Irving Sandler

(b. 1925)

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(1925– ).

Art historian and critic. The primary chronicler of the unfolding history of art in New York since the 1950s, he has maintained an open-minded approach to the ebb and flow of forms and ideas over several decades. Particularly astute in his assessments of the abstract expressionists and artists of the New York school, he has maintained personal relationships with an extraordinary number of artists. His studio-based understanding of their goals and styles provides freshness and insight to his large-scale narratives. He has also worked on behalf of artists' organizations and public art, while teaching for many years, most notably for some three decades at the State University of New York at Purchase, where he remains an emeritus professor. A lifelong New Yorker, Irving Harry Sandler received his BA from Philadelphia's Temple University in 1948 and a master's degree in American history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1950. In 1976 he earned a PhD in art history from New York University. Fascination with contemporary New York art led to his first art world job in 1956, when he was appointed (in the words of one artist) as “manager of the Tanager,” a cooperative gallery on Tenth Street, in the heart of New York's avant-garde community. In the same year he volunteered to look after affairs of the legendary abstract expressionist hangout known simply as The Club, a position he retained until the organization disbanded in 1962. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he regularly wrote art criticism for Art News and the New York Post. In 1972 he was instrumental in founding Artists' Space, an early alternative gallery. Since 1958 he has been married to Lucy Freeman Sandler (1930– ), a prominent historian of medieval art. In addition to numerous essays in periodicals and exhibition catalogues, his publications include The Triumph of American Painting: A History of Abstract Expressionism (1970), The New York School: Painters and Sculptors of the Fifties (1978), American Art of the 1960s (1988), and Art of Postmodern Era: From Late 1960s to Early 1990s (1996), as well as monographs on Alex Katz, Al Held, Mark di Suvero, neon light sculptor Stephen Antonakos (1926– ), and others. In 2003 he published the memoir A Sweeper-Up After Artists.

Subjects: Art.

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