Abstract Expressionism and the New American Sculpture
Modernism in AmericaAbstract Expressionism and the NewAmerican Sculpture
Schools of Modern ArtCharacteristics of Abstract Expressionism•The purity of medium.•The capacity of paint to serve as the vehicle for emotional expression.•The need to explore the subconscious.– Of top interest to all the Abstract Expressionists was the strong connectionto psychic self-expression.• The belief in the validity of inner experience.• Abstract Expressionists are influenced by Carl Jung (a pupil of Freud)and the Surrealists before them who also explored the depths of thehuman mind.•Emphasis on process allowing for spontaneity.•The value of and exploitation of chance.– Abstract Expressionists inherit this from Dada artists like Marcel Duchamp.•The certainty that times mandates an entirely new way of painting employingindividualistic styles divorced from and irreconcilable with the past.
Schools of Modern Art• First modern American art movement tohave both European and American roots.• Abstract Expressionism is a directresponse to the upheaval caused byWWII.– America enters WWII December 8,1941 (the day after the bombing ofPearl Harbor).• New York unseats Paris as art capital ofthe world.• America benefits greatly from World WarII.– Various European artists,philosophers, scientists, etc. emigrateto escape 1930s/40s Europe.Abstract Expressionism (after 1945-1960s)Jackson Pollock, One (Lavender Mist),1950. Oil and enamel paint on canvas,8 10" x 17 5 5/8”. National Gallery ofArt, Washington, D.C.
Federal Art Project (1939-1943)• During the Depression, many of theartists who would becomeidentified as the New York Schoolfound work under the Federal ArtProject of theWorksProgress Administration (WPA)(1935-1943)– Unlike any initiative in thehistory of America, the WPA putartists to work giving them awage and the freedom toexperiment.– You did not have to be a nativeof the U.S. (even de Kooningreceived assistance under thisprogram).Employment and Activities poster forthe WPAs Federal Art Project, c.1936
Schools of Modern Art• Nihilistic attitude evocative ofexistentialist philosophies of SørenKierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche.• American artists look to rebel againstpre-war American style and forge new“American” style of art.• First dubbed, “Abstract Expressionism”by Robert Coates in 1946, themovement gets its name from itsadaptation of emotional intensity andself-denial of the GermanExpressionists, anti-figurative aestheticof European abstraction includingFuturism, Bauhaus, and SyntheticCubism.Willem de Kooning, Gotham News, 1955. Oilon canvas, 5’9” x 6’7”. Albright-Knox Gallery,Buffalo, NY.Abstract Expressionism (after 1945-1960s)
Schools of Modern ArtAbstract Expressionism (after 1945-1960)•Each Abstract Expressionist artist took pridein the individuality of his/her personal style.– Individuality of style is an earmark ofmodernist art.•Abstract Expressionist artists usedunconventional techniques and materials.– Pollock used a drip technique applyinghouse paint with sticks, palette knife, etc.– Helen Frankenthaler waters down herpigment and allows the paint to infiltratethe sometimes raw canvas.•Abstract Expressionism was less a style ofpainting than an attitude or approach.•There was no one method of painting.Helen Frankenthaler, Mountainsand Sea, 1952. Oil and charcoalon canvas, 86” x 117”. NationalGallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Schools of Modern ArtAmerican Scene Painting: Regionalismc. 1920s-1950s•Prior to Abstract Expressionism,American artists painted in a veryregional style known as American ScenePainting, Regionalism, or Social Realism.– Regionalists captured everydayAmericans living ordinary lives.– Here Grant Wood (1892-1942) paints hissister with his dentist as Puritanicalfarmers from the heartland of America.– Wood paints in a very realistic style.– Wood took inspiration from Flemish andGerman Renaissance painters and notEuropean modernists.Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930. Oilon beaverboard, 29 ⅞” x 24 ⅞”. ArtInstitute of Chicago.
Schools of Modern ArtAmerican Scene Painting: Social Realism1920s-1950s•Social Realist painters were the conscious of theirgeneration.– Many were leftist or socialist sympathizers.• A leader amongst his peers, Ben Shahn’s(1898-1969) painting was intimatelyassociated with his own social activism.•Shahn took as his subject social injustice, fascism,and hardships of the working classes.– In this painting, Shahn addresses the case of Italianimmigrants, Sacco and Vanzetti sentenced to death fora crime many believed they did not commit. Ben Shahn, The Passion ofSacco and Vanzetti, 1931-32.Tempera on canvas, 7’ 7 ½” x4’. Whitney Museum ofAmerican Art.
• Shahn often based his paintings onphotographs he and others hadtaken.Photograph of Bartolomeo Vanzetti (left) andNicola Sacco in handcuffs, c. 1927.Ben Shah, The Passion of Sacco and Venzetti, 1952.Drawing for poster here published in The Nation onthe 25thAnniversary of the case.
Roots of American abstraction•Abstract Expressionist artists pull from the influenceof many modernist styles including:– Expressionism of van Gogh– Saturated color of Matisse– Total abstraction of Kandinsky and Mondrian– Organic forms of Miró– Interest in the unconscious from Surrealism(Freud, Jung, and Breton)Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43. Oil oncanvas, 50” x 50”. Museum of Modern Art, NYC.Vasily Kandinsky,Several Circles, No. 323,1926. Oil on canvas, 55⅛ “x 55 ⅛”. GuggenheimMuseum, NYC.
