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Suprematism Art Movement – What Is It?

I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue and yellow. I affirmed: this is the end of painting.

– Alexander Rodchenko

Suprematism still remains one of the most radical projects and movements in modern art, a first one of pure geometrical abstraction in painting.

Its name reflects Malevich’s belief that Suprematist art would lead to the supremacy of pure feeling and perception in the pictorial art and be superior to all art in the past.

The Russian Formalists, highly influential group of literary critics, were strongly opposed to the idea that language is a mere and transparent instrument for communication.

They pointed out that words were not easily linked to the objects they denoted; the art could serve to make the world fresh and strange and could make us observe the world from different perspectives.

Kazimir Malevich came to be intrigued by the search for art’s essentials just as the critics and poets were interested in what constituted literature.

According to his believe, there were only delicate links between signs or words and the objects they denote; from that point he saw the possibilities for an absolute abstract art.

Suprematist’s abstract painting was aimed at doing much the same, by removing the real world entirely.

The Suprematists

The Suprematist’s first hints emerged in background and costume sketches that Malevich designed for a Futurist opera Victory Over the Sun, performed in St. Petersburg in 1913.

The piece was written in the behind-the-mind language of ‘ZAUM’ invented by the poets Velimir Khlebnikov and Alexi Kruchonyck. Malevich’s contribution was more conservative: costumes for the actors and some cubo-futurist stage settings.

The sketch for the backdrop of Act2, Scene5 named Study for Décor of Victory Over the Sun (1913), foreshadows the development of Suprematism in its use of a geometric motif.

The drawings still had a clear reference to Cubo-Futurism, but the simple shapes, a visual foundation for Suprematism, appeared repeatedly; rich colors were discarded in favor of black and white. Cubist method was joined to ‘relativity’ and a new form brought to life.

Just as Futurism aimed at a total renewal of Russian culture, so Suprematism claimed to supersede all art movements that had gone before it.

This design for opera marked a major break with theatrical convention, since they were neither decorative nor did they illustrate a realistic scenes, such as a room or a landscape.

In 1915, Kazimir Malevich formed the Suprematist group along with artists Ivan Klyun, Mikhail Menkov, Kseniya Boguslavskaya, Ivan Puni and Olga Rozanova who joined him.

The movement was greeted with enthusiasm. It represented the first decisive break with Western painting tradition- a new form for a new revolutionary society.

Developed during the time preceding the Russian Revolution, Suprematism believed art to be capable of a tremendous catalytic power.

The short span of time in which the October Revolution of 1917 also opened up new possibilities for avant-garde experiments in Russian art brought forth a tremendous wealth.

Kazimir Malevich considered realism as a distraction from the transcendental experience that the art was meant to evoke.

Suprematism can be seen as the logical conclusions of Cubism’s multiple perspectives and reduced forms and Futurism’s interest in moving.

The Suprematism’s works feature an array of geometric shapes suspended above a light-colored or white background.

The variety of shapes, angles and sizes creates a sense of depth in these compositions, making these appear to be moving in space.

The Black Square

The Black Square (1915), once described as Malevich’s’ living royal infant’ has usually seen as a major landmark in the history of abstract art, a point of beginning and a point of ending.

Between 1915 and 1930s Malevich’ would paint four versions of it. It is said that the last version was carried behind his coffin during his funeral.

This work, a first version depicts a purely black square against a thin border of white, obscuring any sense of normal perspective or space.

The square- the face of a new art, became a figurehead and represented the birth of a new movement. It rallied artists and critics in support of the new style, but many others accused it of nihilism.

Alexandre Benois, an artist and critic, attacked it as a ‘’sermon of nothingness and destruction’’.

Much of what this work once initiated continues to have repercussions to this day; it stands at the beginning of the twentieth century like the gate that Modernism entered through.

For the first time, a single work of art called forth the idea of the ‘end of the painting’

Kasimir Malevich published the Suprematism’s manifesto ‘From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism in Art’ in 1915. He claimed to have passed beyond the boundaries of reality into a new awareness.

The motifs in Malevich’s paintings constricted to include only the square, circle and rectangle. Sometimes, critics have interpreted these motifs as references to mystical ideas.

Some of Malevich’s pronouncements seem to offer support for this; he said that he had destroyed the ring of the horizon and escaped from the circle of things, but in fact, he scorned symbolism: the motifs were only building blocks, the most fundamental and archetypal elements in painting- the zero of form.

The progression of Suprematism was devided into three stages: black, colored and white. The black phase was the ‘zero degree’ of painting, marking the beginnings of the movement.

The colored stage, Dynamic Suprematism, focused of the use of shape and color in order to create the sensation of movement in space, pursued in depth by Alexander Rodchenko, Ilya Chasnik and El Lissitzky.

Eight Red Rectangles from 1915 is an example of the second, more dynamic phase, in which primary colors began to be used.

The ambiguous composition-on the one hand the rectangles can be read as floating in space, as if they were suspended on the wall, on the other hand, they can also be read as objects seen from above.

