is best known for his artistic practice of carving existing buildings during the period 1972-1978. Using a chain saw, Matta-Clark treated vacant buildings as raw, sculptural material. Influenced by the land art of Robert Smithson, Matta-Clark cut into and through buildings in an urban-based sculptural practice, calling his interventions “Anarchitecture.” He documented the cuttings in films and photographs which he subsequently exhibited in galleries, occasionally with fragments from the buildings themselves. In a series of “cut drawings” (1972–6) he developed his idea of the cut as a technique. Walls Paper functions in a similar vein. Based on a series of colored photographs of peeling wallpaper from abandoned buildings, Matta-Clark cut each page in half horizontally. Maintaining their top/bottom orientation, he staple-bound the split pages in two sections, the top halves composing the top half of the book, and the bottom halves the bottom portion. One can flip through the top half and the bottom half of the book simultaneously, or vary the flipping to create new combinations between the top and bottom portions. For more information on Matta-Clark, see the catalog Gordon Matta-Clark, A Retrospective. See also his iconic work Splitting.
[Philadelphia? s. n., 1909]
Art & Architecture Library (Bowes) » Locked stacks (Small): Ask at circulation desk » E77 .W24
This volume is a unique combination of mythology, ethnography, and advertising. The result of one of a series of expeditions to study Native American reservation life sponsored by Rodman Wanamaker, heir to the department store fortune, it presents a history of American Indians as well as ethnographic accounts of their current lives. The first section, on the history of Native Americans, transmits many of the common myths about white-native interactions. Like many contemporary ethnographic accounts, it presents a nostalgic picture of a noble yet savage, static, and dying race. This description is accompanied by reproductions of ethnographic photographs of individuals as well as everyday life. The most unique part of the volume is a section on the filming of a live-action version of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha. For an astute scholarly analysis of the cultural forces surrounding this and other items, see Elizabeth Hutchinson’s The Indian Craze: Primitivism, Modernism, and Transculturation in American Art, 1890-1915.