Schools of Modern ArtPiet Mondrian (1872-1944)•Founder of de Stijl artmovement (1918-1931)•Mondrian conceived theartwork as a unique space wherethe viewer could contemplatethe universal and non-subjectiverealityPiet Mondrian, Tableau No. 2/Composition No.VII, 1913. Oil on canvas, 41 1/8 x 44 ¾”. .Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Schools of Modern Art• From the Mexican muralpainters, like Diego Rivera,they took scale.– Abstract Expressionistsabandon any leftovertradition of the easelpainting to work oncolossal scale and envelopthe viewer.Diego Rivera, Detroit Industry, 1932-33. Fresco,north wall. Detroit Institute of Arts.
Schools of Modern Art• Influential artists to come to the United States includeHans Hofmann (1880-1966).– Hofmann is known best for his work in theclassroom.• Hofmann’s “push-pull” theory was especially influentialon artists Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) and MarkRothko(1903-1970).– His principles were rooted in Cubism and Cézanne:• line is symptomatic of planes and leads to illustration-line isNOT primary.– Concerned with the color relationships (color was aspace-producing element).– Blocks of color confirm flatness of pictures andinteract in a push-pull way:• Warm colors advance, cool recede.– He said, "the ability to simplify means to eliminatethe unnecessary so that the necessary may speak".Hans Hofmann, The Gate,1959-60. Oil on canvas,6’2 ⅝” x 4 ¼”.Guggenheim Museum,NYC.
Schools of Modern ArtAbstract Expressionism (after 1945-1960s)Another important emigrant to the American artworld is Arshile Gorky(1905-1948).•Armenian-born, he came to the U.S. in 1920escaping genocide at the hands of Turkishgovernment.•Gorky is known as the most important forgottenAbstract Expressionist.•Figured is a portrait of the artist and his mother,who died in his arms of starvation during Armeniandeath march.•Here one sees the precursor to Mark Rothko(1903-1970) and Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)in the blocking off of color.Arshile Gorky, The Artist and HisMother, 1929-36. Oil on canvas, 60”x 50”. National Gallery of Art,Washington, D.C.
Richard Diebenkorn, Manand Woman in Large Room,1957. Oil on canvas, 71” x62 ½”. Hirshorn Museumand Sculpture Garden,Smithsonian Institution,Washington, D.C.Arshile Gorky, The Artist and HisMother, 1929-36. Oil on canvas,60” x 50”. National Gallery ofArt, Washington, D.C.Mark Rothko, Untitled (Blue,Green, and Brown), 1952(alternatively dated to 1951).Oil on canvas, dimensionsunpublished. Collection ofMrs. Paul Mellon, Upperville,Virginia.
Schools of Modern Art• Self-taught, Gorky is an importantlink between European Surrealismand American abstraction.• Heavily influenced by Cézanne,Miró, and Picasso.• From Roberto Matta and AndréMasson (1896-1987) he tookSurrealist automatism.Arshile Gorky, The Liver is the Cock’s Comb,1944. Oil on canvas, 6’ 1 ¼” x 8’ 2”.Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY.Abstract Expressionism (after 1945-1960s)
• Takes biomorphic imagery fromKandinsky who first attempts to ridabstraction of form.• Abstract Expressionist artists rejectSurrealist forms because they wereillusionist.Arshile Gorky, The Liver is the Cock’s Comb, 1944.Oil on canvas, 6’ 1 ¼” x 8’ 2”. Albright-KnoxGallery, Buffalo, NY.Vasily Kandinsky, Last Judgment, c. 1912. Oilon canvas, 13’ x 17’. Private Collection.
Schools of Modern ArtVasily Kandinsky (1866-1944)•Considered the first abstractionist.•Introduces term “non-objectivepainting”.•Influenced by Nietzsche’s philosophy.•Formal qualities of light, color, andshape more important than subjectmatter and content.Vasily Kandinsky, White Line, No. 232,1920. Oil on canvas, 38 5/8” x 31 ½”.Koln Museum, Ludwig.
Vasily Kandinsky, Study forPainting with White Lines (Bildmit weissen Linien), 1913.Watercolor, india ink, and pencilon paper, 15 11/16” x 14 1/8”.Solomon R. GuggenheimMuseum, NYC.• Kandinsky believed thatthe task of the painterwas to convey asubjective, inner world,rather than to imitatereality.
André Masson, Pasiphaë, 1943. Oil andtempera on canvas, 39 ¾ x 50”. PrivateCollection.Arshile Gorky, The Liver is the Cock’sComb, 1944. Oil on canvas, 6’ 1 ¼” x 8’ 2”.Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
Joan Miró, The Poetess from theConstellation Series, December 31, 1940.Gouache and oil wash on paper, 15 x 18”.Private Collection.Roberto Matta, Disasters of Mysticism,1942. Oil on canvas, 38 ¼” x 51 ¾”.Private Collection.
Schools of Modern ArtRoberto Matta (1911-2002), ChileanSurrealist and Abstract Expressionist.•Introduces automatic process to manyin the New York School.•Becomes an important link, along withRobert Motherwell, between EuropeanSurrealism and American abstraction•His 1940 one man show at the JulienLevy Gallery is the single most importantcommercial exhibition showcasingSurrealist art to the New York School.– Tremendous impact on youngartists experimenting at the time.Roberto Matta, Disasters of Mysticism, 1942.Oil on canvas, 38 ¼” x 51 ¾”. PrivateCollection.
