Expressionism and the Rise of Formalism
Today the focus is on form and formalism - the
question of form over content, is the central issue
involved in the debates...
Is modernist form
oppositional, or does it
reflect and support,
either inadvertently or
intentionally, the cultural
and po...
a term typically associated with the twentieth-
century reaction against realism and romanticism within the
arts. More gen...
• emphasizes the autonomy or primacy of formal
qualities
• consciously detached from its ideological or
cultural context
•...
“Remember, that a picture, before it is a picture of
a battle horse, a nude woman, or some story, is
essentially a flat su...
In Britain formalist
art theory was
developed by Clive
Bell, Art (1914)
They formulated
the notion of
significant form,
th...
.During the period leading up to
and during World War II
modernist artists, writers, and
poets, as well as important
colle...
Despite a number of differences in their
approaches to formalism, theorists share two
common commitments, which make up th...
Systematically
accounting for modern
developments by
emphasizing formal
characteristics of
paintings as especially
reveali...
Pablo Picasso
Guernica (1937)
The movement can be
more or less divided into
two groups: Action
Painting, typified by artists
such as Pollock, de
Kooning...
Colour Field Painting,
practiced by Mark
Rothko and Kenneth
Noland, among others,
was primarily
concerned with
exploring t...
The practice of artistic freedom became fundamental to
progressive modernism. Artists began to seek freedom
not just from ...
Harold Rosenberg and
Clement Greenberg
•Abstract Expressionism
was an avant-garde
movement
•Therefore, it was new to
audie...
Greenberg's formalism held
that modern abstract
painting was the purest and
most advanced artistic style
in all of human h...
Clement Greenberg argued that
art should hold itself separately
from mass culture, and defend its
own purity and complexit...
can be thought of as the
development of science, philosophy and art, each according to its
own inner logic. This links the...
Critics such as Roger Fry, Clive Bell
spoke up for a specific ‘aesthetic
experience’
Greenberg:
• explicit critique of the...
Jackson Pollock, Lavender Mist: Number 1, 1950
Abstract Expressionism is a form of art in which the artist expresses himse...
Considering American
modernism in the early
decades of the Cold War,
we can trace the
combative debate
among artists, writ...
 MOMA was part and parcel of the CIA’s
efforts to combat Communism with
American culture
 The Abstract Expressionists we...
Revealed: how the spy agency used unwitting artists such as Pollock and
de Kooning in a cultural Cold War
For decades in a...
The uniqueness of an art form ultimately depends upon the
specificity of the medium, i.e. the characteristics that it shar...
As a result, Greenberg saw abstraction as being a necessary
means of removing all other content from artwork. The
abstract...
Modernism reasserts the two-dimensionality of the picture
surface. It forces the viewer to see the painting first as a
pai...
For Greenberg in 1939, the demand for
Kitsch seems to accompany
modernization, be it under Hitler,
Stalin, Mussolini, or i...
Cockcroft, Eva. Abstract Expressionism: Weapon of the Cold
War. Artforum, vol. 15, no 10, June 1974, pp39-41
“After the In...
Frascina F, Harrison C, editors. Modern art and
Modernism. A critical anthology. London: Paul
Chapman Publishing Ltd; 1982...
Abstract expressionism and the rise of formalism .fys pptx
Abstract expressionism and the rise of formalism .fys pptx
Abstract expressionism and the rise of formalism .fys pptx
Abstract expressionism and the rise of formalism .fys pptx
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  • By this stage you will recognise that Modernism is an umbrella term, or general name given to the succession of numerous avant-garde movements in art, design and literature between the end of the 18th century to the mid 20th century.
     
    Generally speaking it is also fair to say that Modernist artists became less concerned with representing objects, or scenes and people in a ‘believable’ way. Insomuch as they were often less interested in naturalism and perspective that their immediate predecessors had been.
     
    Last week we saw how progressive or avant-garde modernism tended to concern itself with political and social issues, drawing attention to troubling aspects of contemporary society, such as the plight of the poor and prostitution, which they felt needed to be addressed and corrected. In this sense it is also clear that in first half of the 20th century there were radical impulses within individuals and groups making art and writing about art and culture. Through their art, the artists repeatedly pointed out political and social ills that an increasingly complacent and comfortable middle class preferred to ignore.
    Fundamentally, the intention of these somewhat radical and politically engaged artists was to educate the public, to keep alive in the face of conservative forces the Enlightenment ideals of freedom and equality through which the world would be made a better place.

