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Time Capsule

This guide examines selected images with respect to the specific period of time in which they were made. Ask students to make a list of the objects that seem to correspond to the current period in time. Ask them to work together in small groups to create a time capsule that includes text and images from advertising, popular culture, the media, etc. What do they want future people to know about this period in time?

Marcel Duchamp and the Art of Ideas

Many of the artists in this guide were influenced by the work of artist Marcel Duchamp and his concept of the readymade. Ask students to research the work of Duchamp. What lessons did he have for artists such as Rauschenberg, Johns, Warhol, and Lichtenstein? Students may want to visit Red Studio (http://redstudio.moma.org/), MoMA’s site for teens, to hear MoMA curators and students discuss Duchamp’s work and legacy.

Design Your Own Podcast

MoMA’s Youth Advisory Council created their own audio pieces on works of art in MoMA’s collection. They focused on artists who worked in the 1950s and 1960s. Ask students to visit Red Studio (http://redstudio.moma.org/podcasts/2006/) and listen to podcasts on artists such as Jasper Johns and Edward Ruscha. Discuss these podcasts as a group. Ask students to refer to the Make Your Own Podcast section of the site and to create their own podcasts on a work of art represented in this guide. They can submit their podcast to Red Studio when they are finished.


Ask students to select and read one of the following books: Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, or Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. How does each of these works reflect the time in which it was written?


This guide has examined a lot of different painterly styles, including the drips and splatters of Pollock, the allover color of Newman, the floating shapes of Rothko, the scraped brushwork of de Kooning, and the detached, comic book style of Lichtenstein. Ask students to pick one particular style and experiment with it. Ask them to consider the following questions: What will they paint? What ideas do they wish to express? They should think about style, composition, brushwork, etc.

Draw without a Pencil

Many artists have been influenced by Pollock’s and Frankenthaler’s nontraditional ways of applying paint. Ask students to brainstorm how they might create lines without using a pencil. What materials might they use?

Ask students to identify their own alternative way of mark-making and to create their own work of art.

New York School

Pollock, Frankenthaler, Rothko, and Newman were part of a informal movement of New York poets, painters, and musicians in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s called the New York School. Research the New York School. Pick a poet, musician, or artist and research their life and work.

Pop Art Is:

Hand out a copy of this letter the artist Richard Hamilton wrote in 1957:

“Pop art is: Popular (designed for a mass audience) Transient (short-term solution) Expendable (easily forgotten) Low cost Mass produced Young (aimed youth) Witty Sexy Gimmicky Glamorous Big business This is just the beginning....” [Richard Hamilton, quoted in Pop (London: Phaidon, 2005), p.15.]

Ask students how this letter relates to the work they looked at by Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Oldenburg. Then ask them create a collage of images from current newspapers or magazines that corresponds to this poem. Are these words applicable to our society today? Why or why not?

Printmaking Project: Photocopy Transfer

Ask students to select a photograph from the newspaper that has to do with social injustice. Have them create a photocopy transfer. For detailed information on this process, please visit MoMA’s Red Studio (http://redstudio.moma.org/in_the_making/diy/index.php).

Ask students to give the work a title and write a paragraph explaining why they selected this image.

Art and Politics: The Cold War and McCarthyism

The 1950s were controversial time in American politics. Ask students to research the Cold War and McCarthyism. One resource is the film Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), which portrays the political climate of the time.

In the introduction to the catalogue for The Museum of Modern Art’s 1959 exhibition New American Painting, which featured many artists from the New York School, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., wrote that the paintings were portrayed as simultaneously “autonomous” from the brute determinations of actual economic and political life in the Cold War and yet also as symbolic of a kind of “free,” “creative” cultural practice, as characteristic of a “free America” standing up against the threat of the Soviet Union to the western capitalist democracies. [Alfred H. Barr, Jr., quoted in Modernism in Dispute: Art since the Forties (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993), p. 57.]

Have a discussion with students about the political climate of the time. Ask them to consider how this relates to some of the ideas present in Abstract Expressionism. Ask them to compare what was going on in the 1950s to today’s political climate. What is similar? What is different?

Photographers and American Life

Photographers such as William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand also chronicled American life in the 1950s and 1960s. Ask students to select one of these photographers and one of his photographs. Have students create a story around one of the photographs.

European Artists

Many European artists during the 1950s and 1960s incorporated political subject matter into their work. Ask students to pick one of the following artists and research his work during this time: Eduardo Arroyo, Öyvind Fahlström, Richard Hamilton, Bernard Rancillac, Gerhard Richter, or Joe Tilson.

Grove Art Online: Suggested Reading

Below is a list of selected articles which provide more information on the specific topics discussed in this section.

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