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Title: The Ivory Tower and the Control Tower : formalist aesthetics and cultural affiliations in British abstract art, 1956-1968
Author: Clements, Neil
ISNI:       0000 0004 6422 2315
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: Glasgow School of Art
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis addresses British art of the late 1950s and 1960s, and specifically traces how formalist aesthetics and broader cultural factors influenced abstract art being made at this time. As such it is concerned with defining how particular artworks, while not depicting the environment in which they were produced, can still be demonstrated to embody it through other means. Opposing a binary separation of pop figuration and formalist abstraction prevalent in other scholarship dealing with the period, this text instead outlines a scenario where formalist strategies of art-making were themselves ideologically predicated on a number of other societal factors. These factors include the semantic economy underpinning the field of branded advertisement, the increasingly afunctional appearance of industrially styled commodities, and an image of ‘classless’ professionalism cultivated to combat an existing political Establishment. Additionally, this study includes an examination of the influence exerted on British abstraction by American sources, and revisits the critic Norbert Lynton’s observation regarding the ‘Mid-Atlantic’ position many practitioners found themselves occupying stylistically. At the heart of such an enquiry is an attempt to account in concrete terms for characteristics differentiating British artwork from that being produced elsewhere. It is structured as three chapters, looking at the work of Richard Smith at a time during which he was resident in both London and New York, that of a number of sculptors who participated in the Whitechapel Art Gallery exhibition New Generation 1965, and the development of Jeremy Moon’s painting practice. Brought together these three case studies combine to suggest an autonomous and vital sensibility, one quite distinct from developments being made either in Continental Europe or the United States.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available