Back to the Garden: The Woodstock Artists' Colony

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Woodstock—the word is shorthand for the spirit of the 1960s counterculture. Yet the assumption that the 1960s dawned a “New Age” neglects contributions made by earlier generations of Woodstock artists in advancing a utopian vision of emancipated art, life, and labor. From 1902 onwards, Woodstock—a small Dutch hamlet in upstate New York—attracted an astonishing array of painters, designers, photographers, sculptors, and printmakers, including painters George Bellows and Philip Guston, direct carving sculptors John B. Flannagan and Raoul Hague, and photographers Robert Frank and Lee Friedlander. Two artists’ colonies—Byrdcliffe (1902-28) and the Maverick (1904-44)—instituted the community’s countercultural values of handicraft, cooperative labor, and simple living at a remove from urban-industrial modernity. “Back to the Garden” argues that Woodstock gained in symbolic stature by virtue of its proximity to New York City while coming to represent its ideological opposite: a rural and idyllic site of preindustrial labor and untrammeled landscapes. Yet over the course of the twentieth century, Woodstock artists and artisans recorded with melancholy and dismay the encroaching forces of modernization to which they ultimately belonged.

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  • 01/29/2019
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