On the subject of understanding abstract art, Leo’s Steinberg Other Criteria provides several anecdotal story lines between polemic arguments on the nature of art making as a historical process, the masses and the artist responsible for these creations. Understanding the nature of Abstract Expressionism as a historical american movement within the visual, literature, scientific and performing arts ecosystem. Is a major benchmark for the non-art public to grasp their head around, specially when applying an expressionist filter as a mode of understanding these works.
When Mattise first exhibited “The Joy Of Life” ( Circa 1905-1906) to a close group of colleges in a small studio session along with the books he used as reference for the painting. He was meet with a swift attack as the sentiment was a unanimous decision Mattise had drifted too far down the modern art axis, of what was deemed considerable forms in painting & sculpture at the time. The criticism from the public, art critics and close friends of the artist who did not understand what the artist had created was beyond sight at first glance. Gestures towards the wild colors used in the painting, the thickness of the figure’s contour line was the subject of shock and awe before the confused masses.
Other criteria is a candid essay describing the study of abstract art. Whilst explaining how the public at large might have a better understanding when confronted with these works of art in a museum as historical American heritage, online or in a contemporary art gallery. For those of you who are expressionist practicing visual arts from a figurative point of departure, I promise to provide candid context & critique along the way. A contemporary online art gallery entitle “Drawing Now” will exhibit works on paper created between the late 90’s to present time on a small studio art table, away from any art center of gravity.
Conversations between two “Ferns”
“Brother there is nothing to read on the subject… Stop wasting your money”
hum, we can agree to disagree on the subject of Ab Expressionism brother. Will share some essays your way that might help you understand the context behind its critique.
📜✒️🍷”Thanks but as I always say no flower bears understanding. Nor yearns for it.”
explaining esthetics to a flower must be like talking about ornithology to a bird. But you’re an artist right, who is capable of understanding art forms which might differ from your center of gravity. How do we experience between what we yearn vs finding new ways to learn as well? 📜
✒️📚🎨 Ab Ex is the most powerful American movement of the 20th Century. Not just in terms of visual aesthetics. Visually it influenced a generation of younger artist who where free to experiment with new materials. While the cultural impact ab ex had on music, writing, theater, advertising was also another powerful feature.
When looking at De-Kooning distorted paintings of Women, circa 1950’s “leave it to beaver” epoch. In context of reading “naked lunch” novel while listening to Charley Parkers off beat modern tempo. Then these pictures might start to make sense for you.
“I’ll tell ya what I deem as respectable abstractions, and that’s a homeless man thanking me for his meal as he gives me a copy of Thoreau”
On The Nature Of Abstract Art
Excerpts from “The Modern Painters World”
“The function of the artist is to express reality as felt. In saying this, we must remember that ideas modify feelings. The anti-intellectualism of English & American artist has led them to the error of not perceiving the connection between the feeling of modern forms and modern ideas. By feeling is meant the response of the body-and-mind as a whole to the events of reality. It is the whole man who feels pain in his finger (The Republic, 462D) and not, the finger has a pain.
I have taken this example from Bosquet, who goes on to say: “When a body and mind is as a whole, in any experience, that is the chief feature… of what we mean by feeling. Think of him as he signs, or loves, or argues. When he is one, I believe it is always through feeling”… (Three lectures on Aesthetics)
Context combined with critique run parallel tracks when understanding abstract art in both historical and contemporary discourse. Art historians will point us to think of a time (Circa late 1940’s to mid 1950’s) where change was in the air. On the walls at the 1950 Venice Biennale, an international art fair that showcased contemporary art up to modern times. A proliferation of works influenced by the Fauvism exhibited in Matisse’s “The Joy of Life” combined with the expressionist demonstrations behind early 20th Century figurative art. To younger artist like De-Kooning, Pollock, Gorky, Newman & Motherwell, those early European masters in painting such as Matisse and Picasso, had become almost mainstream to follow in visual form.