  • Today the focus is on form and formalism - the question of form over content, is the central issue involved in the debates around formalism

    deliberate concentration on formal qualities
    self-referentiality
    autonomy
    art for art’s sake

    We will also questions the role played by art in the shifting relations between the realm of the aesthetic and the political.

    Modern formalism evolved during the late 19th century and early 20th. An important impetus was given to this development by aestheticism, a broad-based cultural movement, in large part a reaction against the ills of modern industrial society.
     
  • Political implications of modernist form
    Is modernist form oppositional, or does it reflect and support, either inadvertently or intentionally, the cultural and political status quo.

    The modernists themselves were highly self-conscious concerning the cultural and social implications of their ‘new’ aesthetics, and the polemics/the debates/the rhetoric they initiated have been extended numerous influential Western aesthetic theorists.
  • Formalism and modernism became almost interchangeable in the field of art theory mainly in the writings of such as Clement Greenberg ( more of him later).
    So I think its worth quickly re-caping of the definition of Modernism and Modernity and outlining the meaning of Formalism.

    To briefly offer a synopsis we might say that:
    Modernism a term typically associated with the twentieth-century reaction against realism and romanticism within the arts.
    More generally, it is often used to refer to a twentieth-century belief in the virtues of science, technology and the planned management of social change.

    Modernity refers to a period extending from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (in the case of Europe) to the mid to late twentieth century characterized by the growth and strengthening of a specific set of social practices and ways of doing things.
    It is often associated with capitalism and notions such as progress.
  • In general, the term formalism describes the critical position that the most important aspect of a work of art is its form, that is, the way it is made and its purely visual aspects, rather than its narrative content or its relationship to the visible world. In painting therefore, a formalist critic would focus exclusively on the qualities of colour, brushwork, form, line and composition.
  • Since the first decades of the 20th century the concern for formal qualities generally acknowledged as “formalism”, has been by and large what we might call the hallmark of art criticism.
    Formalism as a critical stance came into being in response to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism (especially the painting of Cézanne) in which unprecedented emphasis was placed on the purely visual aspects of the work.
     
    Maurice Denis Definition of Neo-Traditionism (1890).
    'Remember, that a picture, before it is a picture of a battle horse, a nude woman, or some story, is essentially a flat surface covered in colours arranged in a certain order.'
    Denis emphasised that aesthetic pleasure was to be found in the painting itself not its subject.

  • In Britain formalist art theory was developed by Roger Fry and Clive Bell, Art (1914) They formulated the notion of significant form, that form itself can convey feeling. All this led quickly to abstract art, an art of pure form. Formalism dominated the development of modern art until the 1960s when it reached its peak in the so-called New Criticism of the American critic Clement Greenberg and others.
     
  • We have already identified how the term Modernism is related to but not to be confused with Modernity, since modernity relates to the massive changes in culture and society due mainly to the developments brought about by the industrial revolutions and subsequent political unrest within Europe, namely WW1 and WW2.

    Before the outbreak of World War II, Social Realism provided the dominant artistic style, representing and reflecting the tumultuous political and social climate of the Depression. During this time artists in the city were influenced from a number of different directions, initially by Marxism - which stressed the importance of socially relevant art - and later by Freudian psychoanalysis, Cubism and Surrealism.

    After World War II, the center of avant-garde activity shifted from Paris to New York.

    During the period leading up to and during World War II modernist artists, writers, and poets, as well as important collectors and dealers, fled Europe and the onslaught of the Nazis for safe haven in the United States.

    Abstract Expressionism was a branch of American art that received the most direct European influence - but it also embodied something of the mythical American initiative, rugged individualism, and so on. It was, in other words, a highly suitable sign for the propagandist idea of the unity of the United States and Western Europe - but unity under American leadership.

    Abstract Expressionism was a label for the movement which grew up in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. It was meant to encompass not only the work of painters who filled their canvases with fields of color and abstract forms, but also those who attacked their canvases with a vigorous gestural expressionism. But it has become the most accepted term for a group of artists who did hold much in common. All were committed to an expressive art of profound emotion and universal themes, and most were shaped by the legacy of Surrealism, a movement which they translated into a new style fitted to the post-war mood of anxiety and trauma.

    Throughout the early 1940s many artists began to experiment with abstraction, and by the end of the decade the Abstract Expressionists were experiencing their most important breakthroughs. During this time critics such as Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg developed theoretical justifications for the new styles, and, by the mid 1950s, critical debate was focussed around the ideas Greenberg put forward in his essay "American-Type Painting," and those launched by Rosenberg in "The American Action Painters." During the early part of the period, many moved further away from the political beliefs they had held in the 1930s, while some began to embrace Existentialism.


