Mark Tobey and Morris Graves, two representative artists of the so-called, "Northwest School" or ''Pacific Northwest School", have not shared the glory and celebration which Abstract Expressionists of the ''New York School" have enjoyed in the canon of American art history. Tobey's "linear all-over abstraction" paintings dated from 1935, more than 10 years earlier than those of Jack son Pollock, which were wrongly claimed by Clement Greenberg and William Rubin as the first of their kind. Tobey achieved an international reputation as the first American since James McNeill Whistler (1895) to win a gold medal at the 1958 Venice Biennale, and, in 1961, as the first living non-French artist to have a retrospective organized by the Louvre. Up until the mid-1940s, Graves, along with Tobey, was widely acclaimed by New York's leading critics and dealers and considered to have deserved, in Greenberg's own words, " the most special notice." This article is the second part of my series examining the critical status of the Northwest School artists in the canon of American art history. The first one, 'Marginalizing Mark Tobey," deals with the issues of anti-Asian sentiments and cultural politics of New York critics and media during and after the World War II. The present article investigates the critical standing of Tobey and Graves in light of their homosexuality, as well as the sexual politics of the New York's influential art critics and media.
This study examines the homosexuality of Tobey, Graves, and other North west School artists such as Guy Anderson and Leo Kenney; the revelation of their sexual orientation in the New York art world and the subsequent responses of leading art critics and media; and critical powers' sexual politics and the marginalization of Tobey and Graves. A close examination of relevant materials reveals that these artists' homosexuality, along with their ardent interest in Asian art and philosophy, led New York's leading figures to undervalue them in an effort to establish heroic and masculine “American Type Painting". In the process, the characteristics of the art of Tobey and Graves were read as "decorative," "elegant," "feminine," and thus, 'non-American type' art. As a result, both Tobey and Graves have remained little more than footnotes in the history of American art.