David Craven’s Abstract Expressionism and Third World Art: A Post-Colonial Approach to ‘American’ Art is a historical text arguing against the idea of Abstract Expressionism as a part of Western mainstream culture, which was manipulated by the ruling class in the United States, and against the notion that artists identified with the culture before and during the Cold War. The author also discusses how the U.S. government used Abstract Expressionism as a form of cultural imperialism through connections to Latin America. Although Abstract Expressionism artists distanced themselves from the development of Western art and the ethnocentricity of the European and/or American cultures, the U.S.
government positioned the art movement as its cultural success, and as a part of the U.S. ruling class ideology due to the close connections to Latin America. Craven, throughout the text, analyses artwork and supports his arguments by presenting textual, historical and visual evidence, such as artworks of Abstract Expressionism artists; for instance, Jackson Pollock, who sympathized with the position of Latin American and African-American artists in society, and Norman Lewis, an African-American painter. In addition, the author provides testimonials from artists and critics to serve as support for his arguments; for example, Barnett Newman stated that “many primitive art traditions stand apart as authentic aesthetic accomplishments that flourished without benefit of European history” (Craven, 1991), which supports Craven’s idea of distanciation from Western culture for which Abstract Expressionism artists were often connected to Marxist and anti-Imperialist movements.
The author provides numerous similar examples in order to explain and validate his arguments. David Craven provides readers with a persuasive history of Abstract Expressionism through the sufficient evidence provided, as well as through presenting an overview of how the art movement developed in various places rather than only in the United States and Europe. He also gives detailed knowledge on Abstract Expressionism, on how it was the product of global economic and political developments, although attempting to be completely independent from the Western ideals and historical changes.
In conclusion, he identifies Abstract Expressionism as “an art of the Americas” (Craven, 1991), as its practices are deeply rooted in the culture of Native Americans, African-Americans and Hispanics (Craven, 1991).