Lecture III Abstract Expressionism and the New American Sculpture
Modernism in AmericaLecture III: Abstract Expressionism and the New American 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 connection to 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 the human 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 ArtAbstract Expressionism (after 1945-1960s)• First modern American art movement to have both European and American roots.• Abstract Expressionism is a direct response to the upheaval caused by WWII. – America enters WWII December 8, 1941 (the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor).• New York unseats Paris as art capital of the world.• America benefits greatly from World War II. Jackson Pollock, One (Lavender Mist), – Various European artists, 1950. Oil and enamel paint on canvas, philosophers, scientists, etc. emigrate 8 10" x 17 5 5/8”. National Gallery of to escape 1930s/40s Europe. Art, Washington, D.C.
Federal Art Project (1939-1943)• During the Depression, many of the artists who would become identified as the New York School found work under the Federal Art Project of theWorks Progress Administration (WPA) (1935-1943) – Unlike any initiative in the history of America, the WPA put artists to work giving them a wage and the freedom to experiment. – You did not have to be a native of the U.S. (even de Kooning received assistance under this Employment and Activities poster for program). the WPAs Federal Art Project, c.1936
Schools of Modern ArtAbstract Expressionism (after 1945-1960s)• Nihilistic attitude evocative of existentialist philosophies of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche.• American artists look to rebel against pre-war American style and forge new “American” style of art.• First dubbed, “Abstract Expressionism” by Robert Coates in 1946, the movement gets its name from its adaptation of emotional intensity and self-denial of the German Expressionists, anti-figurative aesthetic of European abstraction including Futurism, Bauhaus, and Synthetic Willem de Kooning, Gotham News, 1955. Oil Cubism. on canvas, 5’9” x 6’7”. Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
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 of modernist art.•Abstract Expressionist artists usedunconventional techniques and materials. – Pollock used a drip technique applying house paint with sticks, palette knife, etc. – Helen Frankenthaler waters down her pigment and allows the paint to infiltrate the sometimes raw canvas.•Abstract Expressionism was less a style ofpainting than an attitude or approach. Helen Frankenthaler, Mountains•There was no one method of painting. and Sea, 1952. Oil and charcoal on canvas, 86” x 117”. National Gallery 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 everyday Americans living ordinary lives. – Here Grant Wood (1892-1942) paints his sister with his dentist as Puritanical farmers from the heartland of America. – Wood paints in a very realistic style. – Wood took inspiration from Flemish and German Renaissance painters and not European modernists. Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930. Oil on beaverboard, 29 ⅞” x 24 ⅞”. Art Institute 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 intimately associated 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 Italian immigrants, Sacco and Vanzetti sentenced to death for a crime many believed they did not commit. Ben Shahn, The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti, 1931-32. Tempera on canvas, 7’ 7 ½” x 4’. Whitney Museum of American Art.
Photograph of Bartolomeo Vanzetti (left) and Nicola Sacco in handcuffs, c. 1927. • Shahn often based his paintings on photographs he and others had taken.Ben Shah, The Passion of Sacco and Venzetti, 1952. Drawing for poster here published in The Nation on the 25th Anniversary of the case.
Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43. Oil on canvas, 50” x 50”. Museum of Modern Art, NYC.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 Vasily Kandinsky, – Organic forms of Miró Several Circles, No. 323, – Interest in the unconscious from Surrealism 1926. Oil on canvas, 55⅛ “ (Freud, Jung, and Breton) x 55 ⅛”. Guggenheim Museum, 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-subjectivereality Piet 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 mural painters, like Diego Rivera, they took scale. – Abstract Expressionists abandon any leftover tradition of the easel painting to work on colossal scale and envelop the 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 include Hans Hofmann (1880-1966). – Hofmann is known best for his work in the classroom.• Hofmann’s “push-pull” theory was especially influential on artists Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) and Mark Rothko(1903-1970). – His principles were rooted in Cubism and Cézanne: • line is symptomatic of planes and leads to illustration-line is NOT primary. – Concerned with the color relationships (color was a space-producing element). – Blocks of color confirm flatness of pictures and interact in a push-pull way: Hans Hofmann, The Gate, • Warm colors advance, cool recede. 1959-60. Oil on canvas, – He said, "the ability to simplify means to eliminate 6’2 ⅝” x 4 ¼”. the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak". 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 His Mother, 1929-36. Oil on canvas, 60” x 50”. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Arshile Gorky, The Artist and His Mother, 1929-36. Oil on canvas, 60” x 50”. National Gallery of Mark Rothko, Untitled (Blue, Art, Washington, D.C. Richard Diebenkorn, Man Green, and Brown), 1952 and Woman in Large Room,(alternatively dated to 1951). 1957. Oil on canvas, 71” x Oil on canvas, dimensions 62 ½”. Hirshorn Museum unpublished. Collection of and Sculpture Garden, Mrs. Paul Mellon, Upperville, Smithsonian Institution, Virginia. Washington, D.C.