Later, Malevich criticized this more dynamic phase of Suprematist movement as ‘aerial Suprematism’ since its compositions tended to echo pictures of the earth taken from the skies; in this sense, he departed from his ambitions for a totally abstract and non-objective art.

Personality

Olga Rozanova was one of the first artists who applied her own personal interpretation to Suprematism.

Her interest in fabrics led her to focus on textural effects, straying from the primary palette to use more feminine and softer colors.

The piece names Color Painting or Non-Objective Composition from 1917 reveals Rozanova’s ability to employ delicate tonal contrasts; it was a prelude to the style of Mark Rothko.

El Lissitzky’s lithograph Beat Whites with the Red Wedge from 1919/20 is one of his well-known works from his Suprematist phase.

It uses shape, positioning and color in keeping with the Suprematist principles, particularly with the dynamic stage of the movement.

The use of pointillist shading and lettering shows the evolution of his personal style. In addition, the poster reveals propagandistic intension in its representation of the struggle between the conservative ‘white’ and revolutionary ‘reds’ in Russia.

The white stage was the culmination of Suprematism, exhibited by Kazimir Malevich during the Tenth State Exhibition: Non-objective Creation and Suprematism in 1919.

Malevich’s painting named White Square on White (1917-18) can be seen as the final stage of his ‘transformation in the zero of the form’; the form has almost literally been reduced to nothing.

The pure white of the canvas has negated any sense of traditional linear perspective, contemplating its ‘infinite’ space. The picture is bled of color, the pure white making it easier to recognize the signs of the artist’s work in the rich paint texture of the white square.

This masterpiece dispensed with form entirely, representing ‘the idea’; it provoked responses from other artists that led to new ventures such as Alexander Rodchenko’s experimentation and exploration of the roles of specific materials in his Black on Black series from 1919.

The movement’s spiritual undertones increasingly defined it, as time went on.

Although these put it in jeopardy following the Russian Revolution in 1917, the tolerant attitude of the early Communists ensured that its influence continued.

However, the attitudes had changed by the late 1920s, and the movement lost much of its popularity at home, especially after being accursed by the Stalinists.

Between 1919 and 1927 Malevich stopped painting altogether; following a long hiatus, he even returned to representational painting. He devoted himself to his theoretical writings.

Malevich’s esoteric concepts precluded the movement itself from gaining widespread appeal, but their implications have been far-reaching in the field of abstract art.

His desire to create a transcendental art is an aspiration one can trace in much later abstract art; for instance, it is present in the ideas Wassily Kandinsky fundamentals in his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912) and the Theosophy-inspired geometric abstraction of Piet Mondrian.

Spread

The introduction of Suprematism to the West was well-received (exhibition in Berlin, 1927), sparking interest throughout United States and Europe.

El Lissitzky played a key role in the promotion of Suprematism outside of Russia and also used Suprematist concepts and forms to great effect in architecture and graphic design, which helped to establish the Constructivist movement.

Malevich’s achievement remains enigmatic over ninety years after he drew four lines on a two and a half foot square canvas and filled in the resulting area with black paint.

Suprematism became an important point of departure for the art forms of abstraction and geometric reduction; today its connection to a political position seems just as significant as its formal innovation.

As a story of refusal and of failure, Suprematism also became one of the most important reference points for Moscow’s conceptual art from the eighties on.

 

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Mersad Berber – The Famous Bosnian Artist and his Sacred Themes

Mersad Berber, one of the greatest and most distinctive Bosnian painters and graphic artists, was born on January, 1, 1940 in Bosanski Petrovac, a small town in western Bosnia in former Yugoslavia.

Few months after his birth, due to the large massacre in Petrovac in the 1940s, the Berber family arrived to Banja Luka as refugees to escape the fighting as the World War II spilled over into the Balkans.

Background

Berber’s father had a hair salon for women in the centre of Banja Luka, and his mother was a gifted weaver, one of the greatest in Bosnia.

She worked in the tradition of Bosnian carpets, which have deep Anatolian roots, and she established school for carpet weavers at the end of her life.

The young Berber inherited his mother’s artistic talent; his skills as a draftsman became apparent from a young age- from his early adolescence he was producing remarkable drawings and painting on paper.

In 1959, Mersad Berber began his formal art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

According to his own word, he owed permanent gratitude to several of his professors; Bozidar Jakac, a classic of Slovenian graphic art, and Zoran Krizisnik, a brilliant curator and founder of the famous Ljubljana International Biennale.

Krizisnik included him in the Yugoslavian selection when he was a second year student, and his etching master Bozidar Jakac, with whom he learned etching privately, alongside his studies at the Academy.

In 1961, his works were exhibited at the Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennale, one of the prestigious art events of the period, along with works by the leading graphic artists from all over the world.

Berber’s early drawing and prints demonstrated the influence of the academy in terms of technique, and, in the other hand, his interest in expressing cultural traditions using a modern visual expression in terms of subject matter.

He received the prestigious Prešern Award for his work.

Post Graduate

In 1963, the young artist started a postgraduate course in graphic arts in professor Rika Debeljak’s class. His choice of that very technique was to significantly mark his entire opus.

