A radical new generation of American abstract painters has emerged at the start of the new century. Whereas their twentieth-century predecessors advanced the realm of abstraction with all the audacity and ambition of the postwar years, this new generation is caught at the very moment of transition from the analogue to the digital age. America has shifted beyond anyone's wildest preconceptions from immediately before 9/11 to the present. Events are mediated in new ways - television offers a parallel reality, the news is a branch of entertainment and the Internet provides an infinite alternative. The weather is unpredictable. In these shifting times artists reach for different materials and uncover surprising sources. The artists' alter ego might well be the DJ. The brushstroke has been replaced by the 'riff'. This is the age of 'remix'. 'Old School' palettes have been discarded for 'Teletubby purple' or 'gummy pink'. Raw material is downloaded. Photoshop is the tool. These knowing abstract practitioners have irony at their disposal and can switch to tie-dye aesthetics or psychedelia as fast as they can quote Malevich or Brice Marden.
The daring of this next wave is thrilling. Painted loops, reminiscent of Pollock in full action, are revealed to be the skid marks of motorbikes across hundreds of boards set out on the floor of a massive industrial space, so bringing new meaning to the idea of abstract expressionism. Even though traditions are 'deconstructed' and paintings can echo grunge, there is room for historical references to war, brutality and the dripping of blood, which lie at the climax of the book's narrative. As Max Henry writes in his introduction, 'The American Dream of the twentieth century does not exist any more. It is in itself an abstraction. The modernist grid has been given a working-over.' Abstract America is a further title in the series Jonathan Cape is publishing in conjunction with the exhibition programme of the new Saatchi Gallery in London.
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