Political, economic or social factors
WW2 ended 1945, with it European imperialism/overseas rule/economic power. NY overtakes Paris as cultural capital of West. Many intellectuals fled to US during 30s, including Einstein, artists, musicians & Bauhaus figures (as previously mentioned) who established Institute of Design, Chicago. After fall of France in 1940, many more, eg Surrealists & Purist-abstracters eg Leger, Mondrian, thus transferring the 2 major movements. O’Keeffe & others became cultural heroine for new liberated women. Horror of USA atomic bombing Hiroshima, 1945. Mid-50s Abstract expressionism ‘could be interpreted as an expression of American liberalism in contrast with the Social Realism prescribed in the Soviet Bloc’ p843. Berlin wall erected in 1961, Capitalist Realism of West Germany forming the front line against soviet bloc Socialist Realism. Consumer affluence & optimism of Kennedy years replaced post-war austerity in 1960s bringing changes in artistic climate. Home TV sets with satellite transmission from 1962. Kennedy assassinated 1963. Martin Luther King assassinated 1968. Space race between US & USSR. 1st man in space 1961, man on moon 1969. 1960s Revolutionary Cuba, Che Guevara (killed 67 guerrilla fighting against right wing Bolivian gov).Offbeat generation, student uprisings of 1968. Golub’s raw disturbing pictures only became acceptable after nightly TV reports of Vietnam War (1961-73), intended to shock, giant images seen in galleries not just on banal TV. Art no longer needed a gallery in 60s/70s, exhibitions/works in catelogs/books/magazines. Art market denied a ‘unique object to sell’ p855 eg Dan Graham’s Figurative in Harper’s Bazaar, 1965. Art just another commodity. Mass media, ‘rampantly consumerist society’ p855 & fledgling computer technology in 70s. Greenberg’s ‘extreme version of modernism can now be seen as belonging essentially to the cold War years’. P844
Changes to status or training of artists
NY painters of 40’s/50’s of similar age & all knew each other but didn’t form a movement. NY art school of Hans Hofmann (1880-1966) was central melting pot of Cubism, Fauvism & abstraction. Work of artists such as Warhol & Hamilton foreshadowed importance of Photography from 1980s onwards eg Gilbert and George, Cindy Sherman etc. Many commercial photographers turned to documentary/art, eg Warhol, Arbus etc. Che Guevara, 1960, Korda is best known image of time & most famous revolutionary image ever, interesting it is a photograph (not any other form of art). Reproduced in every format imagined rather writing since.
Development of materials and processes
Hofmann experimented with ‘drip’ techniques & mixed media. Pollock furiously abandoned trying/failing to master traditional painting techniques & externalised struggle by making act of painting its own subject by pouring/throwing/dripping paint onto huge unstretched canvas on floor with his whole body. Liberated from representation, a record of his emotions in his transported state engaging with paint, creating texture eg Autumn Rhythm, 1950. Equally colossal, Rothko soaked paints into surface leaving opulent colour & canvas texture which he thinly scumbled over creating effect of luminous grandeur p838. Matisse coloured paper in gouache, then cut & arranged them. Created book: Jazz, 1947 & large scale cutouts eg The Snail, 1953. Joyous & lyrically ebullient. He said ‘cutting into colour reminds me of the direct action of the sculptor carving stone’ p841.
Helen Frankenthaler (b. 1928) stained unsized canvas by pouring on pigment. Jasper Johns Three Flags, 1958, painted in Old Master technique of encaustic, giving a ‘fine-art’ surface, not clear if he was mocking the flag, art or sophisticated public. 1950’s Leon Golub used technique of scraping/roughening unstretched canvas with a meat cleaver to give impression of tendons/muscles in his lifesize paintings of fleshless figures. Rubbed raw. Rauschenberg adapted frottage technique to transfer newspaper images using silk-screen stencilling by inking/screening directly onto canvas in Dadaist grid-like patterns, adding drips/swirls of paint. He also participated with Cage in 1 of 1st ‘happenings’, anticipating Beuys p845 and experimented with future uses of technology in art. Andy Warhol 1st to use silk-screen technique for painting, & got his assistants in the ‘factory’ to make his works. Donald Judd also had his work fabricated for him. Liechtenstein painted in closely spaced dots to simulate Benday pattern shading of comics/commercial art to achieve impersonal look. Downplay on craft skills/materials for conceptual art. Planning/decisions upfront & execution perfunctory. Texts, maps, plans, images etc found in conceptual art termed ‘information’, linking it to mass media & fledgling computers. Photographs had significant place as carrier of concept, undermining accepted ideas of photographic art & silver gelatine print eg Vito Acconi (b 1940), Edward Rusha (b 1937) & John Bernhard (b 1931).
