Grey Art Museum, New York, US    2 March 2024 - 20 July 2024

Americans in Paris, Artists Working in Postwar France, 1946-1952

Following World War II, hundreds of artists from the United States flocked to the City of Light. Americans in Paris explores a vibrant community of expatriates who lived in France for a year or more during the period from 1946 to 1962. Showcased here are some 130 paintings, sculptures, photographs, films, textiles, and works on paper by nearly 70 artists, providing a fresh perspective on a creative ferment too often overshadowed by the contemporaneous ascendency of the New York art scene.

Curators: Debra Bricker Balken, Lynn Gumpert

The show focuses on a diverse core of twenty-five artists—some who are established, even canonical, figures, and others who have yet to receive the recognition their work deserves. The Fondation Gandur pour l'Art contributes to this rehabilitation by loaning two of Jack Youngerman's artworks painted in Paris in 1954. Abstract and geometrical, Map and Composition White on Black tell of Constructivism's influence on the young student of the Académie des Beaux-Arts who befriended César and Ellsworth Kelly. 

While the U.S. art scene was dominated by the rise of Abstract Expressionism, Americans working in Paris experimented with a range of formal strategies and various approaches to both abstraction and figuration. Living in Paris afforded expats the opportunity to question what it meant to be an American artist at midcentury. For some, Paris promised a society less constrained by racism and the exclusionary power structures of the New York art world.

American artists also encountered undercurrents of nationalistic tension, as French critics sought to maintain Paris’s artistic preeminence. By 1962, the year that concludes the exhibition, many felt that the once-inspiring atmosphere had diminished. That same year, Algeria achieved independence after many years of revolt. Many Americans opted to return to the U.S., which was experiencing a burgeoning civil rights movement, and in particular to New York, where there were more opportunities to exhibit. Others chose to remain abroad, for instance Joan Mitchell. No matter the duration of their stay, the Americans’ encounters with French collections, artists, critics, and gallerists significantly impacted the development of postwar American art.

18 Cooper Square,
New York, NY 10003

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Works on loan

Map [Carte]
Composition White on Black [Composition en blanc sur noir]