Schools of Modern ArtAbstract Expressionism (after 1945-1960s)• Self-taught, Gorky is an important link between European Surrealism and American abstraction.• Heavily influenced by Cézanne, Miró, and Picasso.• From Roberto Matta and André Masson (1896-1987) he took Surrealist 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.
Arshile Gorky, The Liver is the Cock’s Comb, 1944. Oil on canvas, 6’ 1 ¼” x 8’ 2”. Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY.• Takes biomorphic imagery from Kandinsky who first attempts to rid abstraction of form.• Abstract Expressionist artists reject Surrealist forms because they were illusionist. Vasily Kandinsky, Last Judgment, c. 1912. Oil on 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.
• Kandinsky believed that the task of the painter was to convey a subjective, inner world, rather than to imitate reality. Vasily Kandinsky, Study for Painting with White Lines (Bild mit weissen Linien), 1913.Watercolor, india ink, and pencil on paper, 15 11/16” x 14 1/8”. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC.
André Masson, Pasiphaë, 1943. Oil and tempera on canvas, 39 ¾ x 50”. 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.
Joan Miró, The Poetess from the Constellation 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 young artists experimenting at the time. Roberto Matta, Disasters of Mysticism, 1942. Oil on canvas, 38 ¼” x 51 ¾”. Private Collection.
Arshile Gorky, The Liver is the Cock’s Comb, 1944. Oil on canvas, 6’ 1 ¼” x 8’ 2”. Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY.Roberto Matta, Disasters of Mysticism, 1942. Oil on canvas, 38 ¼” x 51 ¾”. Private Collection.
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, Published Life Magazine, January 15, 1951. Collection Getty Images.
Schools of Modern ArtAbstract Expressionism: The Abstract Expressionism: ColorGestural Painters Field Painters•Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) •Mark Rothko (1903-1970)•Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) •Barnett Newman (1905-1970)•Lee Krasner (1908-1984) •Clyfford Still (1904-1980)•Franz Kline (1910-1962) •Robert Motherwell (1915-1990)•Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989)
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, 1949 Life 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 American homes making Pollock a household name. – He and/or his paintings Cecil Beaton, Fashion Study with appeared in several spreads Painting by Jackson Pollock, 1951 Fashion shoot using Pollock painting as backdrop.
Schools of Modern Art- Criticism• Clement Greenberg and his particular brand of Formalism became 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, pictorial illusions and focus only on the work’s form. – Art reject subject matter, pictorial illusions of 3 dimensional space on 2 dimensional surface, atmospheric light, and any other devices an artist might use in creating a picture of some “thing”. – Flatness and frontality are defined as the distinguishing features of a good painting under Greenberg’s rules • Flatness=no illusion to outside world or external references, works attains and 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, Hans Namuth, “Pollock in Process,”an easy give and take, and the painting Photograph taken, c. 1950. Gelatincomes out well.” silver print, National Portrait Gallery, -Jackson Pollock Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
• Artist Jackson Pollock in the process of painting using his characteristic “drip technique.” This is one of at least five photographs Namuth made of Pollock painting. Their publication in Life magazine in 1951 caused a great sensation making Pollock a household name. Hans Namuth, “Pollock in Process,” Photograph taken, c. 1950. Gelatin silver print, National Portrait Gallery, 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 Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Schools of Modern Art• Pollock found inspiration in African sculpture, prehistoric art, Egyptian art, Navajo sand painting and its ritual, and Jungian psychoanalysis. • Having traveled around the southwestern states when he was younger, Pollock was exposed to the ritual and tradition of Native American sandpainting. Postcard showing creation of large Sandpainting
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters• Pollock was also reacting to his teacher, Thomas Hart Benton, (1889-1975).• Benton was a Regionalist painter and mentored Pollock at the Art Students League in NYC. Thomas Hart Benton, City Building, 1930. Distemper and egg temperea on gessoed linen with oil glaze, 7’8” x 9’9”. Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States.