Since 1965 and his first solo exhibition at the City Gallery of Ljubljana, the career of this remarkable artist has been on sharp rise.

The artistic scene in former Yugoslavia, also in that of Tito’s successor Slobodan Milosevic, had been characterized not by anything resembling Soviet Socialist Realism but by a tepid adherence to middle-of-the-road modernist styles.

Very few artists managed to create reputations for themselves outside their own region. Berber’s success in breaking out of this situation was altogether exceptional.

In 1978, Berber received a teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo, and set a a studio there. By that time, he had already achieved considerable international recognition, mainly as a graphic artist.

War

This comfortable existence and professional career was abruptly torn apart by the wars that broke out Yugoslavia in 1990’s, just over a decade after the death of Marshal Tito, who had held that region together.

During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-1995, Berber’s house and studio were destroyed.

The Berber family escaped in Croatia on a UN transport plane. In order to rebuild his life, he created a new studio in Zagreb, and another one in Dubrovnik. However, memories of the war continued to haunt him, but provided material for his art.

A wide array of Berbers’s works range from the deep, opaque whites influenced by his travels to Bosnia’s fairy-tale landscapes to the dark and terrible pits of Srebrenica.

His inspiration mostly originates from the mystical world of Bosnia, its Ottoman past, and the tragic venture of its people.

Inspired by the masters of European fine arts from the Renaissance to Art Nouveau, with the artists such as Velazquez, Ingres or Klimt, as well as Yugoslavian painters Vlaho Bukovac and Gabrijel Jurkic, Berber’s work infuses intricate talent and expressive powers.

Berber’s work gives a good idea of the breadth of his cultural interests, but the frequent fragmentation of the images also makes it clear that these are the product of an extremely contemporary sensibility.

His paintings, etchings and prints include elegant female portraits, based on High Renaissance prototypes, with which he challenged the 16th century masters of the Venetian school; painting of horses which recall his love for the peasant life of the Bosnian countryside; paraphrases of Velazquez, which express his profound admiration for the great Spanish master.

Homage, Horses, and Suffering

Throughout his career, he made cycles of paintings which chronicle homages, events and dedications. His works are characterized by the intermingling of ancient motifs with a modern and contemporary commentary.

He employed a very wide variety of artistic techniques, from the most traditional to the most contemporary.

For instance, he made a couple of small animated films, and was fascinated by the possibilities offered by new techniques of digital printing, sometimes producing prints of enormous size.

In most of the Berber’s works, the central metaphor is the horse figure, a key symbolic animal which has many different representations and meanings in various cultures.

In Berber’s own words, this figure is not that of an impressive horse, it is a toiling packhorse from the mountains of Bosnia, having deep ties to all aspects of life, signifying hard labor and marriages, wars and funerals.

The expressive capacity of this horse, its suffering and its imperfect beauty represent the biography of Bosnian people.

Innovator, Cultural Historian

Berber is known for his mixed technique large canvases, but he differs from the European masters from whom he derived his inspiration by virtue of innovative approach to composition and his unique themes.

His paintings frequently do not deal with single image but with conjunctions of images, in some cases places side by side, but in others layered one on the top of the other.

He felt a strong allegiance to the values of Italian Renaissance art, because of its resemblance to the art of the Italian Pittura Colta movement, which derived from the later work of Giorgio de Chirico.

Yet, Berber’s paraphrases of elegant images of classical nudes, some of them are direct quotations from the work of David or Ingres, and of Renaissance portraits, were often interspersed with figures in old-fashioned Balkan dress.

His religious and literary references were also strong and complex. Some of his most impressive works offer directly Christian images, for instance the figure of Christ being taken from the Cross.

Others were inspired by the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the most important Jewish medieval manuscripts in existence and now the chief treasure of the restored Sarajevo National Museum (Zemaljski Muzej).

In his work he reflects the full scale of the complexity of his country’s multi-layered cultural history as the pioneer of the generation of young graphic artists who opened up the local art scene to global trends.

Depicting Tragedy

Towards the close of his life, Mersad Berber made an impressive series devoted to the brutal massacre at Srebrenica, the genocide and the worst crime of the Balkan wars, in which over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, mostly boys and men, were slaughtered by units from the Army of Republika Srpska, under the command of general Ratko Mladic.

The artist regarded the tragedy at Srebrenica as the “big, ancient, sacred theme of hymns” and laboured for years to depict it in his works, collecting forensic reports, newspaper photographs, video recordings, documents and books, and visiting Potocari and Srebrenica countless times.

These series became elegies not only for those who had died, but also for the death of multiculturalism, which had survived in the Balkans for centuries despite all ethnic and religious animosities.

Death

Mersad Berber died from heart attack on October 7, 2012 in his home in Zagreb.

Nearly forty years of his artistic activity Berber spent as a true Homo Universalis. As an excellent drawer and illustrator, Mersad Berber was occupied with graphic art, painting, graphic and poetic maps, tapestry, illustrations.