Roberto Matta, Disasters of Mysticism,1942. Oil on canvas, 38 ¼” x 51 ¾”.Private Collection.Arshile Gorky, The Liver is the Cock’sComb, 1944. Oil on canvas, 6’ 1 ¼” x 8’2”. Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
IRASCIBLE GROUP OF ADVANCED ARTISTS LED FIGHT AGAINSTSHOW•The solemn people above, along with three others, made upthe group of “irascible” artists who raised the biggest fuss aboutthe Metropolitan’s competition (following pages). Allrepresentatives of advanced art, they paint in styles which varyfrom the dribblings of Pollock (LIFE, Aug. 8, 1949) to theCyclopean phantoms of Baziotes, and all have distrusted themuseum since its director likened them to “flat-chested”pelicans “strutting upon the intellectual wastelands.” From left,rear, they are: Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, AdReinhardt, Hedda Sterne; (next row) Richard Pousette-Dart,William Baziotes, Jimmy Ernst (with bow tie), Jackson Pollock (instriped jacket), James Brooks, Clyfford Still (leaning on knee),Robert Motherwell, Bradley Walker Tomlin; (in foreground)Theodoros Stamos (on bench), Barnett Newman (on stool),Mark Rothko (with glasses). Their revolt and subsequentboycott of the show was in keeping with an old tradition amongavant-garde artists. French painters in 1874 rebelled againsttheir official juries and held the first impressionist exhibition.U.S. artists in 1908 broke with the National Academy jury tolaunch the famous Ashcan School. The effect of the revolt of the“irascible” remains to be seen, but it did appear to have needledthe Metropolitan’s juries into turning more than half the showinto a free-for-all of modern art.Nina Leen, The Irascibles, PublishedLife Magazine, January 15, 1951.Collection Getty Images.
Schools of Modern ArtAbstract Expressionism: TheGestural Painters•Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)•Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)•Lee Krasner (1908-1984)•Franz Kline (1910-1962)•Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989)Abstract Expressionism: ColorField Painters•Mark Rothko (1903-1970)•Barnett Newman (1905-1970)•Clyfford Still (1904-1980)•Robert Motherwell (1915-1990)
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural PaintersJackson Pollock (1912-1956)•Pollock is the quintessential icon ofthe New York School."The most powerful painter incontemporary America and the onlyone who promises to be a major one isa Gothic, morbid, and extreme discipleof Picassos Cubism and Mirós post-Cubism, tinctured also with Kandinskyand surrealist inspiration. His name isJackson Pollock."- Clement Greenberg, 1949Life magazine August 8, 1949.
Clement Greenberg (1909-1994)Clement Greenberg (1909-1994)•Equally important tounderstand is the role artcritics played in the success ofAbstract Expressionism (andPollock in particular).– Life was read in most Americanhomes making Pollock ahousehold name.– He and/or his paintingsappeared in several spreads Cecil Beaton, Fashion Study withPainting by Jackson Pollock, 1951Fashion shoot using Pollock paintingas backdrop.
Schools of Modern Art- Criticism• Clement Greenberg and his particular brand of Formalismbecame the voice of the Abstract Expressionist generation.• His formalism was particularly strict and advocated:– Primary values of a work of art to be in its form.– Painting should ignore any narrative, subject matter, pictorialillusions and focus only on the work’s form.– Art reject subject matter, pictorial illusions of 3 dimensional spaceon 2 dimensional surface, atmospheric light, and any otherdevices an artist might use in creating a picture of some “thing”.– Flatness and frontality are defined as the distinguishing featuresof a good painting under Greenberg’s rules• Flatness=no illusion to outside world or external references, works attainsand maintains autonomy
Schools of Modern Art"When I am in my painting, Im notaware of what Im doing. It is only aftera sort of "get acquainted" period that Isee what I have been about. I have nofears about making changes, destroyingthe image, etc., because the paintinghas a life of its own. I try to let it comethrough. It is only when I lose contactwith the painting that the result is amess. Otherwise there is pure harmony,an easy give and take, and the paintingcomes out well.”-Jackson PollockHans Namuth, “Pollock in Process,”Photograph taken, c. 1950. Gelatinsilver print, National Portrait Gallery,Smithsonian Institution, Washington,D.C.
• Artist Jackson Pollock in theprocess of painting using hischaracteristic “driptechnique.” This is one of atleast five photographs Namuthmade of Pollock painting.Their publication in Lifemagazine in 1951 caused agreat sensation making Pollocka household name.Hans Namuth, “Pollock in Process,” Photographtaken, c. 1950. Gelatin silver print, National PortraitGallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural PaintersJackson Pollock (1912-1956)•Pollock is the quintessential icon ofthe New York School.•He lived the hard life of drinking,smoking, fighting, and urinating intoPeggy Guggenheim’s fireplace!•His work often suggests theinfluence of Picasso, as seen here inhis implied figuration.•Total abstraction has not yet beenrealized by the artist.•His calligraphic style of drippainting is evolving.Jackson Pollock, Guardians of the Secret, 1943.Oil on canvas, 4’ ¾” x 6’3”. San FranciscoMuseum of Modern Art.