Jackson Pollock, Pasiphaë, 1943. Oil on canvas, 27 ½ x 48”. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.• Pollock, like many other artists, including Abstract Expressionists, was interested in the archetype.• Here we see the influential artist André Masson and his depiction of Pasiphaë, a topic Pollock also painted the same year.André Masson, Pasiphaë, 1943. Oil and tempera on canvas, 39 ¾ x 50”. Private Collection.
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 to create this and other works. Lee Krasner, Milkweed, 1955. Oil, Pablo Picasso, Guitar, Sheet Music, and paper, and canvas collage on Wine Glass, Fall 1912. pasted papers, canvas, 82 ⅜” x 57 ¾” gouache, and charcoal on paper, 18 7/8” x 14 ¾”. McNay Art Museum ,San Antonio.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters• Although her technique in creating this work is similar to Pollock’s drip technique, Krasner did not permit herself the same degree of freedom and spontaneity.• Unlike Pollock, she had usually worked on a smaller scale using the kitchen table as her easel, not the floor as Pollock had done. Lee Krasner, Polar Stampede, 1960. Oil on cotton duck, 7’9⅝” x 13’ 3 ¾”. Collection Pollock 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 of Modern Art, NYC.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters • De Kooning was heavily influenced by Stuart Davis (1894-1964), Arshile Gorky, and Russian painter, John Graham.Willem de Kooning, Gotham News, Stuart Davis, Report from Rockport, 1955. Oil on canvas, 5’9” x 6’7”. 1940. Oil on canvas, 24” x 30”.Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY. Metropolitan Museum of Ar, NYC.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters• De Kooning had a unique ability to work in both representational and abstract modes, he did not believe one to be mutually exclusive of the other.• His Painting from 1948 uses enamel paint and fluid line.• De Kooning assimilates the principles of Cubism.• Reminiscent of Pollock’s drip technique, which he credited as “breaking the ice” he allows the paint to Willem de Kooning, Painting, 1948. Enamel and oil on canvas, 42 ⅝” x 56 ⅛”. Museum of cascade down the canvas. Modern 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 that characteristics of a style are asserted after the movement by critics and historians. – No one painter ever fits the formula composed in any given history of a movement. 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 of Elaine de Kooning, Haroldpainting is made clear trough her gestural Rosenberg #3, 1956. Oil onbrushstrokes. canvas, 6’8” x 4’10 ⅞”. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters Franz Kline (1910-1962) •Found inspiration in the energy of contemporary American culture. – Influenced by Mondrian – Influenced by Rembrandt and Goya •Prior to arriving at mature Abstract Expressionist style, Kline worked painted in the style of Social Realism. •His iconic imagery, seen on the right, was arrived through experimentation with a slide projector. – Works like Nijinsky are high focused images of the artist’s brushstroke. •Unlike Pollock Kline was not invested in myth, the sublime of Rothko and Franz Kline, Nijinsky, 1950. Enamel on Newman, or spontaneity of de Kooning. canvas, 46” x 35 ¼”. Collection Muriel Kallis Newman, Chicago.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters • His 1950, Nijinsky is based on a photograph of the Russian dancer as Petrushka in Stravinsky’s ballet. Franz Kline, Nijinsky, 1950. Enamel on canvas, 46” x 35 ¼”. Collection Stravinsky with Nijinsky Muriel Kallis Newman, as Petrushka, c.1911. Chicago.
