ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM What’d ya expect? A Pollock?! lol.
<ul><li>In the 1930’s the US Govt, still reeling from the Great Depression, wanted to put people to work. They developed a bunch of different government funded plans including the WPA (which passed, because apparently Republicans weren’t a bunch of crybaby whiney… I digress). Wiki describes the program as follows: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Works Progress Administration (renamed during 1939 as the Work Projects Administration ; WPA ) was the largest New Deal agency , employing millions to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. It fed children and redistributed food, clothing, and housing. Almost every community in the United States had a park, bridge or school constructed by the agency, which especially benefited rural and Western populations. Expenditures from 1936 to 1939 totaled nearly $7 billion.  By 1943, the total amount spent was over 11 billion.  </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Many artists benefited from this program and had some moolah to be able to explore new frontiers in their artwork. This included the all of the soon to be leaders of “Abstract Expressionism”. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Being an artist in New York at the time must have been a pretty enlightening experience. Influences came from extremely ground breaking gallery shows and the opening of many new museums . These included: </li></ul><ul><li> Albert Gallatin’s Museum of Living Art (from 1927-1943) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>this museum had the largest collection of Modern European Art in the US </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Museum of Non-Objective Painting (later the Solomon R. Guggenheim aka the Goog) (1939) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The Whitney Studio (later the Whitney Museum of American Art ) (1931) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chock full of American Regionalist, American Impressionists and Ash Can paintings. </li></ul></ul><ul><li> MoMA (1929) showcased shows such as: </li></ul><ul><li> Cubism and Abstract Art (1936) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fantastic Art, Dada , Surrealism (1936-37) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>retrospectives of Matisse, Leger and Picasso (among others) </li></ul></ul>
<ul><li>So with deep pockets and loads of influences, muses and inspiration, New York artists started doing their thing. They were mostly invisible to the rest of the country until Clement Greenberg came along. Greenberg was an art critic who had written some very influential essays on Modern Art, often rife with political insight. This was the time when Russia and Nazi Germany were oppressing their artists left and right. They instituted state styles, respectively Socialist Realism and Aryan Art. Yawn. </li></ul><ul><li>Well the good ol’ U S of A developed the CIA fronted American Committee for Cultural Freedom. This committee was instated to push American art and encourage intellectuals to be critical of Pinko Commie culture. </li></ul>Greenberg stressed to this committee that the best Avante-Garde artists in the world were some of the pursuers of “American Type Painting” and he heavily stressed the Abstract Expressionists as leaders in this group. These artists were pursuing a flatness of the picture plane-arguing that paintings are a two dimensional object, thus dismissing the depth found in most art movements before hand. Greenberg was the first (but unfortunately not the last) art critic to completely champion an art movement and it’s artists and shoved them into the global limelight. His prize stud- Jackson Pollock.
<ul><li>Jackson Pollock </li></ul><ul><li>When Jackson Pollock was a kid, he saw Native Americans making sand paintings on the ground and eventually became the first artist to work in this fashion. Walking around the canvas and being on top of it let him be part of the piece. On the ground he could freely look at the piece from all four sides, making sure that there was balance and nothing was out of place or formed a focal point. Much of Abstract Expressionism was about the interaction with the piece…the ‘how’ of it’s creation instead of the final product like so many pieces before him. The finished piece was to be looked at as a thing…an object. Not strictly an image. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Viewing small .jpegs of Pollock’s paintings will never be as good as seeing the pieces in person. The interaction is much different due to scale . This allows the drips, linework and lack of focal points to really move your eye around the canvas and ends up being an interaction with a painting unlike any others. </li></ul><ul><li>I went to a Pollock retrospective at the Met (ropolitan Museum of Art) and noticed that his painting reflected his alcohol abuse pretty damn closely. His early work was colorful and fun (and sucked) then when the booze ruled his life, he did paintings like his numbered series and Lucifer (next slide) . These were gorgeous and badass moody pieces that he’s revered for, then he sobered up and they sucked again, then he was back on the sauce and made great paintings…then he got all shitfaced with his mistress and her friend and killed the friend and himself in a grisly car crash a mile from his (and wife Lee Krasner’s) house in Long Island at the age of 44. So it went : sober (bad), Drunk (good), sober (bad), then drunk (good), and finally drunk(dead). </li></ul><ul><li>Note the progression of style on the right, the first painting is from ‘43, the middle from ‘48 and last was painted in 51. </li></ul>Untitled 1951 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Number 4, 1948: Gray and Red 1948 Frederick R. Weisman Foundation The first one is just garish but shows and early affinity for the layering of line work, the franticness of the strokes and a certain busyness in the middle- all of these will be pushed and reflected highly in later paintings. Still…what are those at the top cartoon eyes? Awful! Look at this! Raw (unprimed, unpainted) canvas is the surface chosen for this piece… 1947-48 is when he really starts dripping on a painting also, he’s now using the entire piece for the drips to stretch out to the corners and have no relationship to a reference point as above. This little number shows more of an all-over feel to it. It lacks the clumped up spaces that the painting above has and the mark making is more distributed and even. Kinda neat to see the progression .