Video commercially available 1960’s, Bruce Nauman (b 1941) filmed himself walking around a square in his studio in Minimalist spoof. He used his body for his work eg Various flexible materials separated by layers of grease with holes the size of my waist and wrists. See Process Art below.
Styles and movements
Early pre-war Abstract style of several US loner ‘gifted mavericks’ such as Arthur Garfield Dove (1880-1946) & Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986). Doves ‘extraction’, 1910 among earliest abstracts anywhere. Nature’s elements simplified to colour/force lines, eg Fog Horns 1929.
NY painters of Abstract Expressionism in 40’s/50’s had no common style eg Jackson Pollock (1912-56), Franz Kline (1910-62), Willem de Kooning (1904-97), Ad Reinhardt (1913-67), Robert Motherwell (1915-91), Adolph Gottlieb (1903-74), Mark Rothko (1903-70), Clyfford Still (1904-80) & Barnett Newman (1905-70) but common ‘feverish energy & extremism as typically American as their taste for the colossal’ P84.1st group labelled by critics as Action Painters, they enacted their expression onto canvas. Hoffman created form with colour tensions. Arshile Gorsky (1905-48) catalyst between European & American painting, combining Hoffmans abstract painterliness with surrealism. Disturbed/melancholy loner Pollock created ‘portable murals’ with sense of limitlessness, delicacy & neurotic volatility p836. Similarly, Kline ‘painted experiences’ NY city scenes & abstract B&W paintings. De Kooning remained somewhat representational, theme of human figure but more abstract action works harsh/raw colour/thick texture of reworked paint eg Excavation 1950.
2nd group, colour-field painters. Clyfford Still, similar to Pollock in size of work & temperament & reoriented away from European traditions. Asymmetric planes in thick paint, feeling of density but not space, earthy colours & scaly texture lend primitive power of American West landscapes. He, Rothko & Gottlieb defined Abstract expressionism in letter to NY times in ‘43. ‘simple expression of complex thought’ p837 Wanted to reassert the picture plane, revealing truth with flat forms & impact with large size. Rothko, just as depressed (suicide in 1970), later works deeply religious/spiritual. Demand silence & complete viewer absorption (as I can attest having seen some in person). Not interested in colour relationships but conveying human emotion. Similarly, Newman wanted art with human significance, unknowable & sublime. Eg vir heroicus sublimis, 1950,& Broken Obelisk, 1963/7.
‘Abstract configurations carrying implications akin to meaning and with references to human hopes and anxieties’ p839 also created by Sculptor David Smith who made 3D scenes enclosed in ‘space frames’, approached from front like a picture eg Hudson River Landscape, 1951. Later work eg Cubi series, started new era in US sculpture. In contrast to Abstract Expressionism, ‘blatantly representational’ p843 images of Jasper Johns (b 1930) & Robert Rauschenberg (b 1925) were known as Neo-Dada. Incorporated commonplace objects such as flags that ‘suggest the world rather than suggest the personality’ p843. John’s later work becoming even more paradoxical/complex eg Periscope (Hart Crane), 1963. Rauschenberg ‘bed’, 1955, was his own bed, smeared with paint (action painter like) & stood against gallery wall.
His ‘combines’ paintings incorporated real 3d objects & collage eg Monogram, 1959. Both artists questioned meaning of Art. Meanwhile in Europe, Matisse summed up his life quest for naive art with his large scale abstract cut outs. Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) made bronzed figures seen from front, famous elongated figures anticipating Existentialist philosophy with aim to capture essence of personality rather than likeness.
Frankenthaler broke through from Abstract Expressionism to pioneer Post-Painterly Abstraction/Colour Field Painting. Cool, elegant & restrained. Morris Louis (1912-62), Jules Olitski (b 1922) & Kenneth Noland (b. 1924). Louis ‘unfurled’ series, 1961 allowed paint to drip down, & soak into, channels in folded fabric, juxtaposed hues creating ‘optical phenomenon of projection & recession’ p843. This style justified Greenberg’s Formalism. Spiritual unease of 1960s conveyed by geometrical abstraction & optical illusion of Op (Optical) Art eg Bridget Riley.
