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The Spectre of Communist Art: American Modernism and the Challenge of Socialist Realism, 1923–1960

Bailey, JET; (2015) The Spectre of Communist Art: American Modernism and the Challenge of Socialist Realism, 1923–1960. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

During the early Cold War, a polarised view of artistic practice in the United States and the Soviet Union developed in parallel to the countries’ geopolitical opposition. Meanwhile, rival groups of liberal and conservative artists and cultural leaders within the United States exploited the fear of the Soviet Other by evoking the threat of Communism in support of competing interests. Despite a substantial body of scholarship exploring the power relations that linked liberal-democratic politics with modernist aesthetics at mid-century, there has been no larger attempt to question how the narrative of US-Soviet bipolarity in the visual arts responded to and contributed to the development of America’s post-war artistic identity. This thesis provides a corrective to the political history of twentieth-century American art and contributes to the revisionist history of cultural diplomacy in the Cold War. Based on extensive archival research conducted in the United States and Russia, it comprises four chapters presenting a narrative history of US institutions from the early 1920s to the late 1950s. It charts the post-war politicisation of myths of Soviet art and reveals how a strategy of othering towards Socialist Realism was built and sustained by individuals and institutions with control over access to the display and reception of art in the United States. It also presents the rhetoric of Soviet artistic otherness in the context of debates surrounding the concept of American art and reclaims the post-war history of American Social Realism. The thesis concludes by considering how the dominance of Cold War liberalism resulted in the disenfranchisement of US artists whose version of modern art did not suit the model of Soviet-American polarisation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The Spectre of Communist Art: American Modernism and the Challenge of Socialist Realism, 1923–1960
Event: UCL
Language: English
Additional information: Third party copyright material has been removed from ethesis.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Dept of History of Art
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1471961
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