  • Despite a number of differences in their approaches to formalism, theorists share two common commitments, which make up the core of formalist aesthetics, and which can be summarized as follows: one, the definition of art in terms of its formal qualities, i.e. form vs. art as representation or expression; and two, the dichotomy of form vs. content.
  • Last week John spoke about the great narrative of modernism in art, or the canon as a means of systematically accounting for modern developments by emphasizing formal characteristics of paintings as especially revealing to construct a particular history of modern art.

    Formalism became a very effective instrument of control over unruly and disruptive art. The underlying assumptions at work here first of all posit that the visual artist, by virtue of special gifts, are able to express the finer things of humanity through a ‘purely visual’ understanding and mode of expression. This ‘purely visual’ characteristic of art made it an autonomous sphere of activity, completely separate from the everyday world of social and political life. The self–determining nature of visual art meant that questions asked of it could be properly put, and answered, only in its own terms. Modernism’s ‘history’ was constructed through reference only to itself. Each ‘ism’, gains its art historical significance through its place within a scheme of stylistic development that has its roots in the preceding ‘isms’ and for its influence on for successive styles or ‘isms’.
  • Last week we also saw how the triumphalist history of modernism began to be challenged.
  • The movement can be more or less divided into two groups: Action Painting, typified by artists such as Pollock, de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Philip Guston, stressed the physical action involved in painting.
  • Formalism, though, could also be turned to the advantage of the progressives who were able to use it in defense of modernism, abstraction in particular. Formalism also neatly dovetailed in the early 20th century with another goal of progressive modernism: universalism. For art to be an effective instrument of social betterment, it needed to be understood by as many people as possible. But it was not a matter of simply manipulating images, it was the ‘true’ art behind the image that was deemed important. Art can be many things and one example may look quite different from the next. But something called ‘art’ is common to all. Whatever this ‘true’ art was, it was universal; like the scientific ‘truth’ of the Enlightenment. All art obviously possessed it.
    Some artists went in search of ‘art.’ From an Enlightenment point of view, this was a search for the ‘truth’ or essence of art, and was carried out using a sort of pictorial reasoning. The first step was to strip away distracting elements such as recognizable objects which tended to conceal or hide the common ‘art’ thing…reducing their compositions to arrangements of colours, lines, and shapes. The belief being that colours, lines, and shapes could exist autonomously in a painting without any connection to recognizable objects.
     
  • Art for art’s sake
    The practice of artistic freedom became fundamental to progressive modernism. Artists began to seek freedom not just from the rules of the Academy, but from the expectations of the public. It was claimed that art possessed its own intrinsic value and should not have to be made to satisfy any edifying, utilitarian, or moral function. It was claimed that art should be produced not for the public’s sake, but for art’s sake.
     
    ‘Art for Art's Sake’ in some senses became subjugated by those who wanted to neutralize the content and political effects of modernist art. Art was to be discussed in formal terms — colour, line, shape, space, composition — which effectively removed the question of meaning and purpose from consideration and allowed whatever social, political, or progressive statements the artist had hoped to make in their work to be conveniently ignored or played down.
     
    In defense of this attitude, it was argued that, because the function of art is to preserve and enhance the values and sensibilities of civilized human beings, art should attempt to remain aloof from the malignant influences of contemporary culture which was becoming increasingly coarse and dehumanized.

    There emerged the notion that modernist art is to be practiced entirely within a closed formalist sphere that was necessarily separated from, so as not to become contaminated by, the real world.

  • The most influential exponent of formalism in 20th century art criticism was the American writer Clement Greenberg, who is best known for his support of Abstract Expressionism. Although his rival, Harold Rosenberg, initially advanced a more popular interpretation of the mid-century style - one that attended to the process of creation, and to subject matter - ultimately, Greenberg's interpretation gained more supporters since it provided the most persuasive account of the development of abstract art.
    Greenberg and Rosenberg had diametrically opposing views to art: Greenberg was more interested in the ‘abstract’ element and Rosenberg was more concerned with the ‘expressionist’ part of Abstract Expressionism

    Abstract Expressionism: Importance of the Critics
    Abstract Expressionism was an avant-garde movement
    Therefore, it was new to audiences
    Critics provided explanations for what these radical works meant

    Clement Greenberg
    The formalist critic Clement Greenberg, in an article first published in 1965 entitled ‘Modernist Painting,’ saw modernism as having achieved a self–referential autonomy. The work of art came to be seen as an isolated phenomenon governed by the internal laws of stylistic development. Art stood separate from the materialistic world and the mundane affairs of ordinary people.