Schools of Modern Art• Pollock found inspirationin African sculpture,prehistoric art, Egyptianart, Navajo sand paintingand its ritual, and Jungianpsychoanalysis.• Having traveled aroundthe southwestern stateswhen he was younger,Pollock was exposed tothe ritual and tradition ofNative Americansandpainting.Postcard showing creation of large Sandpainting
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters• Pollock was also reactingto his teacher,Thomas Hart Benton,(1889-1975).• Benton was a Regionalistpainter and mentoredPollock at the Art StudentsLeague in NYC.Thomas Hart Benton, City Building, 1930. Distemperand egg temperea on gessoed linen with oil glaze, 7’8”x 9’9”. Equitable Life Assurance Society of the UnitedStates.
• Pollock, like many other artists, including Abstract Expressionists, wasinterested in the archetype.André Masson, Pasiphaë, 1943. Oil and tempera oncanvas, 39 ¾ x 50”. Private Collection.Jackson Pollock, Pasiphaë, 1943. Oil oncanvas, 27 ½ x 48”. MetropolitanMuseum of Art, NYC.• Here we see the influential artist AndréMasson and his depiction of Pasiphaë,a topic Pollock also painted the sameyear.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural PaintersLee Krasner (1908-1984)•She, like many Abstract Expressionist artists,worked under the Federal Arts Program, was astudent of Hans Hofmann, was devoted to thenon-objectivist styling of Mondrian, andexhibited as a Cubist abstraction artist.•Like her contemporary, Elaine de Kooning,Krasner is often overshadowed as an artistbecause of her marriage to Jackson Pollock.•Her marriage to Pollock was tempestuous andhis sudden death in 1956 in a drunk drivingaccident caused great stress.•Here, she hints at the pressure of being cast inher husband’s shadow through her metaphoricuse of his cut-up canvas collaged with her own. Lee Krasner, Milkweed, 1955. Oil,paper, and canvas collage on canvas,82 ⅜” x 57 ¾”. Albright-Knox Gallery,Buffalo, NY.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters• Like Picasso before her, Krasner embraced the collage technique tocreate this and other works.Lee Krasner, Milkweed, 1955. Oil,paper, and canvas collage oncanvas, 82 ⅜” x 57 ¾”Pablo Picasso, Guitar, Sheet Music, andWine Glass, Fall 1912. pasted papers,gouache, and charcoal on paper, 18 7/8” x14 ¾”. McNay Art Museum ,San Antonio.
Abstract Expressionism: The GesturalPainters• Although her technique increating this work is similarto Pollock’s drip technique,Krasner did not permitherself the same degree offreedom and spontaneity.• Unlike Pollock, she hadusually worked on a smallerscale using the kitchen tableas her easel, not the floor asPollock had done.Lee Krasner, Polar Stampede, 1960. Oil oncotton duck, 7’9⅝” x 13’ 3 ¾”. CollectionPollock Krasner Foundation.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural PaintersWillem de Kooning (1904-1997)•Like Pollock, de Kooning is a primary figureamongst the New York School of AbstractExpressionists.•De Kooning’s contribution to AbstractExpressionism rivals Pollock’s drip style.•With critics like Greenberg demanding theobject be painted out of the canvas, deKooning paints it back in never actuallyevacuating the object or figure.Willem de Kooning, Woman I, 1950-52.Oil on canvas, 6’3 ⅞” x 4’10”. Museum ofModern Art, NYC.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters• De Kooning washeavily influencedby Stuart Davis(1894-1964),Arshile Gorky,and Russianpainter, JohnGraham.Stuart Davis, Report from Rockport,1940. Oil on canvas, 24” x 30”.Metropolitan Museum of Ar, NYC.Willem de Kooning, Gotham News,1955. Oil on canvas, 5’9” x 6’7”.Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters• De Kooning had a uniqueability to work in bothrepresentational andabstract modes, he did notbelieve one to be mutuallyexclusive of the other.• His Painting from 1948uses enamel paint and fluidline.• De Kooning assimilates theprinciples of Cubism.• Reminiscent of Pollock’sdrip technique, which hecredited as “breaking theice” he allows the paint tocascade down the canvas.Willem de Kooning, Painting, 1948. Enameland oil on canvas, 42 ⅝” x 56 ⅛”. Museum ofModern Art, NYC.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural PaintersWillem de Kooning (1904-1997)•De Kooning is best known for his Woman series.•De Kooning uses energetic gestural strokes thatare aggressive and seem spontaneous; in fact heworked and reworked this piece for 18 months.•De Kooning made numerous sketches to realizethis piece (contrary to the spontaneity oftenassociated with the movement).– Quite often it is the case thatcharacteristics of a style are asserted afterthe movement by critics and historians.– No one painter ever fits the formulacomposed in any given history of amovement.Willem de Kooning, Woman I, 1950-52. Oil on canvas, 6’3 ⅞” x 4’10”.Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
