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Barbara Rose, critic and art historian, is dead

American critic and art historian Barbara Rose died on the night of December 25-26 in Henniker, New Hampshire, after a long illness. Her name and her actions are inseparable from the New York avant-gardes of the 1960s and 1970s, to whose understanding she devoted her life. She had just completed a volume of memoirs entitled, not without irony, The Girl Who Loved Artists.

Born June 20, 1936 in Washington, she first completed a flawless academic career: Smith College, Columbia University. In 1961, she obtained a Fulbright grant to continue her research on the spot having for thematic the Spanish painting of the XVIe century. But, at this date, she was already the companion of the painter Frank Stella, her exact contemporary, met at the end of the 1950s in the world (which is already familiar to her) of young New York artists. On their return from Europe in 1962, Rose published her first critical texts on the art of which she observed the formation daily. In International Art, where she publishes a monthly New York Letter, then, from 1965, it is in magazines Artforum and Art in America chronicle of a generation of artists – her own: Stella, whose first black and geometric abstractions shocked when they were presented in 1959 at MoMA, Carl Andre (born in 1935), Robert Morris (1931-2018), Donald Judd (1928-1994), Dan Flavin (1933-1996) and many others.

In 1965, his article “ABC Art”, which sets up minimalism as a counter-model to pop art, makes it history

In October 1965, she published in Art in America a feature article titled “ABC Art”. Rose fixes the elements of an analysis of minimalism. Seen with a modern eye, the system she is building, and which makes Marcel Duchamp and Kazimir Malevich the opposite poles of this generation, may surprise, and these are her references to the choreographer Merce Cunningham, to the “new novel ”, or to art critic Clement Greenberg, who seem more convincing. But she writes in the very flow of events – a difficult exercise -, and the analysis that she delivers, because she sets up minimalism as a counter-model to pop art, then at the height of its celebrity, the recorded in history.

Critical authority in New York

This article had two notable consequences: it made its author a critical authority in New York – which she remained for a very long time – but also destabilized the couple she formed with Stella. She said of him later: Eventually his paintings started to sell and his ego to swell. He wanted me to be the little gray mouse in the corner, but I was already reasonably recognized for what I was doing. Then he got super famous and it got too complicated. “ The couple divorced in 1969. On this date, Rose indeed played a leading role in her field. After “ABC Art”, she published in 1967 a book which became a classic of American universities, American Art Since 1900: A Critical History. To reread it, it is to measure the extent of this “American moment” of the art of the XXe century, which lasted three decades, until the end of the 1970s.

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