  • Greenberg's formalism held that modern abstract painting was the purest and most advanced artistic style in all of human history. With his seminal 1939 essay, "The Avant-Garde and Kitsch," art theory in the era of Abstract Expressionism had unofficially begun.
    Greenberg is considered a formalist critic - his assessment of the value of an artwork lay in its formal characteristics.
     
    Believed that although form was not the total of art, it provided the only firm basis on which to make judgements on both the quality and character of different works of art, as it was too easy to make contradictory assertions about subject matter.

    Greenberg is also the major figure in accounting for new developments in art terms of its formal predictions. He could account for Abstract Expressionism in general, and Jackson Pollock in particular within the terms of formalism.
    Greenberg is a typical formalist in that he believed that the treatment of form in Abstract Expressionism was the root of its quality; the artist he supported above all, Jackson Pollock, was judged to be great because of his success in manipulating form
  • According to Greenberg:
    “Realistic, naturalistic art had dissembled the medium using art to conceal art: Modernism used art to call attention to art. The limitations that constituted the medium of painting – the flat surface, the shape of the support, the properties of the pigment – were all treated by the Old Masters as negative factors that could be acknowledged. Only implicity or indirectly. Under Modernism, these same limitations came to be regarded as positive factors and were acknowledged openly.”

    Greenberg felt that art existed in a ‘pure’ state, and can be experienced in a transcendental way by all human beings and organised into categories that don’t overlap, and should never mix with everyday life or mass culture.
  • JACKSON POLLOCK
    Greenberg was quick to recognize that Pollock’s innovative and provocative drip paintings were important to the avant-garde.
    Pollock's paintings marked a significant juncture in the development of Formalism, with them we enter into a new view of art - one that includes both gesture and process.
    Drip painting fulfilled the conditions of the evolving Modern aesthetic of form and at the same reestablished the premise set forth by Clive Bell that the value of art lies in expression of the ‘vital force’; (in the emotive connection the artist makes with the viewer through the painting).
  • The "project of Modernity" can be thought of as the development of science, philosophy and art, each according to its own inner logic. This links the concept of modernity to the concept of modernism as it was articulated by Greenberg.
    The concept of the avant-garde is that of a loosely organized oppositional force and challenge to the dominant artistic culture. The avant-garde is often thought of as part of the "inner logic of modernism" - the built in source of contradiction or critique that moves art forward. (Note that this assumes a model of progress as part of the inner development of the arts and culture.)
  • SLIDE
    In terms of Greenberg’s famous dichotomy between avant-garde and kitsch, the arts produced by Nazism and Stalinism were both to be regarded as kitsch - that is, as having falsified content. Pure form was offered as the revolutionary alternative. In effect he offered Abstract Expressionism as a way out of the dilemma of failed faith in Stalinism. His unqualified assertion that ‘quality’ is to be judged only by the eye, and that only he had the eye to do it
  • Important exhibition ‘French and American Painters’ in 1942, brought Jackson Pollock’s work to the public for the first time, alongside the work of De Kooning and Krasner’s in juxtaposition with paintings by acknowledged French masters like Braque and Picasso.
     
    Greenberg championed painter Jackson Pollock above all others. He saw his absolute abstraction as ensuring the ‘purity’ of the art, and he wrote of his use of colour and all-over composition.
     
    First Generation Abstract Expressionists
    Greenberg championed Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, William De Kooning, David Smith and Robert Motherwell
     
     
    Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) was an abstract expressionist. Abstract Expressionism is a form of art in which the artist expresses himself purely through the use of form and colour. It is form of non-representational, or non-objective, art, which means that there are no concrete objects represented.
     
    Jackson Pollock was considered to exemplify the romantic notion of the artist genius, iconic hero of individuality and expression.
     
    Since the days of Romantic art, a visceral notion of the artist driven by his urge to create has been associated with psychic instability and social isolation.
  • American modernism like modernism in general is a trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape their environment, with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology and practical experimentation, and is thus in its essence both progressive and optimistic. The general term covers many political, cultural and artistic movements rooted in the changes in Western society at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. American modernism is an artistic and cultural movement in the United States starting at the turn of the 20th century with its core period between World War I and World War II and continuing into the 21st century.

