American Visions, a new eight-part television series written and narrated by Robert Hughes, promises, as Hughes puts it, "a sort of love letter to America". This giant of a series presents not just a survey of American art but a history of the United States from the Puritans onwards.
Hughes, one of the most cultured Australians ever to walk the planet, has been a US resident since 1970 and as art critic of Time has been one of the more eloquent voices of his generation; his last TV venture, The Shock of the New, was a highpoint of Eighties television. American Visions looks set to correct the misconception that modern art in America began in 1945 with abstract expressionism.
Thanks, then, to the Crane Kalman Gallery for American Modernism 1920-1945, which will allow London audiences to see a little of what Hughes is on about.
It begins with Arthur Dove whose visit to Paris in 1908 brought him into contact with the Fauves and so to his own style of landscape-based abstraction. This, and his devotion to pure colour, put him alongside the likes of Kandinsky as a pioneer of abstract painting. The need to simplify landscape was shared by Georgia O'Keeffe, who is absent from this show, as is Milton Avery and other more familiar names, in a selection aimed at exposing rarely seen talents.
Of them all Stuart Davis looks like the most major artist. His work brings the language of Braque and Gris to the brand name countenance of American culture. The Precisionist Charles Sheeler and the 1930s geometric abstractionists also feature.
By the late 1940s Abstract Expressionism had become the first home-grown American art movement. As this exhibition shows, the seeds of its flowering had been sown some time before.
EYE ON THE NEW
Britain's most famous trans- Atlantic art export, David Hockney, has postponed an exhibition of new paintings due to open next week. The show is rescheduled for next May. For now a new series of 10 prints are at the Alan Cristea Gallery until 1 Dec. From pounds 4,000. Alan Cristea Gallery, 31 Cork Street, London WI (0171-439 1866)