In this much-anticipated book, acclaimed art historian Andrew Hemingway overturns orthodox views of Precisionist art and, more generally, of American Modernism. A trio of neglected artists--Stefan Hirsch, Louis Lozowick, and George C. Ault--are finally accorded in-depth analysis; and, drawing on an unrivaled knowledge of left-leaning politics, Hemingway connects Precisionism to a milieu in which experimental theater, a wave of "little magazines," and engagement with communist politics stirred debate and conflict. Ault, Lozowick, and Hirsch, though exhibited and reviewed during the 1920s, were relegated to the margins of history in the wake of efforts to restrict Modernism to the development of an asocial, apolitical formalism that provided a complement to the anti-communism of the Cold War years. By contrast, Hemingway demonstrates that in the 1920s, before Stalin had fully consolidated his power, various strains of socialism attracted US intellectuals and activists from Sherwood Anderson to John Dos Passos and artists such as Lozowick. The dehumanizing impact of the capitalist system was the chief target of critique that, in some of the most memorable passages in this book, is shown to inform Lozowick's as well as Hirsch's and Ault's choice and handling of industrial and city scenes. Based on meticulous scholarship, broad understanding of twentieth-century history, and brilliant insight into art's surfaces and structures,The Mysticism of Money is a masterwork that will be consulted and discussed for decades. It opens new pathways for the study of American Modernism even as it corrects our skewed understanding of a momentous alliance of art and politics.
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Published May 1, 2013
History, Arts & Photography.