He also worked in theatre scenography, created movie posters for movies, such as those by Kusturica; his costume and scenography design came to life in theatres in Sarajevo, Zagreb, Ljubljana and Washington.

He exhibited all over the world, from London to Madrid, New York to Moscow, Jakarta and New Delhi, and received approximately 50 awards. Some scholars and experts consider him to be one of the greatest post-Classic artists in the world.

Ethical Identity

Today, Mersad Berber is one of the most famous graphic artists in the world, who was also included in the Tate Gallery Collection in 1984, makes the aesthetic and ethical identity of his homeland recognized to the million of people.

He deserved his celebrity reputation because he made heroic efforts to get with the history of the region he was born and lived in with his own personal relationship to that history.

With his unique talent that lets him forge connections between different cultures and tradition, and his intelligence that penetrates the depths of historical experience, Berber brought together styles spanning the range from antiquity to the contemporary era in a manner that was very much his own.

 

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The Bauhaus

The Bauhaus, a German art and design school, was one of the most significant and influential modernist art schools, one of whose approach to understanding art’s relationship to technology and society and its teaching methods had a major impact in United States and Europe, long after it closed.

The motivation behind the origination of the Bauhaus lay in anxieties about the soullessness of manufacturing in the 19th century, and in fears about art’s loss of purpose in industrial society. Emerged in the mid-1920’s, the Bauhaus was shaped by the late 19th and early 20th movements and trends, which had sought to level the distinction between applied and fine arts and to reunite manufacturing and creativity.
 
This fact is reflected in the sentimental romantic medievalism of the school’s early years, but in the mid 1920s the medievalism gave way to a stress on uniting art and industrial design; it was ultimately proved to be its most important and original achievement.

In 1919, Walter Gropius, an architect and demobilized World War I officer was appointed director of The Art and Crafts School in the city of Weimar. He renamed school to Bauhaus, a unique, memorable name, which is the transliteration for building house, and according to the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, it stands for an eagerness to experiment, creativity, openness, a close link to industrial practice and inter-nationality.

Radical Steps Towards Modernism

The Bauhaus movement was considered a radical step towards modernism and its core objective was a radical concept: to re-imagine the material world to reflect the unity of all arts. During the 14 years of its existence, Bauhaus was operational in three separate locations in Germany: Weimar, 1919-1925, Dessau, 1925- 1932, and Berlin, 1932-33.

The Bauhaus had a unique curriculum, described by Gropius in the manner of a wheel diagram. The outer ring representing a six-month preliminary course- the vorkurs, which immersed the students, who came from a diverse range of educational and social backgrounds, in the study of materials, color theory and the formal relationships in preparation for more specialized studies; the two middle rings as two three-years courses, focused on problems related to form- the formlehre, and a practical workshop that emphasized functionalism and technical craft skills through simplified, geometric forms- the werklehre. Following their immersion in Bauhaus theory, students entered specialized workshops, including cabinetmaking, weaving, pottery, metalworking, wall painting, textilworking, and typography.
 
At the center of the wheel- curriculum were courses specialized in building construction that led students to seek necessity and practicality through technological reproduction, with an emphasis on workmanship and craft that was lost in manufacturing.
 
In addition, the general pedagogical approach was to eliminate competitive tendencies and to foster a sense of community and a personal creative potential.

Think Haus

The Gropius’s Bauhaus attracted the fabulously talented faculties, the creators of the school’s program. Many of the most talented designers of the twentieth century taught or studied there: Marcel Breuer in furniture, Bayer in graphics, Gropius and Mies van der Rohe in architecture, Anni Albers and Gunta Stӧlzl in textiles, Oskar Schlemmer in theater design, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in film; the great artists, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky were working alongside them.

There were social and political problems from the beginning. Women students protested against being confined to the ceramics workshop and weaving; the locals objected to the students’ bohemian habits, and more seriously, the Weimar Nazis saw the Bauhaus as a fertile ground for Bolshevism, despite Gropius’s ban on political activities.
 
Walter Gropius favored the rationalism of the Russian Constructivism and the emerging Modern movements, believed in integration of their principles into everyday life, by applying them to industrial products and buildings.

Move to Dessau

When the Nazis came to power in Weimar in 1925, Bauhaus moved to Dessau, the German industrial town. Gropius negotiated a deal to build a new school in Dessau. In this period, the Bauhaus enjoyed a few productive years there, those years was a manifesto for the new spirit of the Bauhaus.

Walter Gropius’s building complex for the Bauhaus, represented a landmark in functionalist design of the modern era; the design seems strongly unified from above, each element is divided from the next, but on the ground it unfolds a wonderful succession of changing perspectives.
 
The building consists of an asphalt tiled roof, steel framework and reinforced concrete bricks to reduce noise and to protect against the weather. A glass curtain wall, a feature that would become a typical of modernist architecture, allows in ample quantities of light.
 
Also, Gropius created three wings, arranged asymmetrically, in order to connect different workshops and dormitories within the school.

The cabinetmaking workshop was one of the most significant in the Bauhaus. This workshop studio reconceived the essence of furniture, seeking to dematerialize conventional forms such as chairs to their minimal existence.

