New York School (art)

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



Frank O'Hara was at the center of the group before his death in 1966. Because of his numerous friendships and his post as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, he provided connections between the poets and painters such as Jane Freilicher, Fairfield Porter, and Larry Rivers (who was O'Hara's lover). There were many joint works and collaborations, particularly between poets such as O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, and James Schuyler: 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. [1]

Ron Padgett, Dick Gallup, Joe Brainard, and Ted Berrigan came to the group from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Koch, O'Hara, Schuyler, and Ashbery were quite different as poets, but they admired each other and had much in common personally: [1]

All four were inspired by French Surrealists such as 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." [1]


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 an immediate and spontaneous manner reminiscent of stream of consciousness writing, often using vivid 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 such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.

Poets often associated with the New York School include John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Joe Brainard, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, Barbara Guest, Ted Berrigan, Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, Tom Clark, Clark Coolidge, David Shapiro, Lorenzo Thomas, Ted Greenwald, Eileen Myles, Kenward Elmslie, John Giorno, Barbara Barg, Jerome Sala, Elaine Equi, Frank Lima, Ron Padgett, Lewis Warsh, Tom Savage and Joseph Ceravolo.

Visual art

The New York School which represented the New York abstract expressionists of the 1950s was documented through a series of artists' committee invitational exhibitions commencing with the 9th Street Art Exhibition in 1951 and followed by consecutive exhibitions at the Stable Gallery, NYC: Second Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, 1953; [2] Third Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, 1954; [3] Fourth Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, 1955; [4] Fifth Annual Exhibitions of Painting and Sculpture, 1956 [5] and Sixth New York Artists’ Annual Exhibition, 1957. [6]

Included in the New York School were Bradley Walker Tomlin, Robert Goodnough, Rosemarie Beck, [7] Joan Mitchell, and Philip Guston. [7]

Other New York School artists, including those of the 1960s, have included painters Richard Pousette-Dart, Cecile Gray Bazelon, William Baziotes, Nell Blaine, Seymour Boardman, Ilya Bolotowsky, Ernest Briggs, Peter Busa, [8] Lawrence Calcagno, Nicolas Carone, Nanno de Groot, Beauford Delaney, Lynne Mapp Drexler, Edward Dugmore, Amaranth Ehrenhalt, John Ferren, Perle Fine, Karl Hagedorn, John Hultberg, Albert Kotin, Clarence Major, Knox Martin, Hugh Mesibov, Ray Parker, Misha Reznikoff, Joop Sanders William Scharf, Ethel Schwabacher, Kendall Shaw, Gloria Shapiro, Thomas Sills, Merton Simpson, Hedda Sterne, and Jack Stewart. [9] [10] In addition, painter/sculptors Karel Appel, Claire Falkenstein, Betty Parsons, and Antoni Tàpies are known as members of the New York School. [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]


The Anita Shapolsky Gallery in New York City specializes in 1950s and 1960s New York School art, and exhibits expressionism, geometric abstraction, and painterly abstraction. [12] [22] [23] [24] [25] It most frequently exhibits works in oil and acrylic, as well as sculpture. [12] The Tibor de Nagy Gallery and Stable Gallery have also exhibited New York School art, and in 1998, the Gagosian Gallery also in New York City presented an exhibit of New York School art. [26] [27] [28]


The term also refers to a circle of composers in the 1950s which included John Cage, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown and Christian Wolff. [29] Their music influenced the music and events of the Fluxus group, and drew its name from the Abstract Expressionist painters above.


During the 1960s the Judson Dance Theater located at the Judson Memorial Church, New York City, revolutionized Modern dance. Combining in new ways the idea of Performance art, radical and new Choreography, sound from avant-garde composers, and dancers in collaboration with several New York School Visual artists.

The group of artists that formed Judson Dance Theater are considered the founders of Postmodern dance. The theater grew out of a dance composition class taught by Robert Dunn, a musician who had studied with John Cage. The artists involved with Judson Dance Theater were avant-garde experimenatalists who rejected the confines of ballet technique, vocabulary and theory.

