From 1969 through the early 1980s, hundreds of working artists gathered on Manhattan’s Lower East Side every Friday at meetings of the Alliance of Figurative Artists. The art historical canon overlooks figurative art from this period by focusing on a linear progression of modernism towards medium specificity. However, figurative painters persisted on the periphery of the New York art world. The size and scope of the Alliance and the interests of the artists involved expose the popular narrative of these generative decades in American art history to be a partial one promulgated by a few powerful art critics and curators. This exploration of the early years of the Alliance is divided into three parts: examining the group’s structure and the varied yet cohesive interests of eleven key artists; situating the Alliance within the contemporary New York arts landscape; and highlighting the contributions women artists made to the Alliance.
Keywords: Post-war American art, figurative painting, realism, artist-run galleries, exhibitions history, feminist art history, second-wave feminism