The innovative use of materials and the sleek design in Marcel Breuer’s The Wassily Chair are typical of the groundbreaking developments in design that made the Bauhaus famous. Its components are arranged with a clarity that makes its structure immediately legible.
 
The designer constructed the chair using recently developed seamless-steel bent tubing that could endure physical tension without faltering. Although Wassily Kandinsky was interested in geometric abstraction at the time he was teaching at the Bauhaus, this piece came to be popularly associated with him decades later, and by accident when it was promoted as the Wassily Chair by an Italian manufacturer.

Studio Spaces and Instructors

The textile workshop, particularly under the direction of designer and weaver Gunta Stӧlzl, created abstract textiles which were used in Bauhaus environments. Students studies technical aspects of weaving, color theory and design. A head of the workshop, Stӧlzl encouraged experimentation with unorthodox materials such as fiberglass, metal, cellophane.
 
The architectural wall painting along with studio’s textiles decorated the interiors of Bauhaus buildings, providing polychromatic yet abstract visual interest to these somewhat sever spaces. While the weaving studio was primarily comprised for women, this was in part due to the fact that they were discouraged from participating in other areas.

Metalworking studio along with the cabinetmaking workshop was the most successful in developing design prototypes for mass production. In this studio were created modern items such as tableware and lightning fixtures; these objects were used in the Bauhaus campus itself.
 
Interestingly, Marianne Brandt was the first woman to attend the metalworking studio and replaced Maholy-Nagy as studio director in 1928. Many of her designs and works became iconic expressions of the Bauhaus aesthetic; her sculptural and geometric silver and ebony teapot, while never mass-produced reflects the Bauhaus emphasis on industrial forms and the influence of her mentor Maholy-Nagy.

Uniting the artist’s enthusiasm for material innovation and for the look of machines, the Light Prop/Light Space Modulator by Lazslo Moholy-Nagy (pictured above), 1930 is one of the most famous early examples of kinetic art.
 
It went on to be presented in many different ways: as a device for experimental theatre, as a freestanding immobile sculpture or as the protagonist of a short experimental film, in which it is shot from different vantage points.
 
The film captures the reflections and shadows created by the spinning sculpture, at times giving the impression of a functioning machine, a factory or even an urban landscape.

The typography studio, initially not a priority of the Bauhaus, became especially important under graphic designer Herbert Bayer. Many German designers attempted to encourage changes in national customs of printing during the 1920s. The most popular German typefaces, Hitherto, had been influenced by medieval script, and artists such as Herbert Bayer tried to supplant them with more classical designs.
 
His design employs a minimal, sans-serf typeface. Instead of having two alphabets, the uppercase and the lowercase, Bayer reduced the typeface to only lowercase letters, believing that the uppercase was redundant, since the distinction between lower and upper case conveyed no phonetic difference.

In 1923, a first poster was made for the school that intrigued others to notice the unique design and typeset. The main focus in designing was the effective visual communication with vibrant colors, a balanced layout, harmony, geometric shapes, strong bars, bold and universal type.
 
It was conceived as both an artistic expression and an empirical means of communication with visual clarity stressed above all. Bauhaus typography became connected to advertising and corporate identity. Since then, his typeface has become synonymous with the Bauhaus.

 

Serving Color

The piece Dissolving /Vanishing, 1951 is part of Josef Albers’s famous series Homage to the Square, described by his own words as ‘platters to serve color’. He began working on this series in 1949 and worked on it until his death in 1976.
 
This very piece demonstrates his systematic approach to investigating the optical effects of colors; he explored how colors change depending on their placement within the composition. Although the series was created several years after the Bauhaus movement, the work is typical of the experimental, modernist approach to color and form that underpinned Bauhaus teaching.
 
Teachers in the school believed that colors and forms could be reduced to essentials and analyzed as separate components; that analysis would yield understanding about the character and effects of these components, and that understanding would result in better design.

However, with Nazism in the ascent, political pressure mounted and in 1928, Walter Gropius was worn down by his work and by increasing battles with the school critics, and he stood down. Both of his successors Meyer and van der Rohe, spent their directorships mired in political strife.

Germany’s Loss of Influencers

By 1928, Meyer, a head of the architecture department was an active communist who incorporated his Marxist ideals through classroom programs and student organizations. However, the school continued to build in strength but criticism of Meyer’s Marxism grew, and eventually, in 1930, he was dismissed as director.
 
After local election brought the Nazis to power in 1932, the Bauhaus school in Dessau was closed.

The same year, 1932, the school moved to Berlin, under the new direction of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He struggled with far poorer resources and a faculty that had lost some of its brightest stars; he tried to remove politics from the school’s ethos, but after the Nazis came to power in 1933, the school was closed indefinitely.

During the turbulent and dangerous years of World War II, many of the key figures of the Bauhaus emigrated to the United States, where their work and their teaching philosophies influenced generation of young designers and architects.

In 1934, Walter Gropius left Germany, and in 1937 he arrived in the United States to become professor of architecture at Harvard University. He also helped fellow Bauhaüslers to find teaching jobs in America.
 