Schools of Modern ArtElaine de Kooning (1918-1989)•A painter in her own right, Elaine de Kooningis often over-looked because of her marriageto Willem de Kooning.•She is best known for her portraits,specifically of male athletes, political figures(JFK), and art critics.•She herself was an accomplished art critic.•Here she paints critic Harold Rosenberg, acontemporary and adversary of ClementGreenberg.•Process is most evident, the physical act ofpainting is made clear trough her gesturalbrushstrokes.Elaine de Kooning, HaroldRosenberg #3, 1956. Oil oncanvas, 6’8” x 4’10 ⅞”. NationalPortrait Gallery, SmithsonianInstitution, Washington, D.C.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural PaintersFranz Kline (1910-1962)•Found inspiration in the energy ofcontemporary American culture.– Influenced by Mondrian– Influenced by Rembrandt and Goya•Prior to arriving at mature AbstractExpressionist style, Kline worked paintedin the style of Social Realism.•His iconic imagery, seen on the right,was arrived through experimentationwith a slide projector.– Works like Nijinsky are high focusedimages of the artist’s brushstroke.•Unlike Pollock Kline was not invested inmyth, the sublime of Rothko andNewman, or spontaneity of de Kooning.Franz Kline, Nijinsky, 1950. Enamel oncanvas, 46” x 35 ¼”. Collection MurielKallis Newman, Chicago.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural PaintersFranz Kline, Nijinsky,1950. Enamel on canvas,46” x 35 ¼”. CollectionMuriel Kallis Newman,Chicago.• His 1950, Nijinskyis based on aphotograph ofthe Russiandancer asPetrushka inStravinsky’sballet.Stravinsky with Nijinskyas Petrushka, c.1911.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters• Although labeled an “actionpainter” Kline’s process involvedcareful sketches and preparatorydrawings often on phonebooksbefore the perceivedspontaneous marks were set tocanvas.• Mahoning takes its name fromhis native town in Pennsylvaniatown which inspired the artist.• To realize his paintings, Klineworked on un-stretched canvastacked to a wall; this allowed himto be in the painting in a way thatwas similar to but different thanPollock’s process of painting onthe floor.Franz Kline, Mahoning, 1956. Oil oncanvas, 6’8” x 8’4”. Whitney Museum ofAmerican Art, NYC.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolMark Rothko (1903-1970)•Represents alternative approach togestural style of painting associated withPollock and de Kooning.•Rothko resisted most labels includingdesignation as Color Field and abstractpainter.•The 1940s witnessed Rothko’s interest inbiomorphic forms and Surrealist inspiredfigures.•Rothko, along with Adolph Gottlieb (1903-1974) and Barnet Newman (1905-1970)shared an interest in the archetype,primitive, and archaic.– This was inspired somewhat from thewritings of Nietzsche and Jung.Mark Rothko, No. 1 (No. 18, 1948),1948-1949. Oil on canvas, 67 11/16”x 55 14/16”. Frances Lehman LoebArt Center, Vassar College,Poughkeepsie, NY.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolMark Rothko (1903-1970)•Prior to arriving at his signature style ofcolor blocking, Rothko worked in thefigurative.•This piece was produced by the artistwhile working under the Federal ArtProgram.– Under this program Rothko painted manyscenes reminiscent of American ScenePainters and Ashcan School including theurban landscapes.•His Subway Scene already displays hismature approach of blocking off colorsand leaving visible the artist’s hand andprocess.•Mentored under Arshile Gorky at theGrand Central School of Art in NYC.Mark Rothko, Subway Scene, 1938. Oilon canvas, 34” x 46”. CollectionChristopher Rothko.
• The floating forms seen in his No.1would merge to create the quasi-defined blocks of color that define hiswork from the 1950s.• Be aware, Rothko (and other artists)have been known to change the dateson their pieces.– In Rothko’s case, he often backdates hiswork; this explains why one sees variousdates associated with his paintings.Mark Rothko, Untitled (Rothko,number 5068.49), 1949. Oil oncanvas, 6’9 ⅜” x 5’ 6 ⅜”. NationalGallery of Art, Washington, D.C.Mark Rothko, "No. 1 (Untitled),”1948. Oil on canvas, 8 103/8" x 9 9 1/4," Museum of Modern Art.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolMark Rothko (1903-1970)•By 1949, Rothko arrives at his signaturestyle-rectangular bands of color floating in acolored field.•To achieve his desired effect, Rothkoapplied thin layers of paint of great colorrange blurring the rectangular shapes.•Using both warm and cool colors Rothkosets in motion Hofmann’s push-pull theory.•The result is a mesmerizing image thatwhen one gazes long enough undulatesagainst the ambiguous background.– If you are near a museum with any one of hisColor Field paintings give yourself time to gazeand experience the hypnotic effects.Mark Rothko, Untitled (Rothko,number 5068.49), 1949. Oil oncanvas, 6’9 ⅜” x 5’ 6 ⅜”. NationalGallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolMark Rothko (1903-1970)•The late 1950s Rothko abandons the brightcolors of his 1940s paintings for a darker andmacabre palette.•By the time he receives a commission for theFour Seasons restaurant in the SeagramBuilding in NY -one he most likely never hadplans on actually completing or at the veryleast creating a series the restaurant wouldreject, he had formed an antagonisticrelationship with the art world and began tospiral into a depression.– He commits suicide by overdosing onantidepressants and cutting his wrists in 1970. Mark Rothko, White and Greens inBlue, 1957. Oil on canvas, 8 4" x 610 ”. Private Collection.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field School"If you are only moved by colorrelationships, then you miss thepoint. Im interested inexpressing the big emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom.-Mark RothkoMark Rothko, Rothko Chapel, North, Northeast, andEast wall paintings, 1965-1966. Oil on canvas,Houston, Texas. Opened 1971.Mark Rothko, Entrance to RothkoChapel, 1965-1966. Oil on canvas,Houston, Texas. Opened 1971
