Becoming Modern in America: Life Magazine 1936-1972 & New Paintings by Loren Munk

Abstract America, Life Magazine, Loren Munk, MINUS SPACE

Left: “Why Artists Are Going Abstract: The Case of Stuart Davis”, by Winthrop Sargeant
Life Magazine, February 17, 1947, p. 78-83, © Life Magazine

Right: Loren Munk, The Roots of the New York School, 2010
Oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches

December 11, 2010 – January 29, 2011

MINUS SPACE is pleased to announce the exhibition Becoming Modern in America. The twofold exhibition will feature more than 20 vintage issues of Life magazine spanning the years 1936-1972, as well as two recent paintings by Brooklyn, New York-based painter Loren Munk.

Life Magazine
Life was purchased and redesigned as a weekly news publication by Henry Luce in 1936. It was the first photojournalism magazine published in the United States and its editors placed photographs on par with written text. For more than 30 years, Life was one of the most wide-reaching and influential popular media outlets in the US with its circulation reaching 8.5 million copies weekly by 1970.

Between 1936-1972, Life published more than 20 feature articles about the emergence of Modern Art in the US, including the development and public reception of geometric abstraction, Abstract Expressionism, and Minimalism. It is still debated today whether the magazine’s coverage of the visual arts during this time was a benefit or a detriment to the artist community in New York City.

Groundbreaking articles include its August 8, 1949 issue, in which Life published the controversially-titled article “Jackson Pollock: Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?”. This was followed a year later on January 15, 1951 by Life’s second landmark article “The Metropolitan and Modern Art: Amid Brickbats and Bouquets the Museum Holds Its First US Painting Competition”, which featured the iconic photograph of The Irascibles by Nina Leen.

Life also profiled dozens of other artists in its pages during this period, including Piet Mondrian, George Braque, Stuart Davis, Jean Xceron, Clyfford Still, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, and Frank Stella, as well as the critics Clement Greenberg and Meyer Schapiro, among others. The magazine highlighted key moments in the development of Modern Art, such as the Carnegie International Exhibition in 1937, A.E. Gallatin’s Museum of Living Art in 1938, the Museum of Modern Art’s roundtable on Modern Art featuring 15 major art critics in 1958, The Downtown Gallery founded by Edith Halpert, and The Jewish Museum’s Primary Structures exhibition in 1967.

Loren Munk
For the past decade, Loren Munk has created intricate, impastoed information paintings mapping the history of New York City’s artists, writers, venues, and movements. Becoming Modern in America will feature two recent paintings by the artist. The first painting, The Roots of the New York School, highlights the artists Hans Hofmann, Arshile Gorky, Stuart Davis, and John Graham, and diagrams the history, influences, and venues that led to the development of the New York School. Loren’s second painting, Critical America, similarly visualizes the field of art criticism as two primary streams of thought — formalistic and poetic -– and maps the influence of the key critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg.

Loren Munk (b. 1951, Salt Lake City, Utah) has exhibited his work in museums, galleries, and non-profit venues nationally and internationally for the past 30 years, including in New York, Germany, Switzerland, France, Poland, and Brazil. His work is included in countless public and private collections worldwide, such as the Museum of the City of New York, Metropolitan Transit Authority, Chase Manhattan Bank, Sony Music, Forbes Magazine (all NYC), Everson Museum (Syracuse, NY), and Hood Museum of Art (New Hampshire).

In addition to his artistic work, Loren has been a highly visible art critic for more than a dozen years. Working under the pseudonym James Kalm, a persona he created in the 1990s, he produces the weekly video blog The Kalm Report on YouTube, which he describes as a “blurring of criticism, historic documentation, journalism, and performance art”. He is also a regular contributor to The Brooklyn Rail, writing the column Brooklyn Dispatch.

Life Articles
Europeans Sweep Carnegie Show, December 20, 1937, p. 24

Albert Gallatin’s Great-Grandson Sponsors a Museum of Abstract Art, May 2, 1938, p. 42

Speaking of Pictures, This Is Art by Piet Mondrian, July 2, 1945, p. 6

Why Artists Are Going Abstract: The Case of Stuart Davis, February 17, 1947, p. 78-83

Radar: A Nonobjective Painter Tries to Marry Science and Art on Canvas, Jean Xceron, February 2, 1948, p. 69

A Life Round Table on Modern Art, Fifteen Distinguished Critics and Connoisseurs Undertake to Clarify the Strange Art of Today, October 11, 1948, p. 56

Dead End Art: A Frenchman’s Mud-and-Rubble Paintings Reduce Modernism to a Joke, December 20, 1948, p. 22

High-Brow, Low-Brow, Middle-Brow: There Are Three Basic Categories of a New U.S. Social Structure, and the High-Brows Have the Whip Hand, April 11, 1949, p. 99

George Braque: Great French Innovator Has Evolved a Serene Modern Art of His Own, May 2, 1949, p. 80

Jackson Pollock: Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?, August 8, 1949, p. 42

100 Years of American Taste: A Gallery of Popular Paintings Reveals an Unwavering Love of Realism, August 29, 1949, p. 56

The Great Armory Show of 1913: The Most Important Art Event of the Century Threw the People of the U.S. into an Uproar, January 2, 1950, p. 58

The Metropolitan and Modern Art: Amid Brickbats and Bouquets the Museum Holds Its First U.S. Painting Competition, January 15, 1951, p. 34

New Crop of Painting Proteges: Dealer with an Eye for Talent Tries to Pick Tomorrow’s Stars, March 17, 1952, p. 87

* New Art at Close View: Details from the Carnegie Show Dramatize Painters’ Approaches, November 21, 1955, p. 96

Great Recluse: Brancusi and Art Come from Hiding, December 5, 1955, p. 131

A Boom in U.S. Art Abroad: Japan and Europe Go for Americans, May 19, 1958, p. 76

Star Brother Act in Art: Two Italian Artists, Afro and Mirko, Make Hit Teaching in U.S. Colleges, June 9, 1958, p. 66

Baffling U.S. Art: What It Is About, Life Presents a Two-Part Series on the Abstract Expressionists, World’s Dominant Artists Today, Part I, November 9, 1959, p. 68

The Varied Art of Four Pioneers: Analogies with Nature Help Explain Abstract-Expressionist Work, Part II, November 16, 1959, p. 74

Master of the Minimal: Ad Reinhardt, Honor Comes Late to a Solitary Moralist in Art, February 3, 1967, p. 45

Shape of Art for Some Time to Come, July 28, 1967, p. 38

* A New Cut in Art: Oddly Shaped Canvases by Frank Stella Challenges Viewers, January 19, 1968, p. 44

* Fling, Dribble and Dip: Young Sculptors Pour Their Art All Over the Floor, February 27, 1970, p. 62


Loren Munk at MINUS SPACE, by Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine, January 22, 2011

Becoming Modern in America: Life Magazine 1936–1972 & New Paintings by Loren Monk, by Sarah Schmerler, Time Out New York, January 14, 2011

Gallery Chronicle, by James Panero, The New Criterion, January 2011

A Loren Munk Report, by Sharon Butler, Two Coats of Paint blog, December 12, 2010


MINUS SPACE’s programming is made possible by the generous support of The Golden Rule Foundation, as well as individual donors. We thank you!