Abstract Expressionism: The Gestural Painters• Although labeled an “action painter” Kline’s process involved careful sketches and preparatory drawings often on phonebooks before the perceived spontaneous marks were set to canvas.• Mahoning takes its name from his native town in Pennsylvania town which inspired the artist.• To realize his paintings, Kline worked on un-stretched canvas tacked to a wall; this allowed him to be in the painting in a way that was similar to but different than Franz Kline, Mahoning, 1956. Oil on Pollock’s process of painting on canvas, 6’8” x 8’4”. Whitney Museum of the floor. American Art, NYC.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field School Mark Rothko (1903-1970) •Represents alternative approach to gestural style of painting associated with Pollock and de Kooning. •Rothko resisted most labels including designation as Color Field and abstract painter. •The 1940s witnessed Rothko’s interest in biomorphic forms and Surrealist inspired figures. •Rothko, along with Adolph Gottlieb (1903-1974) and Barnet Newman (1905-1970) shared an interest in the Mark Rothko, No. 1 (No. 18, 1948), archetype, primitive, and archaic. 1948-1949. Oil on canvas, 67 11/16” – This was inspired somewhat from the x 55 14/16”. Frances Lehman Loeb writings of Nietzsche and Jung. Art 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 many scenes reminiscent of American Scene Painters and Ashcan School including the urban landscapes.•His Subway Scene already displays hismature approach of blocking off colorsand leaving visible the artist’s hand andprocess.•Mentored under Arshile Gorky at the Mark Rothko, Subway Scene, 1938. Oil on canvas, 34” x 46”. CollectionGrand Central School of Art in NYC. Christopher Rothko.
Mark Rothko, "No. 1 (Untitled),”1948. Oil on canvas, 8 10 3/8" x 9 9 1/4," Museum of Modern Art.• The floating forms seen in his No.1 would merge to create the quasi- defined blocks of color that define his work from the 1950s.• Be aware, Rothko (and other artists) have been known to change the dates on their pieces. – In Rothko’s case, he often backdates his work; this explains why one sees various Mark Rothko, Untitled (Rothko, dates associated with his paintings. number 5068.49), 1949. Oil on canvas, 6’9 ⅜” x 5’ 6 ⅜”. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field School Mark Rothko (1903-1970) •By 1949, Rothko arrives at his signature style-rectangular bands of color floating in a colored field. •To achieve his desired effect, Rothko applied thin layers of paint of great color range blurring the rectangular shapes. •Using both warm and cool colors Rothko sets in motion Hofmann’s push-pull theory. •The result is a mesmerizing image that when one gazes long enough undulates against the ambiguous background. – If you are near a museum with any one of his Color Field paintings give yourself time to gaze Mark Rothko, Untitled (Rothko, and experience the hypnotic effects. number 5068.49), 1949. Oil on canvas, 6’9 ⅜” x 5’ 6 ⅜”. National Gallery 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 on antidepressants and cutting his wrists in 1970. Mark Rothko, White and Greens in Blue, 1957. Oil on canvas, 8 4" x 6 10 ”. 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, Entrance to Rothko Mark Rothko, Rothko Chapel, North, Northeast, andChapel, 1965-1966. Oil on canvas, East wall paintings, 1965-1966. Oil on canvas, Houston, Texas. Opened 1971 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 assertion that he return to the Garden of Eden? For the artists are the first men.” — Barnett Newman
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field School Barnett Newman (1905-1970) •Like many from the New York School Newman studied at the Art Students League in NY during the 1920s. •He gained recognition as a writer, critic, curator, and even runs for NYC mayor in 1933 but loses to Henry La Guardia •Throughout the 1940s, he worked in a Surrealist style before reaching his signature Abstract Expressionist style. Barnett Newman, Genesis- The Break, 1946. Oil on canvas, 24” x 27”. Collection DIA 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 his colleagues.•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 myth Barnett Newman, Genesis-of creation and cosmic theories of birth and The Break, 1946. Oil oncreation. canvas, 24” x 27”. Collection DIA 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 his colleagues.•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 and Barnett Newman, Onement, I, 1948. Oil on canvas and oilcreation. on masking tape on canvas, 27 ¼” x 16 ¼”. Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field School Barnett Newman (1905-1970) •Newman’s , Onement, I, is considered his breakthrough painting. •The artist employs his “Newman Zips” (these became his signature gesture). – To create these zips, the artist would usually apply tape to the canvas and then painted over it and around it. – The “Zip” remained a constant feature throughout the full extent of his career. – The “Zip” represents many things and still elicits debate. Barnett Newman, Onement , I, 1948. Oil on canvas and oil on masking tape on canvas, 27 ¼” x 16 ¼”. Museum of Modern Art,
• Newman’s , Onement, I, often draws comparison to Giacometti’s sculpture including Man Pointing and existentialist thought. • Giacometti’s sculpture advertises man’s realization of his limitations in this world. • Newman’s zips have been interpreted as representing the upright human figure. Barnett Newman, Onement, I, 1948. Oil on canvas and oil onmasking tape on canvas, 27 ¼” x Alberto Giacometti, Man Pointing, 1947.16 ¼”. Museum of Modern Art, Bronze, 70 ½” x 40 ¾” x 16 3/8”. Tate, NYC. London.
