Saturday, April 23, 2011

Modernist America:
Art, Music, Movies & the Globalization of American Culture
by Richard Pellis

Historian Richard Pellis begins with a good idea: twentieth century Modernism has been most thoroughly explored as a series of European inventions.  But what was the contribution of America, just as it was beginning to become a power in the world?  He begins well by describing modernism as an urban phenomenon, and the similiar functions of New York City, both globally and within America, to the European capitals.  He notes the American difference: the tremendous influx of immigrants in the early 20th century, many from Europe.

But this all turns out to be just a few paragraphs in a wide-ranging survey of just about everything in the 20th century's output of art, music and movies.  There are some insights about movements and individual artists and works, plus a fair number of cliches and a lot of (mostly conventional) opinions.  It seems to be uninterested in clear distinctions between modernism and the post-modern--another disappointment.  As a general survey it has some authority and interest, especially given the author's earlier work.

No comments: