American Abstract Artists (AAA) was formed in 1936 in New York City, to promote and foster public understanding of abstract art. American Abstract Artists exhibitions, publications, and lectures helped to establish the organization as a major forum for the exchange and discussion of ideas, and for presenting abstract art to a broader public. The American Abstract Artists group contributed to the development and acceptance of abstract art in the United States and has a historic role in its avant-garde. It is one of the few artists’ organizations to survive from the Great Depression and continue into the 21st century.
|Ilya Bolotowsky, Black Diamond, 1978, Screenprint. Bolotowsky was one of the founding members of AAA in 1936.|
During the 1930s, abstract art was viewed with critical opposition and there was little support from art galleries and museums. The American Abstract Artists group was established in 1936 as a forum for discussion and debate of abstract art and to provide exhibition opportunities when few other possibilities existed.In 1937 AAA issued a “General Prospectus.” It outlined the purpose of the organization and the importance of exhibitions in promoting the growth and acceptance of abstract art in the United States.History
AAA held its first exhibition in 1937 at the Squibb Gallery in New York City. This was the most extensive and widely attended exhibition of American abstract painting and sculpture outside of a museum during the 1930s.For the 1937 exhibition AAA produced its first print portfolio of original zinc plate lithographs, instead of documenting the exhibit with a catalog. Future exhibitions and publications would establish AAA as a major forum for the discussion and presentation of new abstract and non-objective art.
The most influential critics dismissed American abstract art as too European and therefore “un-American”. There was extensive hostile criticism of AAA exhibits in New York City newspapers and art magazines of the time. American abstract art was struggling to win acceptance and AAA personified this. The 1938 Yearbook addressed criticisms levied against abstract art by the press and public. It also featured essays related to principles behind and the practice of making abstract art. In 1940, AAA printed a broadside titled “How Modern is the Museum of Modern Art?” which was handed out at a protest in front of MOMA. At the time the Museum of Modern Art had a policy of featuring European abstraction while endorsing American regionalism and scene painting. This policy helped entrench the notion that abstraction was foreign to the American experience.