ABOUT PIRI HALASZ

 

 

“From the Mayor’s Doorstep” is primarily addressed to readers knowledgeable about the visual arts, and especially to readers who admire contemporary modernism. Its political discussions may appeal to a wider circle, and both artistic & political opinions are based in experience extending well beyond the art world.  

At Barnard, Piri Halasz majored in English literature. After graduating in 1956, she went to work for Time, as a researcher & then as a writer (women writers were rare at Time in those days). While in research, she spent three-and-a-half years in the business news section, reporting on the stock market, economic trends, & other financial developments.  As a writer, her most famous exploit was a pop-cultural cover story in 1966 on “Swinging London.” It was horribly controversial at the time, but has been much quoted since, and Halasz was invited to write “A Swinger’s Guide to London” (Coward McCann,1967). In 1967, also, she was assigned to write Time’s Art page. In the next two years, she wrote a cover story on Tony Smith, and major articles on Joan Miró, conceptual art and Helen Frankenthaler. The story on Frankenthaler was particularly important because it led to her meeting Clement Greenberg, the distinguished art critic. He was best known for having discovered Jackson Pollock and most of the other abstract expressionists in the 1940s, but by the ‘60s he was also known for his support of what today we call modernism, but which then was known as “color-field painting.” Greenberg liked the article on Frankenthaler, and encouraged its writer to leave Time, saying she’d never amount to anything as long as she stayed there.  She’d been wanting to leave for some time anyway, and five months after the article on Frankenthaler appeared, she quit.   

In 1974, she entered graduate school at Columbia University, taking her MA in 1977 and her PhD in 1982 (both in art history). Since then she has taught at several colleges and universities, and, since leaving Time, she has published more than 200 articles & reviews in eleven different publications, ranging from Smithsonian magazine to NYArts and the Virginia Quarterly Review. In 1983, she published an article in Arts Magazine introducing a theory about “multireferential imagery” in abstract painting.  She argues that abstract painting isn’t necessarily non-representational, but can be a new form of representation in which the painter has synthesized different images of the world outside that lie beneath the surface of consciousness into a single, simplified image on the picture plane.  Different viewers are reminded of different things by these composite images, depending on how their visual experiences correspond to that of the artist. 

She has now published a book-length first-person narrative that explains her theory by telling how she developed it – out of her knowledge of art and many other experiences, on Time and elsewhere. Unlike “From the Mayor’s Doorstep,” the book is written so that the general reader should also be able to enjoy it. The unifying theme is creativity, as it correlates with abstract painting, the collaborative creativity of the London cover, and a creative analysis of U.S. politics in the wake of 9/11. The book is titled “A Memoir of Creativity: abstract painting, politics & the media, 1956-2008" (iUniverse, 2009).

 

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