• His Onement I often draws comparison to Friedrich’s, Monk by the Sea. • Newman shared a deep interest in the sublime. Casper David Friedrich, Monk by the Sea, Barnett Newman, Onement I,1808-1810. Oil on canvas, 43.3” x46.5”. Alte 1948. Oil on canvas, 27 1/4 x Nationalgalerie, Berlin. 16 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 on canvas, 7’11 ⅜” x 17’ 9 ¼”. Museum of Modern 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 and quality of shape) vary as do the materials used (his pigment switches Barnett Newman, Installation view of The between Magna, oil, and acrylic). Stations of the Cross, 1966. Guggenheim Museum, NYC. Now at National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field School Barnett Newman (1905-1970) •The subject of Stations is the Passion of Christ. •The series was inspired and takes its subtitle from the cry Lema Sabachthani" (God, Why have you forsaken me?) •Newman selected the topic to explore “the unanswerable question of human suffering”. Barnett Newman, The First Station, from of The Stations of the Cross, 1966. Magna, acrylic, and oil on unprimed canvas, approximately 78” x 60” each. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field School Clyfford Still (1904-1980) •Still comes to NY bay way of San Francisco. – San Francisco differed greatly in from the New York School its style, approach to painting, and general ideology. •He rarely exhibited rejecting the NY art scene. – Still shared the West Coast artists’ skepticism and disdain for the art establishment (its galleries and museums) and commercial success. Clyfford Still, Number 2, 1949. Oil on canvas, 7’8” x 5’7”. Private Collection June Lang Davis, Medina, Washington.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field School Clyfford Still (1904-1980) •Unlike his NY contemporaries, Still denied any influence from Surrealism or interest in mythmaking shared by Rothko, Pollock, and Newman. Clyfford Still, Number 2, 1949. Oil on canvas, 7’8” x 5’7”. Private Collection June Lang Davis, Medina, Washington.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field School Clyfford Still (1904-1980) •Still’s work never fully evacuated the figural. •To avoid his work from being associated with any particular subject Still, like many Abstract Expressionists, refused to title his works opting for the more designative date and more neutral identifiers. Clyfford Still, 1947-J, 1947. Oil on canvas, 68” x 62”. Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field School Robert Motherwell (1915-1990) •Compared to his older contemporaries, Motherwell had a considerable education in art history, literature, and philosophy. – His 1951 anthology The Dada Painters and Poets was an instrumental source responsible for introducing Dada to the New York School. •As a painter, Motherwell was mostly self-trained aside from time spent with Surrealist artist Kurt Seligmann. •Motherwell’s association with Ernst, Masson, and Matta introduced Robert Motherwell, Pancho Villa, Dead Surrealist automatism to his technique. and Alive, 1943. Gouache and oil with cut-and-pasted papers on cardboard, 28” x 35 ⅞”. Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
Abstract Expressionism: The Color Field School Robert Motherwell (1915-1990) •The Elegy series represents Motherwell’s best known work and his mature style. •Inspired by the defeat of the Spanish Republic in 1939, Motherwell commenced the series creating over 150 works throughout the course of his life. •The series consists of predominantly black and white forms arranged in simple vertical composition. Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 34, 1953-54. Oil on canvas, 6’8” x 8’ 4”. Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
Schools of Modern ArtNew American Sculpture c. 1946-1960s• As Abstract Expressionism continued to develop as a style of painting, sculpture evolved in its own 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. 1946-1960sDavid Smith (1906-1965)•American sculptor who studied painting at the Art Students League underAshcan artist John Sloan (1871-1951).• Never formally trained as a sculptor; learned iron working at an automobile plant and working on trains.• Drew inspiration from the sculpture of Pablo Picasso and Julio González who taught Picasso how to weld.• His work from the 1930s and 1940s draws inspiration from their David Smith, The Royal Bird, 1947-1948. Surrealist sculpture. Steel, bronze, and stainless steel, 21 ¾” x 59” x 9”. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Pablo Picasso, Woman in the Garden, Julio González, Cactus I or Cactus Man I,1929-30. Bronze after iron original, 6’10 1937; bronze, 26” high. Guggenheim ¾” high. Museu Picasso de Barcelona. Museum, 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” x 22 ⅞” x 9 ¼”. Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute of Art, Utica, NY.