    Considering American modernism in the early decades of the Cold War, we can trace the combative debate among artists, writers, and intellectuals over the nature of the aesthetic form in an age of mass politics and mass culture.

    Although it started in the 1950s, the rift between the United States and the Soviet Union began during World War II.
    The United States believed in democracy. They adhered to the policy of free enterprise, voting to choose leaders and freedom of expression. The Soviet Union on the other hand, adhered to the doctrine of Communism. Stalin and the Soviet leaders believed that the masses were incapable of choosing their leader. Therefore, ruling with an iron fist was necessary.
    This ironclad rule would extend to its satellite countries. The Soviets would install leaders in Romania, Hungary and other Eastern European nations that were loyal to the USSR. They were also of course, Communists.

    It could be said then that, American Modernism was an attempt to bring order to the disordering forces of modernization
  • The rise of Abstract Expressionism after the Second World War and the cultural cold was politics, and the role of MOMA

    MOMA
    Museums enlarged their role to become more than repositories of past art and began to exhibit and collect contemporary art, particularly in the United States.
    US museums, unlike their European counterparts developed primarily as a private institution
    US museums were set up on the model of their corporate trustees
      
    These links were forged at a time by some of the most influential figures controlling museum policies and advocating cold war tactics to entice European intellectuals
     
    The political relationship between AE and the cold war can clearly be perceived through the international programmes of MOMA. As a tastemaker in the sphere of contemporary American art, the impact of MOMA, a major supporter of AE cannot be overestimated.
     
    MOMA
    Founded in 1929 mainly through the effort of the Rockerfellers

    Why was Abstract Expressionist art singled out by the CIA/State Department as an essential weapon of the cultural Cold War?
    Why did Nelson Rockefeller purchase over 2500 pieces of Abstract Expressionist art and use these paintings to decorate the lobbies of Chase Manhattan banks? And then, why was New York’s Museum of Modern Art so enthusiastic over this specific art movement?
     
    In order to understand the trajectory behind these actions and policies, we have to examine the history and formation of the Abstract Expressionist Movement, what it was attempting to achieve in the world through its art, and how it was consequently interpreted.

  • The CIA established a cultural fund to enhance the States’ reputation during the cold war. Abstraction is taken to stand for freedom against the threat of Communism, where realist painting is enforced.

    For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art - including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko - as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince - except that it acted secretly - the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.

    Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.
  • The Specificity of the Medium
    The uniqueness of an art form ultimately depends upon the specificity of the medium, i.e. the characteristics that it shares with no other form of art. Once this specificity has been discovered, Greenberg claims, the progressive modernist is called upon to purge all elements not essential and specific to the medium. Nothing borrowed from the medium of another art can be tolerated. Thus, under Modernism, each art searches for "purity" and in that purity, absolute autonomy not only from other advanced art forms, but from mundane everyday life and popular (mass) culture as well. (All forms of popular culture are referred to by Greenberg as kitsch.) [See Greenberg, "Avant-Garde and Kitsch"]

    In this sense Realist painting presents a problem in that it tends to conceal the specificity of the medium and, hence, the purity of painting. That's because realism encourages the viewer to move through the surface and into the illusionistic space of the representation. Modernist painting, on the other hand, uses the painting itself to call attention to painting. The flat surface, the shape of the support, the properties of the pigment - all these things that were denied by traditional painting are reasserted by modernist painting
     
  • Abstraction
    As a result, Greenberg saw abstraction as being a necessary means of removing all other content from artwork. The abstraction referred back to the painting itself, as opposed to the real world.

    Greenberg’s theory surrounding Abstract Expressionism was based on the concept of the ‘purity’ of art, “art for art’s sake”.
    Greenberg championed Abstract Expressionism as being a movement that removed art from all other humanist concerns such as politics, popular culture, and instead drew on the artwork itself for its concept.

  • Flatness as the Defining Feature of Painting
    Modernism reasserts the two-dimensionality of the picture surface. It forces the viewer to see the painting first as a painted surface, and only later as a picture. This, Greenberg says, is the best way to see any kind of picture.
     