What is the explanation of the seemingly insanedrive of man to be painter and poet if it is not anact of defiance against mans fall and an assertionthat he return to the Garden of Eden? For theartists are the first men.”— Barnett Newman
Barnett Newman, Genesis- The Break, 1946.Oil on canvas, 24” x 27”. Collection DIACenter for the Arts, NY.Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolBarnett Newman (1905-1970)•Like many from the New YorkSchool Newman studied at the ArtStudents League in NY during the1920s.•He gained recognition as a writer,critic, curator, and even runs for NYCmayor in 1933 but loses to Henry LaGuardia•Throughout the 1940s, he workedin a Surrealist style before reachinghis signature Abstract Expressioniststyle.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolBarnett Newman (1905-1970)•Newman’s abstract style differs greatly from hiscontemporaries.– He does not reject the painterly surface like hiscolleagues.•His work would become a major influence onlater generations, especially Minimalist paintersof the 1960s.•Like many of his contemporaries, Newmanshared an interest in the sublime, the primitiveunconscious, and myth.•He also studied and took as his subject the mythof creation and cosmic theories of birth andcreation.Barnett Newman, Genesis-The Break, 1946. Oil oncanvas, 24” x 27”. CollectionDIA Center for the Arts, NY.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolBarnett Newman (1905-1970)•Newman’s abstract style differs greatly from hiscontemporaries.– He does not reject the painterly surface like hiscolleagues.•His work would become a major influence onlater generations, especially Minimalist paintersof the 1960s.•Like many of his contemporaries, Newmanshared an interest in the sublime, the primitiveunconscious, and myth.•He also studied and took as his subject the mythof creation and cosmic theories of birth andcreation.Barnett Newman, Onement,I, 1948. Oil on canvas and oilon masking tape on canvas,27 ¼” x 16 ¼”. Museum ofModern Art, NYC.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolBarnett Newman (1905-1970)•Newman’s , Onement, I, is considered hisbreakthrough painting.•The artist employs his “Newman Zips” (thesebecame his signature gesture).– To create these zips, the artist would usually applytape to the canvas and then painted over it andaround it.– The “Zip” remained a constant feature throughoutthe full extent of his career.– The “Zip” represents many things and still elicitsdebate.Barnett Newman, Onement,I, 1948. Oil on canvas and oilon masking tape on canvas,27 ¼” x 16 ¼”. Museum ofModern Art, NYC.
• Newman’s , Onement, I, oftendraws comparison toGiacometti’s sculptureincluding Man Pointing andexistentialist thought.• Giacometti’s sculptureadvertises man’s realization ofhis limitations in this world.• Newman’s zips have beeninterpreted as representingthe upright human figure.Alberto Giacometti, Man Pointing, 1947.Bronze, 70 ½” x 40 ¾” x 16 3/8”. Tate,London.Barnett Newman, Onement, I,1948. Oil on canvas and oil onmasking tape on canvas, 27 ¼” x16 ¼”. Museum of Modern Art,NYC.
• His Onement I often draws comparison toFriedrich’s, Monk by the Sea.• Newman shared a deep interest in thesublime.Casper David Friedrich, Monk by the Sea, 1808-1810. Oil on canvas, 43.3” x46.5”. AlteNationalgalerie, Berlin.Barnett Newman, Onement I,1948. Oil on canvas, 27 1/4 x16 1/4" . MoMA, NYC
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolBarnett Newman (1905-1970)•Newmans Vir HeroicusSublimis is a maturerealization of his “Zip”gesture.•The zips in this work differ incolor and intensity.•All maintain human scalereflective of humanistideology.Barnett Newman, Vir Heroicus Sublimis(Heroic Sublime Man), 1950-51. Oil oncanvas, 7’11 ⅜” x 17’ 9 ¼”. Museum ofModern Art, NYC.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolBarnett Newman (1905-1970)•Newman’s Stations of the Cross, aseries of 14 canvases painted betweenthe years 1958 and 1964, represent asentiment shared with many AbstractExpressionist artists who sough tosurround the viewer with largecanvases or installations.•For the series, the artist restrictedhimself to unprimed canvas hostingblack and white paint.– The nature of the zip (its thickness andquality of shape) vary as do thematerials used (his pigment switchesbetween Magna, oil, and acrylic).Barnett Newman, Installation view of TheStations of the Cross, 1966. GuggenheimMuseum, NYC. Now at National Gallery ofArt, Washington D.C.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolBarnett Newman (1905-1970)•The subject of Stations is the Passion ofChrist.•The series was inspired and takes itssubtitle from the cry Lema Sabachthani"(God, Why have you forsaken me?)•Newman selected the topic to explore“the unanswerable question of humansuffering”.Barnett Newman, The First Station,from of The Stations of the Cross, 1966.Magna, acrylic, and oil on unprimedcanvas, approximately 78” x 60”each. National Gallery of Art,Washington D.C.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolClyfford Still (1904-1980)•Still comes to NY bay way of SanFrancisco.– San Francisco differed greatly in fromthe New York School its style, approachto painting, and general ideology.