American culture in Eisenhower era topic of upcoming presentation

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    Sussex county — Following last year's series on the emergence of modernism in American culture, the Sussex County Arts & Heritage Council, with support from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, will bring the story of American culture to the mid-century point with an ongoing presentation of the Eisenhower era. The series continues with "Pop Culture of the 1950s: Anxiety or Serenity?" and speaker William Chemerka, 7 p.m., March 31, at the Newton Unitarian Fellowship Hall, in Newton. Although the decade of the 1950s has long been disparaged as a low-water mark in American culture, the reality may be quite different. Speakers will offer examples in fiction of works by Ralph Ellison, Flannery O'Connor, Saul Bellow, John Updike, and Jack Kerouac. Others examples may be found in poetry, where the mid-century formalists including Richard Wilbur and John Ciardi were challenged by upstart poets like Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti of the Beats; Charles Olson and Robert Creeley, of the Black Mountain School; and John Ashbery and Frank O'Hara, of the New York School. In painting, presentations may examine an era marked by the "modern art" of abstract expressionists including Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Even in the world of pop culture, the developing tension between an outer veneer of happy television families and a threatening rock-and-roll underworld represented by the "Blackboard Jungle" is open for debate. The series also includes "Novel Tensions in the 1950s," and speaker Pat Verrone, 7 p.m., April 28; and "American Art Comes of Age and Abstract Expressionism," with speaker Barbara Tomlinson, 7 p.m., May 26. For information, call 383-0027; or e-mail