David Smith, The Letter, 1950. Welded steel, Adolph Gottlieb, Voyager’s Return, 37 ⅝” x 22 ⅞” x 9 ¼”. Munson-Williams- 1946. Oil on canvas, 37 ⅞“ x 29 ⅞”. Proctor Institute of Art, Utica, NY. 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.
David Smith, Sentinel I, 1956. Painted steel, 89 ⅝” x 16 ⅞” x 22 ⅝”. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.• Later works like Sentinel I, seem to embody the Constructivist ideas of sculptor Naum Gabo. Naum Gabo, Column, 1923, reconstructed in 1937; wood, painted metal, and glass, (later replaced with Perspex). Guggenheim Museum, 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, height 9’ 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. Wood and chains, nine wooden pieces, overall 6’5” x 12’ 5” x 8’9”. Whitney Museum of Art.
Mark di Suvero, Hankchampion, 1960. Wood and chains, nine wooden pieces, overall 6’5” x 12’ 5” x 8’9”. Whitney Museum of Art. • Di Suvero’s Hankchampion, 1960 looks like a literal translation of Kline’s Mahoning from 1956.Franz Kline, Mahoning, 1956. Oil on canvas, 6’8” x 8’4”. Whitney Museum of American Art, 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 different wartime experience than his contemporaries. – Because he was of Japanese heritage, Noguchi spent time in a Japanese interment camp voluntarily as research. •He studied the work of the Cubists, Surrealists, and Constructivists while in Paris. •His work recalls Rothko and others interest in the archetype and modernizes the sculpture of ancient cultures, including Greece.Isamu Noguchi, Kouros, 1944-45. Pink Georgia marble on slate base, 117” x 34 ⅛” x 42”. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
New American Sculpture c. 1946-1960s • In Kouros he evokes the human form in name and shape. – The title is taken from ancient Greek sculpture and the form recalls the biomorphic imagery of artists like Miró. Isamu Noguchi, Kouros, NY/MET Kouros or Naxos 1944-45. Pink Georgia Kouros, ca. 600B CE,marble on slate base, 117” x Naxian marble, 6’ ½ ”high.34 ⅛” x 42”. Metropolitan Metropolitan Museum of Museum of Art. Art.
Joan Miró, The Poetess from theConstellation Series, December 31, 1940. Isamu Noguchi, Kouros, 1944-45. PinkGouache and oil wash on paper, 15 x 18”. Georgia marble on slate base, 117” x Private Collection. 34 ⅛” x 42”. Metropolitan Museum of
New American Sculpture c. 1946-1960s Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) •Recently deceased artist, Louise Bourgeois, worked in many media but is primarily known as a sculptor. •Her early career began as a Surrealist artist and the movement made a lasting impact on her oeuvre. •Her work, featured here, resembles Surrealist artist Giacometti own. •Her work always is autobiographical and contains psychic associations.Louise Bourgeois, Quarantania I, 1947-1953. Painted wood on wood base, 62 ⅜” x 11 ¾”
Louise Bourgeois, Listening One, 1947.Louise Bourgeois, Personages, begun 1940s. Bronze, painted white, life-size. Originally carved wood, many later cast in Galerie Karsten Greve and Galeriebronze, life-size. Guggenheim Museum, NYC. Hauser & Wirth.
Alberto Giacometti, The Forest Louise Bourgeois, Personages, begun (Composition with Seven Figures and One1940s. Originally carved wood, many later Head), 1950. Painted bronze, 22” x 24” x cast in bronze, life-size. Guggenheim 19 ¼”. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Museum, 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, June 6,1944. 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 of buildings, graffiti, the detritus of modern living.• His work bears a strikingresemblance to the imagery of Aaron Siskind, Chicago, 1949. Gelatin-silverFranz Kline. print. Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago.
Aaron Siskind, Chicago, 1949. Gelatin-silver print. Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago.Franz Kline, Mahoning, 1956. Oil on canvas, 6’8” x 8’4”. Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC.
Aaron Siskind, Jalapa 66, from Homage to Franz Kline, begun December 1972. Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.• The two pieces here demonstrate the artists took part in conversation; each paying homage to the other in their respective media. Franz Kline, Siskind, 1958. Oil on canvas, 80” x 111”. The Detroit Institute of the Arts.