U.S. Puts Abstract Expressionists on Stamps

File this under “better late than never.” The U.S. Postal Service is honored the Abstract Expressionists with their own stamps. According to their website:

With this stamp pane, the U.S. Postal Service honors the artistic innovations and achievements of 10 abstract expressionists, a group of artists who revolutionized art during the 1940s and 1950s and moved the U.S. to the forefront of the international art scene for the first time. The stamps go on sale March 11.

Selected by the art director Ethel Kessler of the U.S. Postal Service and art historian Jonathan Fineberg (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) these 10 self-adhesive stamps are featured on a pane that includes elements of Barnett Newman’s “Achilles” (1952) along the edges.

The set includes works by Arshile Gorky, Adolph Gottlieb, Hans Hofmann, Wilhem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still. USA Philatelic has a list of the paintings here.

Who got snubbed? Mark Tobey, Lee Krasner, Sam Francis, William Baziotes, Norman Bluhm, Franz Kline, David Smith, Jack Tworkov, Norman Lewis,  and few others. I know they had to pare down the list but I would have personally yanked the Clyfford Still in favor of Kline.

Judging by the selections, Fineberg & Kessler are big fans of the Albright-Knox Art Museum, and I can’t say I blame them. Four of the 10 works come that spectacular collection in Buffalo, New York. All the paintings, except one (Joan Mitchell), are in public collections. I don’t like the idea of the Postal Service reproducing art from private collections, sounds like a bad idea.

16 responses to “U.S. Puts Abstract Expressionists on Stamps”

  1. I love Joan Mitchell, but considering that all the guys in the list are first-generation Abstract Expressionists, wouldn’t Lee Krasner have made more sense? And I would have yanked Gottlieb (who has always seemed kind of pathetic to me) for Kline.

  2. I know what you mean Giovanni, but since it is a public institution issuing the stamp, I understand the need to include more diversity. I think Joan Mitchell is a good choice in many ways, particularly since she is representative of some ties the group enjoyed with European art. And frankly, with the exception of de Kooning, she’s the only one included who uses expressionistic strokes that were characteristic of the Ab Ex style.

  3. With the exceptions of the de Kooning, Pollock, Newman, and Motherwell, all of the other selections are lame. Almost any other Rothko would have been better. Any number of Hoffmans would have been better. The Mitchell is a joke (pseudo Monet Waterlilies). No Franz Kline? Are you serious?!! Kline should have been mandatory. Gottlieb, Gorky and Still are fringe elements. You want women in there?: Janet Sobel, who did the first drip paintings that gave Pollock the idea. If you argue for Lee Krasner then you have to admit Elaine de Kooning, and neither of them were very good. As for the ones left out, good. Except for beautiful David Smith none of them should have been considered. Anyone who would suggest Sam Francis need his or her head examined. Better to include Diebenkorn if you are going into the next generations that would involve Frankenthaler.

  4. I think Gorky is a precursor, not an AbExers but he’s still crucial. I never liked the idea of Newman. I think Gottlieb is crucial. David Smith would’ve been good but I don’t know what I feel about him as an AbExers, I’ve always been a bit ambivalent. I thought of Frankenthaler, but I think it would be a disservice to include her in this group since she was really about a lot of other things.

  5. Gottlieb deserves to be on there, as does Newman, But they really should have picked better paintings from their “MATURE” style. And I too think Krasner should be on there other than Mitchell, but Mitchell is more well known to people who don’t know painting. It’s not for us to decide to does or doesn’t belong in there. This was done by the USPS of all places. And they know as much about modern painting as a farmer in Biloxi.

  6. I don’t notice any artists of color in there, either. Without Mitchell they could have kept it all white and all male. That was the ideal back then, wasn’t it?

  7. P.S. For the next round, when prices increase (again), how about a series of Minimalist stamps? They could be all black, Nothing on them. Just peel, stick and post.

  8. Robert Hughes described Frankenthaler’s work as “intellectual prettiness.” Not too artful a take on her. If you hold Gorky to be a precurser she was a postcurser. Gottlieb…crucial? For what: fake hieroglyphs? Please. It was supposed to be some expression of a Jungian primitive sign language. Maybe if enough post-feminists rewrite history Lee Krasner can come out from behind Pollack for overblown recognition of her own minor career.
    Is someone trying to propose that there were first generation AbExers of color? If wishes were fishes…

  9. I just got the stamps today. Frankly only the Newman, Rothko, Pollack, and Motherwell have coherence as stamps. I love de Kooning but they should have picked a different one. It looks too much like the Pollack (which was pretty much de Kooning’s issue anyway). The others are nonsense.

  10. Um, not to throw gas on the fire, but I’ve got a little list, too. Just to start, there’s Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, Ed Clark, Beauford Delaney, Herb Gentry, Norman Lewis, and Hale Woodruff, along with Peg Alston, Alma Thomas, Louise Nevelson, and Georgia O’Keefe, for God’s sake. Some might not be in the canon as the real abstract expressionists, but for heaven’s sake, they were/are abstract as hell, and certainly expressive!

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