Another rejection of Abstract Expressionism was Pop Art, defined as ‘making impersonality a style’ p845. eg Big Painting No. 6, 1965 by Roy Lichtenstein (1923-97) ironically depersonalizes their brushwork, commenting on their ‘cult of the gestural manipulation of paint as a means of unfettered, spontaneous self-expression’ p845 Style emerged simultaneously in UK & US.
1st pop art work, collage (of pinup, TV, pulp romance, consumerism etc) ‘Just what is makes today’s homes so different? So appealing?’, 1956 by Richard Hamilton (b.1922) was aiming at new witty, low-cost & glamorous art, not ‘sardonic comment on our society’ p846 as critics took it. Mass media images not glamorous for Americans so US pop art more complex/ambivalent/awkward/provocative. Eg Claes Oldenburg (b 1929), Giant Hamburger, 1962, 2m across foam filled sailcloth burger, brings focus of Art to something ordinary that doesn’t look like art. Andy Warhol (1928-87) too. Commercial artist turned painter/sculptor/film-maker/writer/creator of a Pop Lifestyle. ‘He stood all theories of mass culture on their heads, notably the Marxist predictions of Walter Benjamin concerning the suffocation of art in the glut of commercial images’ p846. Repeating images of commonplace/infamous/glamorous echoed mass media making subject meaningless. ‘nihilism of the contemporary media-saturated world’ p847. Pop sensibilities named Nouveau Realisme in France by critic Pierre Restany in attempt to reassert Paris as central in contemporary art world. Torn posters of Raymond Hains & Jacques de la Villegle, ‘zen-inspired theatrics of Yves Klein’ p847 & accumulated rubbish of Arman. Who literally blew apart relationship of artist/patron/ gallery with White Orchid, 1963 (he dynamited patrons car as commission), alluding to cultural issue of obscuring horrors by spectacles.
Klein sought weightless existence in a spiritual void p847, Klein blue dominated his paintings/sculptures. German version was Capitalist Realism, artists Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Konrad Lueg, Wolf Vostell used images from media. Tensions of the time expressed most memorably by photography eg Boy with a straw hat… 1967, by Diane Arbus (1923-71). Attention to misfits & twins. Walker Evans harsh realities. Book The Americans by Robert Frank. Garry Winogrand (1928-84) 50s & 60s split by public event images & individual spontaneous, detached work. 70s large format work by Stephen Shore, after working in Warhol’s factory, recalled 19thC landscape pioneers & transformation into contemporary America eg Uncommon Places. Alberto Korda (1928-2001), Che Guevara, 1960, ‘extremely forceful projection of a peculiarly mid-20th century hero’ p851. ‘Self-consciously American’ Minimalism ‘aimed at complete purity & integrity, the reduction of Art to that which is intrinsic to its medium’ p851.
Frank Stella, Black paintings, pinstripes eliminating any individual gesture/expression. Donald Judd (1928-94) pointed to a tendency towards 3d – Stella’s stripes, Rauschenberg’s combines, John’s Targets, his own minimal sculptures of rectangular forms in mathematical sequences eg Fibonacci. Art is what an artist says it is. Similar mechanical precision used by Robert Morris (b 1931) & Carl Andre (b 1935), eg Equivalents.
Andre foreshadowed Conceptual art, creating for a specific installation/user interaction/experience, transformation from form/structure to place. Unfolding relationship of viewer & work/environment over time challenges traditional art timelessness. Dan Flavin (1933-96) commercially available fluorescent lights bring colour to gallery space with nod to Russians. John McCracken (b 1934) used colour to build his forms (pigmented resin on fibreglass-resined wood). Conceptual Art de-emphasis of material aspects such as uniqueness/permanence, attractiveness, aka dematerialisation, precursors including 50s happenings, Japanese Gutai artists & Fluxus group. Idea over making, emotionally & intellectually interesting to viewer. If concept was clear then actual implementing artist irrelevant. Questions on nature of Art eg One and Three Chairs by Joseph Kosuth (b 1945).