•He rarely exhibited rejecting the NYart scene.– Still shared the West Coast artists’skepticism and disdain for the artestablishment (its galleries andmuseums) and commercial success.Clyfford Still, Number 2, 1949. Oil oncanvas, 7’8” x 5’7”. Private CollectionJune Lang Davis, Medina, Washington.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolClyfford Still (1904-1980)•Unlike his NY contemporaries, Stilldenied any influence from Surrealismor interest in mythmaking shared byRothko, Pollock, and Newman.Clyfford Still, Number 2, 1949. Oil oncanvas, 7’8” x 5’7”. Private CollectionJune Lang Davis, Medina, Washington.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolClyfford Still (1904-1980)•Still’s work never fully evacuated thefigural.•To avoid his work from being associatedwith any particular subject Still, likemany Abstract Expressionists, refused totitle his works opting for the moredesignative date and more neutralidentifiers.Clyfford Still, 1947-J, 1947. Oil oncanvas, 68” x 62”. Albright-KnoxArt Gallery.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolRobert Motherwell (1915-1990)•Compared to his oldercontemporaries, Motherwell had aconsiderable education in art history,literature, and philosophy.– His 1951 anthology The Dada Paintersand Poets was an instrumental sourceresponsible for introducing Dada to theNew York School.•As a painter, Motherwell was mostlyself-trained aside from time spent withSurrealist artist Kurt Seligmann.•Motherwell’s association with Ernst,Masson, and Matta introducedSurrealist automatism to his technique.Robert Motherwell, Pancho Villa, Deadand Alive, 1943. Gouache and oil withcut-and-pasted papers on cardboard, 28”x 35 ⅞”. Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field SchoolRobert Motherwell (1915-1990)•The Elegy series representsMotherwell’s best known work andhis mature style.•Inspired by the defeat of theSpanish Republic in 1939,Motherwell commenced the seriescreating over 150 works throughoutthe course of his life.•The series consists ofpredominantly black and whiteforms arranged in simple verticalcomposition.Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the SpanishRepublic No. 34, 1953-54. Oil on canvas, 6’8”x 8’ 4”. Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
Schools of Modern Art• As AbstractExpressionismcontinued to develop asa style of painting,sculpture evolved in itsown form.David Smith, The Royal Bird, 1947-1948. Steel, bronze,and stainless steel, 21 ¾” x 59” x 9”. Walker Art Center,Minneapolis.New American Sculpture c. 1946-1960s
New American Sculpture c. 1946-1960s• Never formally trained as asculptor; learned iron working atan automobile plant and workingon trains.• Drew inspiration from thesculpture of Pablo Picasso andJulio González who taught Picassohow to weld.• His work from the 1930s and 1940sdraws inspiration from theirSurrealist sculpture.David Smith, The Royal Bird, 1947-1948.Steel, bronze, and stainless steel, 21 ¾”x 59” x 9”. Walker Art Center,Minneapolis.David Smith (1906-1965)•American sculptor who studied painting at the Art Students League underAshcan artist John Sloan (1871-1951).
Pablo Picasso, Woman in the Garden,1929-30. Bronze after iron original, 6’10¾” high. Museu Picasso de Barcelona.Julio González, Cactus I or Cactus Man I,1937; bronze, 26” high. GuggenheimMuseum, NYC.
New American Sculpture c. 1946-1960sDavid Smith (1906-1965)•His work from the 1950s the work ofhis contemporaries like AdolphGottlieb.David Smith, The Letter, 1950. Welded steel, 37 ⅝” x22 ⅞” x 9 ¼”. Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute ofArt, Utica, NY.
David Smith, The Letter, 1950. Welded steel,37 ⅝” x 22 ⅞” x 9 ¼”. Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute of Art, Utica, NY.Adolph Gottlieb, Voyager’s Return,1946. Oil on canvas, 37 ⅞“ x 29 ⅞”.Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
Adolph Gottlieb (1903-1974)•Like Smith, Gottlieb study under John Sloanas well as Robert Henri at the Art StudentsLeague.•Works like Gottlieb’s Voyager’s Return takeinspiration from a variety of sources includingthe writings of Jung, knowledge of the workof friends and contemporaries like Rothkoand Milton Avery, as well as Europeanmodernists (Mondrian, Míro, and Klee),African and Native American culture.•Smith’s work from the 1950s has an affinityto Gottlieb’s pictographs which read like acompilation of mysterious signs.Adolph Gottlieb, Voyager’s Return,1946. Oil on canvas, 37 ⅞“ x 29 ⅞”.Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
• Later works like Sentinel I, seem to embodythe Constructivist ideas of sculptor NaumGabo.David Smith, Sentinel I, 1956. Painted steel, 89 ⅝” x 16 ⅞” x 22 ⅝”.National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.Naum Gabo, Column, 1923,reconstructed in 1937; wood,painted metal, and glass, (laterreplaced with Perspex). GuggenheimMuseum, NYC.
New American Sculpture c. 1946-1960sDavid Smith (1906-1965)•His later series, Cubi representshis mature work.•The scale of this work ismonumental, his materialsspecific.•In the Cubi series he allows fora high polish to create dazzlingeffects with the sunlight.•His work becomes a primaryinspiration for 1960s Minimalistartists.David Smith, (left) Cubi XVIII, 1964. Stainless steel,height 9’ 8,” (center) Cubi XVII, 1963. Stainless steel,height 9,’ (right) Cubi XIX, 1964. Stainless steel, height9’ 5”. Dallas Museum of Art.
