AMERICAN ABSTRACT ARTISTS. New York: Ram Press, 1946. Albers, Gallatin, Léger, Knaths, Moholy-Nagy, Mondrian, & Morris.

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Josef Albers, A. E. Gallatin, Fernand Léger, Karl Knaths,
L. Moholy-Nagy, Piet Mondrian, George L. K. Morris

L. Moholy-Nagy, Karl Knaths, George L. K. Morris, Fernand Léger, A. E. Gallatin, Piet Mondrian, Josef Albers [articles]: AMERICAN ABSTRACT ARTISTS. New York: Ram Press, 1946. First edition. Octavo. Decorated paper cover boards. [68] pp. 36 black and white plates. Illustrated essays. Wittenborn label to front pastedown. Endpapers faintly foxed. Spine edges lightly rubbed. A very good or better copy.

6.25 x 9.25 hardcover book published to commemorate the tenth American Abstract Artists annual exhibition in 1946, with 36 black and white plates and text composed of essays written by group members. Original essays by Josef Albers, A. E. Gallatin, Piet Mondrian, Fernand Léger, George L. K. Morris, Karl Knaths and László Moholy-Nagy.

  • L. Moholy-Nagy: Space-Time Problems in Art
  • Karl Knaths: Note on Color
  • Geroge L K. Morris: Aspects of Picture-Making
  • A. E. Gallatin:  Museum-Piece
  • Fernand Léger: Modern Architecture and Color
  • Josef Albers: Abstract —— Presentational
  • Piet Mondrian: A New Realism

Contains black and white plates by Esphyr Slobodkina, Albert Swiden, Joseph Meirhans, L. Moholy-Nagy, Perle Fine, Ilya Bolotowsky, Werner Drewes, Karl Knaths, Alice T. Mason, George McNeil, Neil Blaine, George L. K. Morris, Fanny Hillsmith, Byron Browne, Carl Holty, Robert Jay Wolff, Eleanor De Laittre, Fernand Leger, Balcomb Greene, Ibram Lassaw, Maurice Golubov, Frederick J. Kann, A. E. Gallatin, Susie Frelinghuysen, George [Georgio] Cavallon, I. Rice Pereira, Florence Alston Swift, Piet Mondrian, Harry Holtzman, John Sennhauser, John Von Wicht, A. D. F. Reinhardt, John [Jean] Xceron, Charles G. Shaw, Josef Albers and Alexander Corazzo.

To understand Abstract Art, is in reality, the problem of understanding any and all art from a qualitative viewpoint. “Abstract” signifies a direct, untrammeled relationship of the elements of plastic expression. The abstract artist is concerned with the universal values, the real expression of art. Because it is the clearest effort to represent these values, Abstract Art is in the forefront of esthetic development.

American Abstract Artists was founded in 1936 in New York City, at a time when abstract art was met with strong critical resistance. During the 1930s and early 1940s, AAA provided exhibition opportunities when few existed. Its publishing, panels and lectures provided a forum for discussion and gave abstract art theoretical support in the United States. AAA was a predecessor to the New York School and Abstract Expressionism, and contributed to the development and acceptance of abstract art in the United States. American Abstract Artists is one of the few artists’ organizations to survive from the Great Depression and continue into the 21st century.

To distribute material possessions

is to divide them,

to distribute spiritual possessions

is to multiply them.

—Josef Albers

Here is the Editorial Statement from American Abstract Artists 1938 Yearbook:

By the fact of their active existence and production, the American Abstract Artists express the authenticity and autonomy of the modern art movement in the United States. The word abstract is incorporated into our title as a provisional gesture so that we can be identified as a particular group in our effort to clarify growing and actively significant concepts of art.

Abstract, like so many other words, is too often used as an idiosyncratic suggestion, rather than as a concept which defines particular values. To understand abstract art is, in reality, no more a problem than understanding any and all art. And this depends upon the ability of the individual to perceive essentials, to perceive that which is called universally significant, and to evaluate the unity and relationship that is contained in any work.

As the first and only comprehensive organization of its type in the United States, we are faced with the familiar problem of a largely unsympathetic and biased criticism, a criticism which merely negates, condemns, or ridicules. There is, however, a more encouraging response to our exhibitions and lectures, a response that could be especially experienced only by the form and action of a representative and authentic organization. Individuals working and studying against the odds of isolation can now be articulate and related to others working in similar directions.

The membership of this group is homogeneous to the extent of its recognition of the mutual problems and limitations, and in its willingness to cooperate in the presentation and solution of these problems. We are, as in any group, heterogeneous and diverse in our concepts.

To place artistic, or any cultural effort on the level of a competition is to negate the method and meaning of knowledge. American Abstract Artists dedicates itself to the problems of the artist and student, presented in the terms of method and activity that define the artist; and limits itself accordingly for the purpose of clarification. As to the question of which aspects of life affect the artist in his effort, this is demonstrated by the character and efficacy of his activity and production; for this we present the individual artist.

No educated intelligence can draw the so-called line of national culture as an ambition and objective, without discerning its ambiguity. Beside being impossible, such a misconception is a negation of the very essence of cultural effort; the general heightening and application of knowledge. To make this negation may be politically expedient but it serves only to preserve and sway ignorance. While knowledge belongs to no nationality, particular nations do exist, and each nation has, and is, a peculiar and limited cultural development.

Considering the tempo of present political history and the importance of the various fields of knowledge in relationship to it, we can do nothing better than emphasize tha the contemporary must respect the interpretation and concatenation of all culture. True culture is recognizable when established from the standpoint of scientific thought and effort. For us it is established through the freedom to develop facilities and to maintain their proportional distribution, as civilized achievements, toward the enlivenment of existence—an unequivocal application toward the physical and psychic benefit of all humanity.

For these reasons, American Abstract Artists was formed in November of 1936. It has now attained a national scope and is more active in 1938. —The Editors