Photography intrinsic to style to spread ideas. Bernhard commentary on media saturated society full of hidden/paradoxical meanings. European style Arte Poverty, poor/impoverished art, used cheap/available materials. Straightforward/poetic rejection/challenge of glorious artistic tradition eg Igloos covered with glass, Objet Cache Toi, 1968 by Mario Merz (1925-2003) & his use of Fibonacci to portray human nomadic journeys. Michelangelo Pistoletto (b 1933) moved from 2 to 3d in Minus Objects series. Pistoletto’s ‘Orchestra of Rags’ created using rags, singing kettles and glass, challenged considered norms of art. Process Art focused on visibly showing process of work,
‘passage of time to experience of art’ p857 eg Richard Serra’s molten lead quickly solidifying as splashes on gallery floor, Splashing, 1969. Barry Le Va (b 1941) ‘distributional sculpture’, Eva Hesse (1936-70) used pliant impermanent materials, hung from ceiling, or lent against wall, almost Dadaist parody of picture frame, eg Hang Up. Body Art ‘practices threw attention onto physical activity & presence of artist’s body’ p857 eg Nauman’s work. Related to earlier performance art of happenings & spectacles but with deeper suspicion of Art market where they hoped to elude the system.
Art moved out from galleries into landscape which became medium/materials for artistic expression in Earth & land art. Nothing comparable since Peruvian earthworks BC. Eg Spiral Jetty, in Utah’s great salt lake by Robert Smithson (1928-73). Mainly American responses to landscape. Walter De Maria (b 1935) lightning field in New Mexico. Huge ‘transient works’, often wrapping coastline/buildings in fabric, by Christo Javacheff (b 1935) often survive only as concepts with detailed plans etc. James Turrell (b 1943) took over a volcano for Roden Crater project, 1974 to function as observatories for celestial events. Gordon Matta-clark (1943-78) urban projects condemned buildings eg splitting houses open for view in Splitting, 1974. Anti-monuments. Photo realism, rejection of minimalism but just as targeted. Trompe l’oeil of flat snapshot of illusionistic space/images. Richard Estes (b 1936), Chuck Close (b 1940), gigantic heads. No connection to New Image /New Figurative painters of 1960s US. Representation had never been abandoned in Europe eg Balthus (Balthazar Klossowski de Rola 1908-2001), Francis Bacon (1909-91) & David Hockney (b 1937). Bacon used existing images as starting point to open imagination/feelings eg Three studies for a crucifixion, 1962. US dismissed his work as ‘decadent, irrelevantly European’ p862.
Hockney settled in California, artistic /sexual liberation. In US return to figurative seen as rejection/challenge, launched 1967 by Abstract Expressionist Philip Guston (1913-80), who also invented New Deal Style murals mid-century. His New Image painting, grotesque figures with deliberately brash handling, subjects: Ku Klux Klan, menacing still lifes & huge heads. Leon Golub (1922-2004) Chicago ‘Monster school’, obsessed with human corruption. Cy Twombly (b 1929) art that seems incomplete, scattered memories/musings, combination of pictures, words, numbers, lines.
Modernism/Post-Modernism, last stage of modernism seen as purist trends from post painterly abstraction to minimalism during 70s. Charged as ‘artistic narcissism’ p865 sculpture like architecture, minimal grid emblem eg So LeWitt’s Untitled Cube, 1968. Post modernists such as John Perrault were ‘sick to death’ of silent cubes, white walls & monotonous curtain wall metal & glass skyscrapers eg Lever House, NY, (1951-2) by Gordon Bunshaft (1909-90) p865. Polarized most in architecture, Mies van der Rohe’s purist International Style designs implemented in opportunistic post war US. Not everyone a fan, Dr Farnsworth tried to sue him because her house too expensive to live in. Le Corbusier & Frank Lloyd Wright also felt hostility after 1945.
