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Title:Hedda Sterne and the abstract expressionist context
Author(s):Eckhardt, Sarah
Director of Research:Fineberg, Jonathan
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Fineberg, Jonathan
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Rosenthal, Lisa; Van Laar, Tim; Weissman, Terri
Department / Program:Art & Design
Discipline:Art History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Hedda Sterne
Abstract Expressionism
Saul Steinberg
Betty Parsons
The New York School
The Irascibles
Abstract:This dissertation focuses on the development of Hedda Sterne’s artistic philosophy and practice in the 1940s and 1950s. Over those years Sterne began to develop a concept of her identity as an artist that set her apart from most of her colleagues and fundamentally shaped her unique oeuvre. She defined identity as shifting and relational, influenced by changing contexts and opposed to the aggressively monolithic model of identity that generally prevailed among the abstract expressionists. She also believed in a reciprocal relationship between language and ideas: different communal languages shaped the ideas of their speakers, just as different ideas often required different languages for precise expression. Combining these two strands of her artistic philosophy, Sterne developed a career-long practice of switching styles, and even of using different styles simultaneously, sometimes to express different themes and at other times to articulate the same idea in distinct ways. Even her most abstract styles, however, recorded her changing relationship to the environment around her. This study proposes that her insistence on changing styles paradoxically expresses a coherent artistic philosophy of identity, and constitutes a critical response to the rhetoric, interpretation, and marketing of the abstract expressionism in the late 1940s and 1950s. This project also tells an institutional and cultural history of the mid-century art world that treats the artist, her work, and the institutions that promoted (or failed to promote) it as inextricably linked. By focusing on specific points at which Sterne’s example proved inassimilable to the dominant narrative of abstract expressionism, this dissertation ultimately suggests the need for a more comprehensive narrative that redefines the essential parameters.
Issue Date:2012-06-27
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Sarah Louise Eckhardt
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-06-28
Date Deposited:2012-05

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