Together, they imbued generations of Americans with Bauhaus principles, while Gropius imprinted the technocratic vision of its mid- 1920s heyday on design history.

The Bauhaus effectively levelled the old hierarchy of the arts, placing crafts on par with fine arts such as painting and sculpture, paving the path for many of the ideas that have inspired artists in the late twenty century.

 

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Le Corbusier – The Picasso of Architecture and his Radiant Cities

Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light. Our eyes are made to see forms in light; light and shade reveal these forms; cubes, cones, spheres, cylinders or pyramids are the great primary forms which light reveals to advantage; the image of these is distinct and tangible within us without ambiguity.
 
It is for this reason that these are beautiful forms, the most beautiful forms. Everybody is agreed to that, the child, the savage and the metaphysician.

A Swiss-born France architect, Le Corbusier, belonged to the first generation of the so-called International school of architecture. His designs combine the functionalism with of the modern movement with a bold, sculptural expressionism; highly polemical designer hailed from obscurity in the Swiss Jura Mountains to become the most influential architect and urban planner of the twentieth century.
 
His ideas about rationalized, immense, zoned and industrially-constructed cities, seduced, but also shocked a global audience, while they never come to fruition as a cohesive vision, his disciples put many of their pieces into place around the world during and after his life.

Background

Charles Édouard-Jeanneret was born on October, 6, in 1887, in the small industrial town La Chaux-de-Fonds, known for its renowned watchmaking industry, in the section of the Alps in Switzerland, just across the border from France.
 
His mother was a music teacher, and his father worked as watch engraver and enameller.

The parents encouraged their son to study decorative arts in the hope that he would also become an engraver of watchcases like his father. Accordingly, Jeanneret entered the Advanced Decorative Arts Course at the Art School in La Chaux-de-Fonds, in 1904, but he left the school at the age of 13.

The course on decoration there was taught by the painter Charles L’Eplattenier (pictured below). He would exert a strong influence on the young Jeanneret, whom he called ‘my master’ and later referred to him as his only teacher.
 
L’Eplattenier taught Jeanneret drawing, art history and a naturalist aesthetics of Art Nouveau, and he insisted that his pupil also study architecture, and he arranged for his first commissions working on local projects.

Travels

Starting in 1907, Jeanneret began his life’s extensive travels, first encountering classical architecture on a visit to Italy. In the following next years, he visited many European cities, including Paris, where he worked in the studio of architect Auguste Perret (1908-10); moved on to Berlin, between 1910 and 1911, where he worked in the office of Peter Behrens, the most important architect in Germany at that time.
 
Afterwards, Jeanneret embarked on a trip to Eastern Europe visiting cities: Prague, Athens, Istanbul, Budapest, Bucharest, and making extensive drawings that would later be compiled in his book Journey to the East (1966).

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These trips played a crucial role in Jeanneret’s education, providing him three major architectural discoveries; he witnessed and absorbed the importance of the contrast between large collective spaces and individual compartmentalized spaces, an observation that formed the basis for his vision of residential buildings, classic proportions via Renaissance architecture and geometric forms and the use of landscapes as an architectural tool.

L’Espirite Nouveau, Purism, Reinvention

Back to home in La Chaux-de-Fonds, he began to teach architecture, interior design, and began working on his own studies of reinforced concrete. Around 1914/15, he developed and applied for a patent for his ’Dom-ino’ House system of construction, which consisted of slab floors of concrete raised slightly above grade, supported on thin reinforced pillars set back from the edges, so as to free up the entire facade and the interior floor space.
 
It was a first step towards Le Corbusier’s new theory of modern architecture.

In 1917, at the age of 30, Jeanneret moved to Paris and opened his own studio. In this period, he met cubist painters Georges Braque, Picasso, Juan Gris and Amédée Ozenfant, who introduced him to sophisticated contemporary art.
 
With Ozenfant he developed a new movement in painting called Purism, which took its name from the purity of the geometric forms of objects depicted in their still-life works. The following year, the two exhibited their painting in Paris, accompanied by the manifesto Après le Cubisme, After Cubism, a critique of Cubism and Futurism.

As a artistic movement, Purism gained strength in 1920, with the launch of the magazine L’Esprit Nouveau, in whose first issue Jeanneret adopted his professional pseudonym Le Corbusier an alteration of his grandfather’s name, Lecorbesier, to reflect his belief that anyone could reinvent himself.
 
In addition, adopting a single name to represent oneself artistically was especially en vogue at the time, and Le Corbusier wanted to create a persona that could keep separate his critical writing from his work as architect and painter.
 
In this period, he focused primarily on painting and published his ideas on architecture and art in this very magazine.

Purism intended to represent objects as pure, simple forms stripped of detail, to provide a timeless quality to industrial subject matter. The painting Still Life with a Stack of Plates, from 1920, is one of the best examples of Purism, shows an ideological celebration of industrial civilization and exhibiting the ready-made lexicon of everyday life as an aesthetic discourse.