    A flat picture plane – which was a result of the artists no longer trying to represent 3D objects, necessary as it showed the artist was accepting the overriding fact of the medium.
    For example, since sculpture is inherently three dimensional, it is absolutely necessary that modernist, i.e. pure, painting eschew any illusion of three-dimensionality. It must do this in order to sustain its autonomy. This is the real rationale for abstraction; not simply to avoid representation, but to avoid the impurity and inauthenticity of representing three dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. A painting is to be looked at, not looked into. Its space is to be traveled through with the eye alone. According to Greenberg, this sort of resistance to sculptural effects is very much a part of, and can be found in, the historical tradition of painting in the West.

    Flatness
    Greenberg’s Modernist Painting
    “Manet’s paintings became the first Modernist ones by virtue of the frankness with which they declared the surfaces on which they were painted [...]. It was the stressing, however, of the ineluctable flatness of the support that remained most fundamental in the processes by which pictorial art criticized and defined itself under Modernism. Flatness alone was unique and exclusive to that art. [...]. Flatness, two-dimensionality, was the only condition painting shared with no other art, and so Modernist painting oriented itself to flatness as it did to nothing else [...]”
     
    Flatness was the distinctive feature of modern painting, provides a “family
    resemblance”, enabling the critic to point out the continuity between a few otherwise separate historical movements. For example, after Manet and Cézanne, i.e. Post-Impressionism, “flat” painting came to the fore in Cubism. Writing about the collage technique as developed by Braque and Picasso, Greenberg considers flatness to be the most noticeable feature of early Cubism (1911-1912), which ‘well turned traditional illusionist paintings inside out’.
     
    Abstract Expressionism
    It is flatness once again, which becomes the common denominator for those artists whose work is known under the heading of American modernist painting, i.e. abstract expressionism.

  • Clement Greenberg's "Avant Garde and Kitsch"
    For Greenberg in 1939, the demand for Kitsch seems to accompany modernization, be it under Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, or in the Western Democracies. "Kitsch is the culture of the masses in these countries, as it is everywhere else."

    In his essay, Greenberg divides art into avant-garde and kitsch. Avant-garde is the "genuine" art of our age, art that moves our society forward. It manages to be genuine by eschewing such tasteless things as subject matter in favour of art that focuses on the very processes of art, the medium of art itself.
     
    Greenberg describes a second new cultural phenomenon that appeared in the industrial West: Kitsch. For Greenberg, the new urban masses lost their taste for the folk culture of the countryside, discovered a new capacity for boredom, and set up a pressure on society to provide them with a culture fit for their own consumption. For Greenberg, Kitsch is produced by a rationalized technique that draws on science and industry and erases the values that permit distinctions between good and bad art.
     
    Kitsch is "vicarious experience and faked sensation". It changes according to mere "style" not real, profound reasons. It is also "the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times." In other words, kitsch is not immortal, but too caught up in its time.
     
    Greenberg states that the easiness of kitsch makes it a tool for Fascism; avant-garde art is of course too difficult for the use of Fascists; complexity becomes an ethical stance.

    In many ways Greenberg is describing High Modernism rather than the historical avant-garde such as Dada and so on that tended to be opposed to the very hierarchies of education and training that Greenberg's notion of avant garde depends on.
  • Cockcroft, Eva. Abstract Expressionism: Weapon of the Cold War. Artforum, vol. 15, no 10, June 1974, pp39-41
     
    “After the Industrial Revolution, with the decline of the academies, development of the gallery system, and the rise of the museums, the role of artists became less clearly defined, and the objects artists fashioned increasingly becomes part of the general flow of commodities in a market economy.”
     
    Artists no longer had direct contact with the patrons
    They retained little or no control over the disposition of their works
    Many artists rejected the materialistic values of bourgeois society
    Many artists indulged in the myth that they could exist entirely outside the dominant culture
    Avant-garde artists generally refused to recognise or accept their role as producers of cultural commodity
  • Paintings by Pollock and de Kooning were to demonstrate the free spontaneous sensibility of the American option as opposed to the robotic Socialist Realism coming out of the Soviet Union.
    But clearly there was something slightly dishonest about this, since it is no secret that American formalism, despite the rebellious ambitions of its practitioners, served in part to depoliticise art at a moment - the McCarthy era and its aftermath - when content inevitably seemed political and hence dangerous.