ALSO FROM ART JOURNAL: When Abstraction Was Cool
Now the most startling innovations were to come from the US pavilion. Where a small works by Jason Pollock and Willem De-Kooning exemplified a radical new movement known as Abstract Expressionism. The ascendance of these Manhattan-based artist was an index of how fundamentally WWII had transformed the the art scene away from a pre-construction Paris into a modern NYC, circa 1950’s. Many of Europe’s greatest creative spirits like De-Kooning had abandoned their homelands for America’s shore. The New York School had gained the edge over the school of Paris. The city’s stimulating bustle of intellectuals, dealers of all kinds, galleries and museums was irresistible to visionaries, emigrants, artist including some of the greatest minds of the 20th Century like Einstein where welcome to America as loyal citizens.
Imagined the horror, some of the GOP’s top brass may actually suggest to turn away immigrants of some specific ethic background in favor of building walls of hatred. Let us understand first the importance between divisive rhetoric and political discourse.
Critics were divided as to which description best fit Pollock. The hard living painter who died in a car crash in 1956 at age 42. The artist has stood uncomfortably in the spotlight since the late 1940’s when he developed his monumental drip paintings, in the Post-Atomic age. Time Magazine derided Pollock as “Jack The Dripper,” but by 1950 he’d been championed by such influential tastemakers as Nation cultural citric Clement Greenberg while MoMa own Alfred Barr who praised Pollock’s vistas of dribbles and splotches as “an energetic adventure for the eyes…full of fireworks, pitfalls, surprises, and delights.” Alongside De-Kooning whose Woman paintings blended a similarly wild array of brushwork with recognizable imagery, as well as other artist like Franz Kline, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Morris, Lee Krasner, Clyfford Still & Helen Frankenthaler among others ruled the Avant-Garde ecosystem of late 1940-50 American intellectual discourse. With Pollock as the central figure of the movement in visual form, his paintings became an arena for action as a double helix between abstract gesture and cultural shaman. Pollock “expressionist drips” ushered in what has been called the first significance change in pictorial visual space since Picasso’s cubism period. In the process, these abstract expressionist expanded the basic definition of Western painting.
For those of you interested in a modern capture on 1940’s-50 American culture, the TV series Manhattan is a must see tv this season 2016.
The basic thesis should now begin to ring full circle for those of you who know where to dig in for clues in the essay. Saying there is nothing to read behind the matter of Abstract art is saying gravity does not exist because it does not conform to our preconceive concepts of physics, in time and space. Furthermore, the cultural impact Ab Ex had on the performing arts was seen at the time as second to none. “The Bald Soprano” by play-write Eugene Ionesco ( Circa 1950’s) first play was inspired by what he called “the theater of the absurd”. The protagonist, a middle-class English couple, jabber a senseless stream of truism (“the floor below us, the ceiling above us”) and lived in a town whose residents all seem to be named “Nutty Watson”. In the play’s horrific, hilarious post atomic world, cliches behind the “original atomic sin” is played in dramatic form. Perhaps a savvy broadway director might take aim at re-creating this wonderful play. In the story, cliches have been taken on a life of their own, while people have become automatons. Consciousness, will and the possibility of communicating intellectual values have been vanquished by the conventions of a polarizing society. Move forward into our own political discourse where media sound bites, out of context statements based on fear mongering passes for presidential debates, specially in the GOP side.
The modern polemics as seen in William Burroughs’s seminal novel “Naked Lunch” where the unification between the exerting influence on the relationship of art and obscenity. Had become one of the books that redefined not just literature but American culture. The influenced on Jazz as seen in the works of Charley Parker, West Montgomery and later on Monk was of equal value as a poetic musical tone beyond lines of understanding.
“The function of the Modern artist is by definition the felt expression of modern reality. This implies that reality changes to some degree. This implication is the realization that history is “real” or, to reverse the proposition, that reality has a historical character. Perhaps Hegel was the first fully to feel this. With Marx this notion is coupled with the feeling of how material reality is…It is because reality has a historical character that we feel the need for new art, if they were wholly satisfying, we should not need new ones. From this past art, we accept what persist qua eternally valuable, as when we reject the specific religious values of Egyptian 0r Christian art, and accept with gratitude their form.”
–The Modern Painter’s World
The Drawing Room
“The 11th Dimension”
ALSO FROM ART JOURNAL: Drawing Now Vol 1