Number 1 (1948 68”x104” Oil, enamel and aluminum paint on Canvas National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Another Abstract Expressionist leader, Willem de Kooning was the only well recognized painter in this new art form to use figurative elements in his work. Referred to as “Action painting”, de Kooning’s work has a feeling of feverish paint application, speedy and ‘from the arm’ (as opposed to painting from the wrist) de Koonings work was very rough and grotesque. There is beauty in the grotesque though, just ask Steven A. Cohen; hedge fund manager and founder of SAC Captial Advisors. He bought this painting for $137M. Making it the second most expensive painting ever sold (next to Jackson Pollock’s #5). It was sold by David Geffen who got it from Thomas Ammann Fine Art for the remainder of a 16 th century Persian manuscript. Crazy huh?! Woman III 1953 68x48.5” Oil on Canvas Private Collection
Pablo (yeah we’re on a first name thing like that) Baigneur et Baigneuses 1921 W de Kooning Woman I 1950-52 6’4x58 Oil on canvas William de Kooning Foundation Woman VI, 1953 oil on canvas 68 1/2 X 58 1/2 in. (174 X 148.6 cm) (…if it makes you feel any better- I don’t really like most of the Woman series either :P)
<ul><li>Rothko’s artwork was heavily influenced by Carl Jung, Siggy Freud, mythology and little kids. He once stated that there is an empty spot in the minds of modern man that mythology used to fill … a hole where innocence and wonder used to be. Many of his paintings were inspired by the basest interaction of babies and their artistic decision making… mainly color usage and mark making. </li></ul>Untitled #61 Oil on Canvas Apparently most dipshit bloggers don’t care enough to put down a date or size :P
Entrance to Subway [Subway Scene], 1938 For a few years Rothko and a few compatriots invent the style of Academicism- basically a style motivated by traditional art narratives (form, color, balance, composition) but with a strong emphasis on the subject matter. These paintings were really ugly and usually pretty poorly painted. During this time Rothko experimented with watercolors and the luminosity and fluidity would be another hallmark of his artistic identity(left). Untitled 1945-1946 National Gallery of Art Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc., 198
<ul><li>Visual elements such as luminosity, darkness, broad space, and the contrast of colors have been linked, by the artist himself as well as other commentators, to profound themes such as tragedy, ecstasy, and the sublime. Rothko, however, generally avoided explaining the content of his work, believing that the abstract image could directly represent the fundamental nature of "human drama." </li></ul>No. 14, 1960 Oil on Canvas
<ul><li>Franz Kline was also a fixture of NYC artist clubs. Willam de Kooning, during one of Kline’s artistic blocks, suggested that Kline use an opaque projector to blow up his drawings from a sketch book. He did and began making these true abstract paintings (abstract paintings are when someone actually visually manipulates something). Usually Abstract is used incorrectly in art (like most of this art movement- since rarely is anything being abstracted). </li></ul><ul><li>These are cool anyway… not the most thought provoking but they look cool :P Later Kline went on to stray away from the projections and created these out of his head and with no reference to real objects. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Orange Outline, 1955 </li></ul><ul><li>Oil on Canvas </li></ul>He was labeled an “Action Painter" because of his seemingly spontaneous and intense style, focusing less, or not at all, on figures or imagery, but on the actual brush strokes and use of canvas.