    In this sense Abstract Expressionism was as much a submissive response to repression as it was a daring challenge to it. But this was not so obvious at the time, when Pollock, Newman, and so on - not to mention Greenberg himself - had no idea they were being co-opted into the role of Cold Warriors.
  • Abstract expressionism and the rise of formalism .fys pptx

    1. 1. Expressionism and the Rise of Formalism
    2. 2. Today the focus is on form and formalism - the question of form over content, is the central issue involved in the debates around formalism • deliberate concentration on formal qualities • self-referentiality • autonomy • art for art’s sake We will also questions the role played by art in the shifting relations between the realm of the aesthetic and the political.
    3. 3. Is modernist form oppositional, or does it reflect and support, either inadvertently or intentionally, the cultural and political status quo? Willem De Kooning Woman V (1952– 1953)
    4. 4. a term typically associated with the twentieth- century reaction against realism and romanticism within the arts. More generally, it is often used to refer to a twentieth- century belief in the virtues of science, technology and the planned management of social change. refers to a period extending from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (in the case of Europe) to the mid to late twentieth century characterized by the growth and strengthening of a specific set of social practices and ways of doing things. It is often associated with capitalism and notions such as progress.
    5. 5. • emphasizes the autonomy or primacy of formal qualities • consciously detached from its ideological or cultural context • refers to a way of creating, viewing and interpreting art that focuses on the visual elements and principles (privileging aesthetic response as mediated through sight alone), disregarding politics, historical context, content and the artist
    6. 6. “Remember, that a picture, before it is a picture of a battle horse, a nude woman, or some story, is essentially a flat surface covered in colours arranged in a certain order.” Maurice Denis Definition of Neo-Traditionism (1890) Paul Cezanne Female Nude (Leda) (1885-1887)
    7. 7. In Britain formalist art theory was developed by Clive Bell, Art (1914) They formulated the notion of significant form, that form itself can convey feeling.
    8. 8. .During the period leading up to and during World War II modernist artists, writers, and poets, as well as important collectors and dealers, fled Europe and the onslaught of the Nazis for safe haven in the United States.
    9. 9. Despite a number of differences in their approaches to formalism, theorists share two common commitments, which make up the core of formalist aesthetics, and which can be summarized as follows: one, the definition of art in terms of its formal qualities, i.e. form vs. art as representation or expression; and two, the dichotomy of form vs. content.
    10. 10. Systematically accounting for modern developments by emphasizing formal characteristics of paintings as especially revealing to construct a particular history of modern art.
    11. 11. Pablo Picasso Guernica (1937)
    12. 12. The movement can be more or less divided into two groups: Action Painting, typified by artists such as Pollock, de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Philip Guston, stressed the physical action involved in painting. Willem de Kooning: Woman (1949)
    13. 13. Colour Field Painting, practiced by Mark Rothko and Kenneth Noland, among others, was primarily concerned with exploring the effects of pure color on a canvas. Mark Rothko. Red White and Brown c1957
    14. 14. The practice of artistic freedom became fundamental to progressive modernism. Artists began to seek freedom not just from the rules of the academic institutions, but from the expectations of the public. It was claimed that art possessed its own intrinsic value and should not have to be made to satisfy any edifying, utilitarian, or moral function. It was claimed that art should be produced not for the public’s sake, but for art’s sake.
    15. 15. Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg •Abstract Expressionism was an avant-garde movement •Therefore, it was new to audiences •Critics provided explanations for what these radical works meant
    16. 16. Greenberg's formalism held that modern abstract painting was the purest and most advanced artistic style in all of human history. With his seminal 1939 essay, "The Avant-Garde and Kitsch," art theory in the era of Abstract Expressionism had unofficially begun.
    17. 17. Clement Greenberg argued that art should hold itself separately from mass culture, and defend its own purity and complexity against the vulgarization and blandishments of kitsch. According to Greenberg: “Realistic, naturalistic art had dissembled the medium using art to conceal art: Modernism used art to call attention to art. The limitations that constituted the medium of painting – the flat surface, the shape of the support, the properties of the pigment – were all treated by the Old Masters as negative factors that could be acknowledged. Only implicity or indirectly. Under Modernism, these same limitations came to be regarded as positive factors and were acknowledged openly.”
    18. 18. can be thought of as the development of science, philosophy and art, each according to its own inner logic. This links the concept of modernity to the concept of modernism as it was articulated by Greenberg. The concept of the avant-garde is that of a loosely organized oppositional force and challenge to the dominant artistic culture. The avant-garde is often thought of as part of the "inner logic of modernism" - the built in source of contradiction or critique that moves art forward. (Note that this assumes a model of progress as part of the inner development of the arts and culture.)
