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Art Historian Bill Agee Authors Book on Development of Modern American Art PDF Print Email

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By Carol P. Bartold


Nov. 16, 2016:  "Expert" is not a word that writer, teacher, and former museum curator William Agee likes. "I'm a historian," he emphasized. "This is what I believe and think. It's what I have studied."

Bill considers his latest book, Modern Art in America 1908-68, published in March of 2016 by Phaidon Press, his own history. "I told the publisher that I was not going to write a standard textbook with no tone or edge to it," Bill said. "I really wanted to write what had been important to me."

The author of several books, Bill explained that in Modern Art in America 1908-68, he has laid out in detail a continuity over the entire sixty-year time span that most art history texts treat as two distinct eras, with 1945 as the split. "There is more connection between pre- and post-1945 painting than people have ever talked about," he said.

Agee chose 1908 as the starting point of his study because social, demographic, and technological developments that year marked the beginning of a distinct modern age. Henry Ford invented the Model T automobile, which began the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society in America. Five years after their first flight, the Wright Brothers flew for two-and-a-half hours. "That changed the world," Agee noted. Also in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt sent his Great White Fleet of battleships on a journey around the world to establish America as one of the world's great imperialistic nations.

Although art does not always strictly follow historical developments, Agee said, there were three significant events in 1908 that established a distinctly different and modern direction for art. A New York exhibition of painters who were part of the Ashcan School of realism gained national attention for the movement. That same year, Henri Matisse, at the urging of American artists in Paris, opened a school. "Working with Matisse was being right on the cutting edge," Agee said. Also in 1908, Alfred Stieglitz opened his gallery, 291, in New York and showed the best modern art from Europe and America. The gallery became a laboratory for working through modernist ideas, and from the gallery there came a first American wave of modern art. 


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"In 1968, art changed as the world changed," Agee said. Nineteen sixty-eight was a year of revolution that brought about a huge loss in faith in institutions of all types, he observed. Museums were visible institutions that represented money and power. "The same is true of painting as a craft, as making something with paint, canvas, and brushes." Although Agee feels that good art still appeared after 1968, it was created by artists who matured before then.

"Pre-1968 I felt we in the New York City art world were part of something special," Agee said. "There was a common understanding and a mutual respect among people. After 1968, the divisions became so bitter we couldn't have that."

After earning a degree at Princeton University and studying at Yale University, Bill Agee began his career in the art world as a curator and also worked as a museum director. He held positions at the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at the Pasadena Art Museum (precursor to the Norton Simon Museum) in California, and at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.

After he left museum work, Agee worked on research projects with the help of fellowships. A friend at Hunter College, the chair of the art department, suggested that Agee teach a graduate seminar. That graduate seminar led to a 20-year teaching career at Hunter, where he was awarded an endowed chair, the Evelyn Kranes Kossak Professor of Art History. He retired in 2014.

"I have kept on working," Agee said. "I will write as long as I feel I have something to say."

Pictured here:  William Agee and publicity for his book.

Photos by A. Warner

 

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Books & the Arts Directory

Art Restoration and Framing

Fine Arts Gallery of Bronxville

The Fine Arts Gallery is a beautiful gallery in the heart of our village. It sells original art and specializes in local artists from Bronxville past and present. It provides high end custom framing, art consulting, restoration and appraisals. Appointments are available upon request. It also sells the Historical Conservancy Journals which include a history of the village as well as the artists who have lived here and are presenting living here ($20/copy).

The gallery is open Monday - Saturday 8:30 am - 5pm (Closed Sunday)

99B Pondfield Road
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-779-5053


Objects & Images Fine Arts

44 Pondfield Road, Suite 12
Bronxville, New York 10708
914-779-7979
info@objects-images.com
http://www.objects-images.com/home.php


The O'Silas Gallery at Concordia College

171 White Plains Road
Bronxville, NY 10708
https://osilasgallery.org/

Books & Culture

Bronxville Public Library

The Bronxville Public Library traces its origins back to 1875, when it was a small lending library housed in a room attached to the “Bronxville Model School.” The Library was officially chartered in 1906 and moved into the Village Hall Building. The needs of the library grew with the town and, in 1942, a new standalone building was erected, which is where the Library is today. Over the years, the Library was renovated and expanded to meet the needs of the community.

The Library has wonderful resources for adults and children and offers a comfortable and relaxing environment. The Library also houses a fine art collection, consisting principally of Bronxville painters and sculptors.

The Library offers special events, art exhibitions, and programs for adults, young adults and children.  All events are open to the public, unless otherwise indicated.

The Bronxville Public Library
914-337-7680
201 Pondfield Road (Midland Avenue & Pondfield Road)
http://bronxvillelibrary.org/


Womrath Bookshop

Womrath Bookshop is a located in the heart of Bronxville village. In addition to selling books, the store also sell children's toys and holds readings both at the store and elsewhere in the community, such as at the Library.

76 Pondfield Road, Bronxville

(914) 337-0199

http://womrath.com/

Music & Performing Arts Schools

ballet_arts_logo_music_schoolsfinal

Ballet Arts-The Performing Arts Center of Southern Westchester

Established in 1977, Ballet Arts-The Performing Arts Center of Southern Westchester offers a complete program of Performing Arts education for all ages. 28 teachers conduct over 60 classes per week including Ballet with piano accompaniment, Jazz, Ballroom, Tap, Irish Step, Lyrical Dance and Hip-Hop. New this spring is Creative Movement and Story Time Dance for 2 and 3 year old boys and girls. Fitness classes include Zumba, Pilates & personal training. Classes are available for students ages 2 to Adult in every skill level. Private Dance, Voice & Instrument Lessons at our studio or in your home are available by appointment. Seasonal and Summer Performing Arts Camps.

Themed Birthday Parties-Children and parents enjoy play dance and music with our staff-you have fun and we'll clean up.

Centre Stage is our on site Dance, Gymnastics, Ice Skating and Fitness Apparel and Accessories Boutique. Specialty Dance footwear, Unique Costumes, Gifts and Collectables.
Sheran Daniele, Founder & Artistic Director.
504 Fifth Avenue, Pelham
914 738 8300
www.ballet-arts.net
info@ballet-arts.net


Concordia Conservatory

Concordia Conservatory, a preeminent center for music education in Westchester County, is a welcoming community where children and adults find lifelong inspiration and joy through learning, performing, listening to, and participating with others in music. Concordia Conservatory, a community outreach division of Concordia College, offers top quality music programs for early childhood, youth, adults and seniors. The Conservatory's vision is to enrich the lives of the people in our community through music.

Executive Director: Kathleen Suss

Concordia Conservatory of Music & Art

Concordia College-New York

Phone: 914-395-4507

Kathleen.Suss@concordia-ny.edu

www.concordiaconservatory.org


Crestwood Music Education Center

Crestwood Music Education Center, founded in 1987, has established itself as one of the most reputable and premier music schools in Westchester County with well over 800 students studying piano, guitar voice, Suzuki and much more. Their philosophy is to create a very positive, stimulating environment that gives each student the chance for creative self-expression. They believe in the importance of having a world-class faculty with extensive education as well as the teaching and performing experience that can only found in America's finest music schools.

453 White Plains Road
Eastchester, New York 10709
914-961-3497
info@ginescanomusic.com
www.ginescanomusic.com

 

Art, Drama, Music & Books Recent Articles

 
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