In this piece, Le Corbusier depicted the naked forms in paint, historically the format that promised to elevate its subject matter to a new level of respect worthy of discussion. The solidity and wholeness of the chosen objects, the composition that creates new form represents Purism’s faith in modernity and its commitment to moving civilization forward.
 
The pure forms comprise a critique of Futurism and Cubism, the movements that glorified the fragmentation or destruction of the objects, destruction of the world and the field of vision, akin to the modern destruction caused by World War I.

The years from 1922 to 1940 were as extremely rich in city planning projects in architecture. As was always to be the case with Le Corbusier, inbuilt projects, as soon as they were published, created as much stir as did the finished buildings.

In 1922, Le Corbusier formed a partnership with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, which lasted until 1940. One of their first projects was a new studio for Ozenfant in Paris; it revealed Le Corbusier’s dedication to the new industrial aesthetic: using large expanses of glass set into reinforced concrete structure raised on point-support piers called pilotis, the roof employed a sawtooth configuration of skylights, like industrial buildings, as if to indicate that the studio was a factory for art.

The same year, at the Salon d’Automne Le Corbusier exhibited two projects that expressed his idea of social and public environment and contained the essence of all works of this period. The first project, Citrohan House, displays his conception of modern architecture; pillars supporting the structure, freeing the ground beneath the building, a roof-terrace, transformable into a garden and an essential part of the house, an open floor plan: a clear facade free of ornamentation, and windows in strips that affirm the independence of the structural frame.

maisson citrohan 19220 stuttgart germany le corbusier

The second project was his first urban scheme, the Contemporary City for Three Million Inhabitants, whose propositions were very shocking: cruciform-plan, a grid of sixty-story, naked glass-and-steel skyscrapers set amongst a web of highways and streets, surrounded by a low-rise complex of apartment buildings set within a park-like green space.
 
In the center a massive multilevel transit hub rose amongst the skyscrapers, with a landing strip for airplanes on the roof-a highly imaginative feature that probably was not workable.

In 1923, Le Corbusier published Vers une architecture/ Toward the Architecture, which consists of his collated and edited polemical articles from L’Espirite Nouveau magazine. The text lays out his principles of a modern architecture the essential precepts of what would become the so-called International Style.
 
Le Corbusier’s polemical articles proposed a new architecture that would satisfy the demands of industry, functionalism and the abiding concerns of architectural form, as defined over generations.

 

Five Points of a New Architecture

In this very book Le Corbusier termed the Five Points of a New Architecture; the foundation of the Five Points was the use of pilotis, which enabled the second point, the free plan, by allowing for maximum flexibility in floor space; as well as the third point, a free façade, since the point supports meant that there was no need for load-bearing exterior walls.
 
Le Corbusier preferred to blur the boundary between interior and exterior, so the fourth point of his system emphasized the use of ribbon windows, or a curtain wall; to highlight the building’s link to nature, a roof terrace constituted the fifth point.
 
The best illustrations of his system can be seen in the numerous villas he constructed around Paris in the 1920s.

In 1925s, Le Corbusier revealed these concepts for the general public in his own Espirit Nouveau pavilion at the world’s fair, the Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, that eventually produced the term Art Deco.

The pavilion functioned as a manifesto of Le Corbusier’s ideas and illustrated his belief that industry, through standardization required for mass-production, could create the buildings necessary for modern living. He aimed to show the radical transformation and structural liberties reinforced concrete and steel allow us to envisage in urban housing.
 
Also, he aimed to demonstrate that the comfortable and elegant units of habitation could be agglomerated in long, lofty blocks of villa-flats. Le Corbusier’s insistence on the utility of his model, thereby exposing the crass commercialization of the rest of the fair, no doubt contributed to the exposition’s directors’ attempts to cordon off his pavilion behind a barrier until an injunction from the Ministry of Culture lifted it.

By the late 1920s, Le Corbusier’s stature as one of the founders of the new architecture was secured.

In 1927, Le Corbusier took part in the competition set by the League of Nations for its design of its new centre in Geneva. His projects with its wall of insulating and heating glass, is one of the finest examples of functional analysis.
 
He proposed an office building for a political organization that was not a neoclassical temple,(for the first time anywhere), but corresponded in its structure and design to a strict analysis of function. This very plan was to become the prototype of all future United Nations buildings.
 
His project verily would have shared a first prize but was eliminated on the grounds of not having been drawn up in india ink as the rules of the competition specified. This disqualification, which was certainly the result of conspiracy on the part of conservative members of the jury, embittered Le Corbusier in his attitude toward official architectural circles.
 
However, the elimination of his project gave him needed publicity by identifying him with modern avant-garde architecture.

Radiant Cities

In this period, Le Corbusier began traveling as his services were in demand internationally. In 1929, he visited South America, lecturing in Argentina, Brazil and Urugvay. He also visited the Soviet Union and won the contract for the government office building, the Centrosoyuz, in Moscow, 1933, which would turn out to be his first and only building in USSR.

In 1935, Le Corbusier was invited back in Brazil at the behest of Lúcio Costa, an admirer, who with a team of architects had been given the commission to design the new Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro.
 