    19. 19. Critics such as Roger Fry, Clive Bell spoke up for a specific ‘aesthetic experience’ Greenberg: • explicit critique of the effects of capitalism on culture was part of his evaluative process • ‘good’ or ‘great’ art was a form of resistance to the destructive effects of mass production, the division of labour, and the encroachment of high technology • committed to the formal and historical significance of the art he discussed •championed American avant-garde painting •supported ‘abstract’ art, considering it a revolution against the established American taste for nationalistic narrative painting
    20. 20. Jackson Pollock, Lavender Mist: Number 1, 1950 Abstract Expressionism is a form of art in which the artist expresses himself purely through the use of form and colour. It is form of non-representational, or non-objective, art, which means that there are no concrete objects represented.
    21. 21. Considering American modernism in the early decades of the Cold War, we can trace the combative debate among artists, writers, and intellectuals over the nature of the aesthetic form in an age of mass politics and mass culture.
    22. 22.  MOMA was part and parcel of the CIA’s efforts to combat Communism with American culture  The Abstract Expressionists were overwhelmingly men, previously Marxists and then disillusioned Marxists  Their art exemplified a worldview that could be construed as the ultimate antithesis to Communism  They were individualistic, autonomous, exuding despair and anxiety  Jackson Pollock, in particular, became the icon of alienation  The CIA latched onto Abstract Expressionism for its purported anti- communism
    23. 23. Revealed: how the spy agency used unwitting artists such as Pollock and de Kooning in a cultural Cold War For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art - including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko - as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince - except that it acted secretly - the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years. Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete. Stonor Saunders, Frances. Sunday, 22 October 1995, The Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/modern-art-was-cia-weapon-1578808.html
    24. 24. The uniqueness of an art form ultimately depends upon the specificity of the medium, i.e. the characteristics that it shares with no other form of art. Once this specificity has been discovered, Greenberg claims, the progressive modernist is called upon to purge all elements not essential and specific to the medium. Nothing borrowed from the medium of another art can be tolerated. Thus, under Modernism, each art searches for "purity" and in that purity, absolute autonomy not only from other advanced art forms, but from mundane everyday life and popular (mass) culture as well. (All forms of popular culture are referred to by Greenberg as kitsch.) [See Greenberg, "Avant- Garde and Kitsch"]
    25. 25. As a result, Greenberg saw abstraction as being a necessary means of removing all other content from artwork. The abstraction referred back to the painting itself, as opposed to the real world. Greenberg’s theory surrounding Abstract Expressionism was based on the concept of the ‘purity’ of art, “art for art’s sake”. Greenberg championed Abstract Expressionism as being a movement that removed art from all other humanist concerns such as politics, popular culture, and instead drew on the artwork itself for its concept.
    26. 26. Modernism reasserts the two-dimensionality of the picture surface. It forces the viewer to see the painting first as a painted surface, and only later as a picture. This, Greenberg says, is the best way to see any kind of picture. A flat picture plane – which was a result of the artists no longer trying to represent 3D objects, necessary as it showed the artist was accepting the overriding fact of the medium.
    27. 27. For Greenberg in 1939, the demand for Kitsch seems to accompany modernization, be it under Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, or in the Western Democracies. "Kitsch is the culture of the masses in these countries, as it is everywhere else."
    28. 28. Cockcroft, Eva. Abstract Expressionism: Weapon of the Cold War. Artforum, vol. 15, no 10, June 1974, pp39-41 “After the Industrial Revolution, with the decline of the academies, development of the gallery system, and the rise of the museums, the role of artists became less clearly defined, and the objects artists fashioned increasingly becomes part of the general flow of commodities in a market economy.” • Artists no longer had direct contact with the patrons • They retained little or no control over the disposition of their works • Many artists rejected the materialistic values of bourgeois society • Many artists indulged in the myth that they could exist entirely outside the dominant culture • Avant-garde artists generally refused to recognise or accept their role as producers of cultural commodity
    29. 29. Frascina F, Harrison C, editors. Modern art and Modernism. A critical anthology. London: Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd; 1982, pp.308-14. (Greenberg) Frascina F, Harris J, editors. Art in modern culture. An anthology of critical texts. London: Phaidon Press Limited; 1992, pp.5-10. (Greenberg) Harrison C. Modernism. London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd; 1997, pp.6-21 and pp53-61. Meecham P, Sheldon J. Modern art: a critical introduction. London: Routledge; 2000, pp1-15. Wood P, Frascina F, Harris J, Harrison, C. Modernism in dispute. Art since the forties. London: Yale University Press; 1993, pp.170-5 http://www.sharecom.ca/greenberg/

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