It was the passionate amateur painter, Winston Churchill, who introduced one of the Cold War’s key metaphors: The Iron Curtain. As John J. Curley
argues in Global Art and the Cold War
(Laurence King Publishers, 2019), this provocative image defined the binary logic of the Cold War and speaks to the larger importance of visuals in both the deployment of contemporary propaganda and in political resistance. A meticulously-researched and accessible monograph, Global Art and the Cold War
demonstrates the crucial role of art in the greatest geopolitical conflict of the 20th century. Presenting a nuanced investigation of how the Cold War shaped major art movements including Abstract Expressionism, Pop art, and Conceptualism in the West and Socialism realism in the Eastern Bloc, Curley also challenges the traditional history of American Abstract painting in opposition to Soviet Socialist Realism by integrating other regions, including Asia, Africa, and Latin America in to the study. Art from the “Cold War peripheries”, writes Curley in his introduction, reveals that the dominant narrative of modernism was a Western construction, simultaneously expressing transnational modernity and nationalism to counter American and Soviet imperialism. Positioning all 20th century art as engaged in an inevitable conflict between two opposed models for modernity, Curley makes a compelling case for broadening the narrative of artistic creation in the period of the Cold War and its aftermath.
John J. Curley is Associate Professor of Art History in the Department of Art at Wake Forest University, where he teaches classes on modern and contemporary art history, as well as photographic history.
Diana Dukhanova is Visiting Assistant Professor of Russian at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. Her work focuses on religion and sexuality in Russian cultural history, and she is currently working on a monograph about Russian religious philosopher Vasily Rozanov. Diana tweets about contemporary events in the Russian religious landscape at https://twitter.com/RussRLGNWatch.