New American Sculpture c. 1946-1960sMark di Suvero (b.1933)•Considerably younger than artistsof first generation, di Suverotranslates the calligraphic strokesof Kline into three dimensionalmedia.•The artist uses various materials,including found objects to createhis large scale sculptures.Mark di Suvero, Hankchampion, 1960. Woodand chains, nine wooden pieces, overall 6’5” x12’ 5” x 8’9”. Whitney Museum of Art.
• Di Suvero’s Hankchampion,1960 looks like a literaltranslation of Kline’sMahoning from 1956.Mark di Suvero,Hankchampion, 1960.Wood and chains, ninewooden pieces, overall6’5” x 12’ 5” x 8’9”.Whitney Museum of Art.Franz Kline, Mahoning, 1956. Oil on canvas,6’8” x 8’4”. Whitney Museum of AmericanArt, NYC.
Mark di Suvero’s Hankchampion (1960) and Franz Kline’s Mahonig (1956) in "The Third Mind”Exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, 2009.
Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988)•American born, Noguchi had a very differentwartime experience than his contemporaries.– Because he was of Japanese heritage, Noguchispent time in a Japanese interment campvoluntarily as research.•He studied the work of the Cubists, Surrealists,and Constructivists while in Paris.•His work recalls Rothko and others interest inthe archetype and modernizes the sculpture ofancient cultures, including Greece.Isamu Noguchi, Kouros, 1944-45. Pink Georgia marble on slatebase, 117” x 34 ⅛” x 42”. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
• In Kouros he evokes the humanform in name and shape.– The title is taken from ancientGreek sculpture and the formrecalls the biomorphic imageryof artists like Miró.Isamu Noguchi, Kouros, 1944-45. Pink Georgia marble onslate base, 117” x 34 ⅛” x42”. Metropolitan Museumof Art.NY/MET Kouros or NaxosKouros, ca. 600B CE,Naxian marble, 6’ ½ ”high.Metropolitan Museum ofArt.New American Sculpture c. 1946-1960s
Isamu Noguchi, Kouros, 1944-45. PinkGeorgia marble on slate base, 117” x34 ⅛” x 42”. Metropolitan Museum ofJoan Miró, The Poetess from theConstellation Series, December 31, 1940.Gouache and oil wash on paper, 15 x 18”.Private Collection.
New American Sculpture c. 1946-1960sLouise Bourgeois (1911-2010)•Recently deceased artist, LouiseBourgeois, worked in many media but isprimarily known as a sculptor.•Her early career began as a Surrealistartist and the movement made a lastingimpact on her oeuvre.•Her work, featured here, resemblesSurrealist artist Giacometti own.•Her work always is autobiographicaland contains psychic associations.Louise Bourgeois, Quarantania I, 1947-1953. Painted wood on wood base, 62 ⅜” x 11 ¾”
Louise Bourgeois, Listening One, 1947.Bronze, painted white, life-size.Galerie Karsten Greve and GalerieHauser & Wirth.Louise Bourgeois, Personages, begun 1940s.Originally carved wood, many later cast inbronze, life-size. Guggenheim Museum, NYC.
Alberto Giacometti, The Forest(Composition with Seven Figures and OneHead), 1950. Painted bronze, 22” x 24” x19 ¼”. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.Louise Bourgeois, Personages, begun1940s. Originally carved wood, many latercast in bronze, life-size. GuggenheimMuseum, NYC.
Modernist PhotographyRobert Capa (1913-1954)•Modernist photographer RobertCapa successfully capturesexpressivist potential of his medium•Here, a photography of the stormingof the beaches at Normandy, appearsblurry as if to capture the action ofthe event.•The fluidity of paint seems to haveinfluenced the photographer in hischoice of composition.•Capa translated the painter’s needto express him/herself in pigment tohis own need to unveil the truth ofwar.Robert Capa, Normandy Invasion, June6,1944. Gelatin-silver print. Magnum Photos.
Modernist PhotographyAaron Siskind (1903-1991)•In comparison to Capa, Siskindtook a metaphorical approach tophotography.•Siskind attempts to realize thegestural imagery of AbstractExpressionist painters through hiscareful selection of subjects tophotograph.– He photographed sides ofbuildings, graffiti, the detritus ofmodern living.• His work bears a strikingresemblance to the imagery ofFranz Kline.Aaron Siskind, Chicago, 1949. Gelatin-silverprint. Smart Museum of Art, University ofChicago.
Aaron Siskind, Chicago, 1949.Gelatin-silver print. SmartMuseum of Art, University ofChicago.Franz Kline, Mahoning, 1956. Oil on canvas,6’8” x 8’4”. Whitney Museum of AmericanArt, NYC.
• The two pieces here demonstrate the artiststook part in conversation; each payinghomage to the other in their respectivemedia.Aaron Siskind, Jalapa 66, from Homage to Franz Kline,begun December 1972. Museum of ContemporaryPhotography, Chicago.Franz Kline, Siskind, 1958. Oil on canvas, 80” x111”. The Detroit Institute of the Arts.