A landmark work of cultural history that tells the story of how four young poets, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, and Kenneth Koch, reinvented literature and turned New York into the art capital of the world.
Greenwich Village, New York, circa 1951. Every night, at a rundown tavern with a magnificent bar called the Cedar Tavern, an extraordinary group or painters, writers, poets, and hangers-on arrive to drink, argue, tell jokes, fight, start affairs, and bang out a powerful new aesthetic. Their style is playful, irreverent, tradition-shattering, and brilliant. Out of these friendships, and these conversations, will come the works of art and poetry that will define New York City as the capital of world culture–abstract expressionism and the New York School of Poetry.
A richly detailed portrait of one of the great movements in American arts and letters, The Last Avant-Garde
covers the years 1948-1966 and focuses on four fast friends–the poets Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, John Ashbery, and Kenneth Koch. Lehman brings to vivid life the extraordinary creative ferment of the time and place, the relationship of great friendship to art, and the powerful influence that a group of visual artisits–especially Jane Freilicher, Larry Rivers, and Fairfield Porter–had on the literary efforts of the New York School.
The Last Avant-Garde
is both a definitive and lively view of a quintessentially American aesthetic and an exploration of the dynamics of creativity.