New York’s mid-century art scene comes to life in “The Loft Generation”

They are a thorny and ambitious bunch. We meet the poet John Ashbery, to whom Schloss complained of being called “semi-abstract” by a critic. “” Isn’t all life half? “, He replied with a consoling air. And composer Elliott Carter, who poked fun at the influence of folk music on modern city dwellers: “We are not shepherds. We do not come out of the hills. We are not people. Dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham stands “like an old furry faun”; gallery owner Leo Castelli has a Felix Unger meticulousness.

Schloss speaks of a time, unbelievable as it may sound today, when New York painters had the weight of movie stars. (These days, maybe even movie stars don’t have the weight of movie stars anymore.) The Bob De Niro she chatted with on a wayward kerosene stove in the street was the father of the actor. Franz Kline, another abstract expressionist, with whom she tango danced, “had a kind of cool and melancholy a la Bogart”. Walking around the city center alongside Dutch painter Willem de Kooning, leader of this ensemble, “it was like walking with Clark Gable in Hollywood”.

De Kooning and his wife, Elaine, aka “Queen of the Lofts” are some of the most fulfilling figures in a collection made up mostly of outlines and shadows, soaring in and out of time. At Bill’s studio, Schloss, who had escaped Nazi Germany by studying languages ​​abroad as a teenager, first witnessed the takeover of former industrial spaces that transformed real estate as well. that art. The romance of New York lofts was so powerful, overtaking the Parisian mansards before them, that prefabricated luxury versions are now an industry standard. They were “scenes for work and for a whole new free way of life,” writes Schloss, describing his crowd’s appropriation of the spools of cable for coffee tables as if they were the Borrowers, a rise perpetual creaking stairs, board games in the absence of a real living room. and meals taken at the machine.

Credit…Silvia stucky

All five senses are awakened by “The Loft Generation,” which might as well be captioned A Study of Synesthesia, punctuated by “cream-colored screams,” a highly controversial phrase poet Frank O’Hara used to describe the paintings of Cy Twombly in ARTnews. Schloss got a review post there – she likens work to embroidery or knitting – to facilitate Jacob’s admission to a nursery school “only for children of working mothers”; the painting was apparently not eligible. There’s the view, of course, with color inlays of Schloss’ bright and upbeat daubs alongside the work of his more austere contemporaries. There is sound, in her account of the unholy clamor of the Chelsea neighborhood where she and Burckhardt have settled: the clicking of iron shutters, cats mating, fire and burglar alarms and “the intermittent rustling of cars on Sixth Avenue, like long sighs. (The next time you misplace the AirPods Pro, think of John Cage teaching Schloss to enjoy ambient noise as part of the Symphony of Life.)

Dora W. Clawson