The first Judson concert took place on July 6, 1962, with dance works presented by Steve Paxton, Freddie Herko, David Gordon, Alex and Deborah Hay, Yvonne Rainer, Elaine Summers, William Davis, and Ruth Emerson. Seminal dance artists that were a part of the Judson Dance Theater include: David Gordon, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Deborah Hay, Elaine Summers, Sally Gross, Aileen Passloff, and Meredith Monk. The years 1962 to 1964 are considered the golden age of the Judson Dance Theater.

During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s New York School artists collaborated with several other choreographer / dancers including: Simone Forti, Anna Halprin, Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, and Paul Taylor.

Related Research Articles

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Franz Kline was an American painter. He is associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940s and 1950s. Kline, along with other action painters like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, John Ferren, and Lee Krasner, as well as local poets, dancers, and musicians came to be known as the informal group, the New York School. Although he explored the same innovations to painting as the other artists in this group, Kline's work is distinct in itself and has been revered since the 1950s.

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Bradley Walker Tomlin belonged to the generation of New York School Abstract Expressionist artists. He participated in the famous ‘’Ninth Street Show.’’ According to John I. H. Baur, Curator of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Tomlin’s "life and his work were marked by a persistent, restless striving toward perfection, in a truly classical sense of the word, towards that “inner logic” of form which would produce a total harmony, an unalterable rightness, a sense of miraculous completion...It was only during the last five years of his life that the goal was fully reached, and his art flowered with a sure strength and authority."

Jan Müller was a New York-based figurative expressionist artist of the 1950s. According to art critic Carter Ratcliff, "His paintings usually erect a visual architecture sturdy enough to support an array of standing, riding, levitating figures. Gravity is absent, banished by an indifference to ordinary experience." According to the poet John Ashbery, Müller "brings a medieval sensibility to neo-Expressionist paintings."

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Earl Cavis Kerkam was an American painter. According to Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Mark Rothko, George Spaventa and Esteban Vicente, he “was one of the finest painters to come out of America.” Gerald Norland wrote at the Earl Kerkam Memorial Exhibition in 1966:

Joe Stefanelli, also known as Joseph J. Stefanelli, belonged to the New York School Abstract Expressionist artists whose influence and artistic innovation by the 1950s had been recognized around the world. New York School Abstract Expressionism, represented by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and others became a leading art movement of the era that followed World War II. He died in September 2017 at the age of 96.

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Grace Hartigan was an American Abstract Expressionist painter and a significant member of the vibrant New York School of the 1950s and 1960s. Her circle of friends, who frequently inspired one another in their artistic endeavors, included Jackson Pollock, Larry Rivers, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem and Elaine de Kooning and Frank O'Hara. Her paintings are held by numerous major institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. As director of the Maryland Institute College of Art's Hoffberger School of Painting, she influenced numerous young artists.

Robert Goodnough was an American abstract expressionist painter. A veteran of World War II, Goodnough was one of the last of the original generation of the New York School;, even though he began exhibiting his work in galleries in New York City in the early 1950s. Robert Goodnough was among the 24 artists from the total of 256 participants who were included in the famous 9th Street Art Exhibition, (1951) and in all the following New York Painting and Sculpture Annuals from 1953 to 1957. These Annuals were important because the participants were chosen by the artists themselves. Early in his career starting in 1950 he showed his paintings at the Wittenborn Gallery, NYC. He had shown at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City from 1952 to 1970 and again from 1984 to 1986. In 1960 and 1961 he had solo exhibitions at The Art Institute of Chicago. A veteran of scores of solo exhibitions and hundreds of group exhibitions in the United States and abroad, Goodnough also had solo exhibitions in 1969 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. A major work by Goodnough is included in The Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection in Albany, NY. In later years his paintings were also associated with the Color Field movement.

Nanno de Groot was a self-taught artist. He belonged to the group of New York School Abstract expressionist artists of the 1950s. He wrote:

In moments of clarity of thought I can sustain the idea that everything on earth is nature, including that which springs forth from a man's mind, and hand. A Franz Kline is nature as much as a zinnia.

Jane Freilicher was an American representational painter of urban and country scenes from her homes in lower Manhattan and Water Mill, Long Island. She was a member of the informal New York School beginning in the 1950s, and a muse to several of its poets and writers.

Amaranth Roslyn Ehrenhalt was an American painter, sculptor, and writer, who spent the majority of her career living and working in Paris, France before returning to New York City.


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