Expressionism crept into formers designs about 1950 eg Church Notre Dame du Haut, Ron chap, curves, irregular plan & biometric forms. High Court building, Chandigarh, India, 1956, less conflict between plasticity & geometrics. Powerfully monumental. These sparked worldwide Brutalist style, sculptural, irregular, rough, aggressive & chunky, eg Paul Rudolph (1918-97), James Stirling (1926-92), Kenzo Tange (b 1913) etc. 70s publications by Venturi & Scott-Brown sparked Post-modernism, more democratic, less idealistic/earnest eg Piazza d’Italia, 1978/9, New Orleans, Charles Willard Moore. International Modernism/revisionist, blend of several historically based styles eg Michael Graves (b. 1934), Public Service Building, Portland, Oregon, 1979/82, skyscraper with art deco/Nouveau trimmings & classical elements. Europeans Ricardo Bofill (b 1939) & Aldo Rossi (1931-97) autonomous architecture derived from past. Former, grandiose public housing and latter taken from Boullee & mostly remained unrealised. English founded High Tech, a concept/approach to architecture more than style, opposed to Postmodernism. Use modern technology to create precision engineered architecture eg Lloyd’s of London, 1986 by Richard Roberts (b 1933) & Hong-Kong & Shanghai bank, Hong Kong, 1986, by Norman Foster.
Inside and outside influences
Dove influenced by Romantics & nature. Surrealist techniques influenced Abstract expressionists. Influential teaching of Hoffman. Pollock influenced by south-west Indian art/sand painting, Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917), apprenticeship with Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), social realism of Mexican artists David Alfaro Siqueiros (1898-1974)/Jose Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), Picasso & Surrealism. David Smith influenced by open form of Picasso, Gonzalez, Surrealism, abstract expressionism, crude metals, large machines & experiences as assembly line welder. Giacometti also influenced by surrealism, Picasso, Gonzalez, Calder, post-war climate & relationship to brother eg Head of Diego II, 1955. Matisse continued to influence all sorts of artists eg Louis. Jasper Johns influenced by Hart Cranes labyrinthine poem ‘Cape Hatterass’ & Duchamp. Rauschenberg influenced by Duchamp, composer John Cage & home TV sets. Andre influenced by Brancusi’s plinth separation, ‘laying Brancusi flat’ p852 Minimalism influenced by Duchamp, Russians Malevich & Tatlin (eg Flavin), & Bauhaus teaching of Josef Albers (1888-1976). Duchamp influences Conceptual/Process artists, art can be made from anything. Eg Nauman’s Self-portrait as a fountain, 1966. Walker Evans inspired new generation of photographers. Stephen Shore influenced Thomas Struth & Andreas Gursky. Photographers eg John Baldessari became influential on later developments and students. Pistoletto influenced by Picasso & minimalists. New Deal style influenced by Mexican Muralists & American Regionalists eg Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975). Twombly influenced by oriental art/scrolls & Mediterranean culture. Architect Charles Willard Moore (1925-93) inspired by Disneyland.
Critics, thinkers and historians
Critic Harold Rosenberg unofficial spokesman of Action Painters, 1952. Existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that Giacometti’s sculptures would come closer than any previous artist ‘to achieving the impossible when his portraits would affect us with all the force of a corporeal presence’ p841. Critic Clement Greenberg wrote of artistic possibilities after Abstract Expressionism calling for a more formalist/disciplined art & essential qualities of flatness & it’s delimit action. He defined formalism, saw art object as self-contained, independent of maker/viewer/cultural context. Art characterised by surface & pattern. Critic Gene Swenson commented that British Pop Art looked like it was ‘made by librarians’ p846. Robert Morris texts on minimalist sculpture & the anti-form. Critic Lucy Lippard commented on late 1960’s/early 1970’s ’dematerialisation’ of the art object p853. Sol LeWitt wrote ‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art’, 1967. Italian critic Germano Celant coined the term Arte Povera in 1967. Jane Jacobs Death and life of Great American Cities, 1961,appeal to return to traditional urban life. Critic Lewis Mumford wrote against Van der Rohe in The Case against modern architecture, 1964. 70s publications Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi (b 1925) & Learning from Las Vegas by Denise Scott Brown (b 1931).
I feel like information overload. I’m sure my notes are massively overboard as I struggled to get to grips with the concepts. I’ll have to be ruthless for the assignment. This chapter tied up a few things but I think was slightly confusing too. Clearly this and the last couple of chapters have been talking about Modernism but this is the first time that’s really laid out. The difference between Modernism and Formalism is confusing, if I’m understanding correctly Formalism is a subset, a radicalisation of Modernism. Postmodernism is really only touched on by architecture. Seems like architecture has been the turning force for both thou, with Modernism clearly embodied by Gropius & Le Corbusier in the 1920s and the post modernisation being pushed again by architects.
Clearly in this century artists have been struggling with the need to ‘feel of their own time’ (p844) and reject the past in the process.
Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing