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  • Zhang Zeduan, Section of the Spring Festival on the River, Northern Song, l. 11 th Century CE
  • Yu Jian, Mountain Villiage in Clearing Mist, 1250 CE
  • Shitao (1642 – 1718)
  • Transcript

    • 1. Appreciating Abstraction
      • Reading
      • Albert Elsen, “Abstract Art”
      • Terms/Concepts:
      • abstract, abstraction, non-representational, non-objective, non-figurative, guided projection, droodle, expression, action painting, formalism.
      • Key Monuments:
      • Yu Jian, Mountain Village in Clearing Mist (Detail) , 1250 CE
      • Josef Albers, Homage to the Square , 1954-1956.
      • Wassily Kandinsky, Improvisation 28 , 1912.
      • Jackson Pollock, Number 1A 1948, 1948.
    • 2. “ Big” Ideas for Realism
      • “ Realism” or “Naturalism” are constructs of both our visual faculties and expectations.
      • When we refer to something as “realistic,” we mean that it agrees with our understanding of reality.
      • What we consider “realistic” is culturally and historically defined. It is subject to change or shift.
    • 3.
      • “ By creating dramatic new options for artists, abstract art constituted one of the great revolutions in art and Western culture . The emergence of abstraction after 1909 with its premise that the representation of the visible world was dispensable to the expression of truth, reality, and even beauty was an exciting challenge to artist to transform or reinvent art itself , to engage risky adventures while seeking out new spiritual expression .” –Albert Elsen
      Bullshit … okay, maybe not complete bullshit.
    • 4. …so what is abstraction?
      • Verb:
      • Oxford English Dictionary: “to withdraw, take away; to separate in mental conception; to consider apart from the concrete.”
      • Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “remove, separate; to consider apart from application or association with a particular instance;”
      •  
      • Noun:
      • Oxford English Dictionary: “the act of abstracting…the act of separating thought…the result of abstracting.”
      • Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “the act or process of abstracting..the state of being abstracted.”
      •  
      • Adjective:
      • Oxford English Dictionary: “separated from subject matter, practice, or particulars, ideal; abstruse.”
      • Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “disassociated from any specific instance…expressing a quality apart from the object.”
    • 5. Two Types of “Abstraction” Abstracting From Non-Representational
    • 6. Abstracting From… Paul Cezanne, Views of Mont Sainte Victoire, late 19 th century-early 20 th century.
    • 7. Appreciating Abstraction
      • Abstraction can be executed by:
      • Distorting detail
      • Removing detail
      • Changing colors
      • Denying space
      • Any means of denying our expectations of reality.
    • 8.  
    • 9.  
    • 10.  
    • 11. Topics of Discussion
      • Abstraction of the Chinese literati
      • Abstraction as Expression
      • Abstraction as Formal Exercise
      • Abstraction as Action
    • 12. Topics of Discussion
      • Abstraction of the Chinese literati
      • Abstraction as Expression
      • Abstraction as Formal Exercise
      • Abstraction as Action
    • 13. Court-Trained Painters
    • 14.
      • Huang Quan, “Sketches of Birds and Insects,” c. 903-965.
    • 15. Zhang Zeduan, Section of the Spring Festival on the River, Northern Song, late 11 th Century CE
    • 16. “ The Untrammeled Class” The Literati
    • 17. “ Ah, but a total lack of resemblance isn’t an easy thing to achieve!” --Ni Tsan, 14 th century.
    • 18.  Court Artist Literati Artist 
    • 19. Yu Jian, Mountain Villiage in Clearing Mist, 1250 CE
    • 20. Yu Jian, Mountain Village in Clearing Mist (Detail) , 1250 CE
    • 21. Shitao, Landscape, 1642 – 1718.
    • 22. Shitao, Landscape , 1642 – 1718. Pollock, Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), (detail), 1950.
    • 23.
      • “ My being myself is due to the fact that I naturally govern my own presence. The whiskers and eyebrows of the old masters cannot grow on my face, nor can their bowels enter into my body. I naturally express my own insides and display my own whiskers and brows. If by any chance (my works) should salute (lit., “offer a toast to”) some master, it is he who comes close to me, not I who should try to resemble him. Nature has endowed me thus. As for the classical masters, how could I learn anything from them without completely changing it.”
      • -- Shi Tao
    • 24. Xu Wei (1521-1593) Xu Wei, Grapes, 1521-1593
    • 25.
      • “ In his nature, Wang Mo (ca. 9 th c.) was rude and wild and he loved wine. Whenever he as about to paint a hanging scroll, he would first drink, and after he was drunk, then he would take ink and splash with it. Sometimes laughing, sometimes singing, he would kick (the ink) with his feet and rub it on with his hands.”
      • “ The monk Zeren (ca. 10 th c) was good at painting. [But] he was a habitual wine-drinker, whenever he got drunk, would splatter ink onto silk or a white-washed wall. When he sobered up, he would add and fill in (until there were) a thousand shapes and forms of the most extraordinary sort. Once he was drinking wine in a market and got very drunk. Catching sight of a newly plastered wall he took a dish towel, soaked it in ink and splattered all over the wall. The next day he made a very few additions and corrections, and wild branches and decaying roots appeared. Painters all paid homage to his inspired brush.”
    • 26. Topics of Discussion
      • Abstraction of the Chinese literati
      • Abstraction as Expression
      • Abstraction as Formal Exercise
      • Abstraction as Action
    • 27. Wassily Kandinsky, Improvisation 28 , 1912.
    • 28. Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VIII, 1923.
    • 29. “ Color directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another purposefully, to cause vibrations in the soul.” -- Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art
    • 30. Topics of Discussion
      • Abstraction of the Chinese literati
      • Abstraction as Expression
      • Abstraction as Formal Exercise
      • Abstraction as Action
    • 31. “ [I]n plotting out the rationale of Modernist painting I have had to simplify and exaggerate. The flatness towards which Modernist painting orients itself can never be an absolute flatness. The heightened sensitivity of the picture plane may no longer permit sculptural illusion or trompe l’oeil, but it does and must permit optical illusion. The first mark made on a canvas destroys the literal and utter flatness, and the result of the marks made on it by an artist like Mondrian is still a kind of illusion that suggest a kind of third dimension. Only now it is a strictly pictorial, strictly optical third dimension. The Old Masters created an illusion of space in depth that one could imagine oneself walking into, but the analogous illusion created by the Modernist painter can only be seen into; can be travelled through, literally or figuratively.” -- Clement Greenberg, from “Modernist Painting,” 1960.
    • 32. Josef Albers, Homage to the Square , 1954-1956.
    • 33. Frank Stella, Ileana Sonnabend, 1963.
    • 34. “ The essence of modernism lies…in the use of the characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself—not in order to subvert it, but to entrench it more firmly in the area of its competence. Kant used logic to establish the limits to logic, and while he withdrew much from its old jurisdiction, logic was left in all the more secure possession of what remained to it.” -- Clement Greenberg, from “Modernist Painting,” 1960.
    • 35. Topics of Discussion
      • Abstraction of the Chinese literati
      • Abstraction as Expression
      • Abstraction as Formal Exercise
      • Abstraction as Action
    • 36. Jackson Pollock, Number 1A 1948, 1948.
    • 37. Pollock, Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), (detail), 1950.
    • 38.
      • “ My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.”
      • “ When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.”
      • -- Jackson Pollock, On his work, 1950
    • 39. Hans Namuth, Jackson Pollock workin Hans Namuth, Jackson Pollock Working , film still, 1950s.
    • 40. Hans Namuth, Jackson Pollock working on Autumn Rhythm, film still, 1950.
    • 41.
      • “ A dripping wet canvas covered the entire floor. . . . There was complete silence. . . . Pollock looked at the painting. Then, unexpectedly, he picked up can and paint brush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dance like as he flung black, white, and rust colored paint onto the canvas. He completely forgot that Lee and I were there; he did not seem to hear the click of the camera shutter. . . My photography session lasted as long as he kept painting, perhaps half an hour. In all that time, Pollock did not stop. How could one keep up this level of activity? Finally, he said ‘This is it.’”
      • -- Hans Namuth, On Jackson Pollock, 1952
    • 42. Appreciating Abstraction
      • Abstraction can…
        • be used to increase our awareness of the formal properties of art.
        • challenge our perception of reality.
        • call our attention to the artificiality of the image itself.
        • be used to express the unseen or the ineffable.
        • record a process or action.

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