Le Corbusier’s design took his Five Points to literally new heights as he led the design team to craft a skyscraper on pilotis whose massive curtain-wall facade was articulated by external brise-soleil, sunbreaker shades, due to the hot tropical climate.

During the 1930s Le Corbusier’s commissions in France began to decline (due to the Great Depression) but, he continued to write hoping to get his urban plans adopted by the governmental authorities. At the same time, his politics began to take a dangerous turn; an enthusiast of capitalism and the major industrialists, he flirted with Communism, beginning with his visit to the USSR, dropped much of his support for capitalism after the stock market crash in 1929.
 
Also, having fallen out of Stalin’s favor in the early 1930s due to the adoption of Socialist Realism in the Soviet Union, Le Corbusier began to sympathize Fascism. In his urban plans, particularly in the publication of Radiant City, from 1930, he described the cities he imagined as ruled by an ‘architect-dictator’.
 
In addition, Le Corbusier accepted invitation from Mussolini to lecture in Rome in 1934; in 1940, when Vichy regime came to power in France, he offered his services to Marshal Philippe Petain’s pro-Nazi government, but was rebuffed.
 
Eventually, he abandoned hopes of collaboration in 1942.

Around the final stage of World War II, Le Corbusier created the Modulor, a proportional system based on the Golden Section and scaled to the human figure. From 1945 onwards, all of his projects would be based on this system of proportions; the outline of a muscular man with his left hand arm raised above his head can be seen in most of his drawings or imprinted in the walls of windows of some of his iconic buildings.

Picasso of Architecture

Given the fact to which Western nations tried to erase all traces of Fascism after the war, it remains astonishing that Le Corbusier’s attempts at collaborations did not definitively sink his career. In addition, by the time the war ended, Le Corbusier had welded the attacks launched against him by representatives of traditional architecture into a myth, for the public, he had become the Picasso of architecture, and for architecture students, the symbol of modernity.

In 1945, Le Corbusier was given the chance to build the first large-scale housing block, the Unité d’Habitation, in Marseilles. The Unité, the first of several that Le Corbusier built around Europe in the 1940s and 1950s; its conception was a long time in making and can be traced back to the blocks of apartments he developed for his housing scheme of the 1930s.

The Unité represents the most complete realization of Corbusier’s idea of communal housing, very often described as a ‘city within a city. The 337 apartment units in the building are divided into 23 types in order to accommodate different family arrangements- from a bachelor to a family with eight children.
 
Halfway up the building, along the interior road of floors seven and eight, essential services are provided such as bakery, dairy, seafood shop, vegetable and fruit shop, butcher, drugstore, laundry, post office, cleaning service, hotel, restaurant etc.
 
In addition, on the 17
th floor, it can be found a nursery and a kindergarten; a ramp leads to the rooftop, which contains indoor and outdoor athletics facilities, swimming pool and a snack bar.

 

Notre-Damme-du-Haut

Le Corbusier’s buildings from his late period offered a more conscious homage to nature and exposed primordial materials; stone in combination with concrete. This rough aesthetic formed the basis of some of Corbusier’s most organic, sculptural works, as the chapel Notre-Damme-du-Haut (1950-55), near Ronchamp in eastern France.

Perched on atop o the hill, the church is atypical among Le Corbusier’s works. Its highly organic and sculptural forms use virtually no right angles and make no reference to his prismatic clarity. The inclined walls appear almost to be collapsing inwards under the weight of the massive brown concrete roof.
 
Only when the visitor enters the small and dark sanctuary, pierced by small shards of light, does he discover the thickness and solidity of these walls that firmly enfold the space, creating a solemn atmosphere with meditative tranquility.
 
The scholars and critics have traced Le Corbusier’s inspirations for this chapel to the Athenian Acropolis, Mediterranean sources, the Hebrew temple and Bronze Age crypts.

 

Chandigarh

In 1951, he was awarded the commission for designing a new provincial Indian capital of Chandigarh, which had to be created from a blank slate due to the territorial partitions between India and Pakistan.
 
For him, this job was the chance to show the Western powers what they had missed in refusing to implement his urban plans. For the next ten years, he was occupied with intensive work on this project.

Chandigarh was planned to house 300,000 inhabitants, spread over 47 numbered sectors organized on a grid; each sector consist of a self-sufficient unit with basic services, such as shops, health center, school, areas for worship and recreations.
 
As in his other projects, Le Corbusier prioritized the automobile connecting the sectors through wide boulevards. In order to confirm the modern ideas of efficiency and functionality, the city was zoned according to its different uses: a commercial center, residential buildings, university complex, recreation area, medical complex, and central park around a large artificial lake.

He also designed the famed Capitol Complex which included the Legislative Assembly, the High Court buildings, the Secretariat; it was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2016.

Their impressive scale boldly displays the architect’s affinity for rough cast-concrete, punctuated by long rows of bays articulated by prominent brise-soleil to provide relief from the hot desert sun. Chandigarh’s success might be gauged from recent polls that reveal it to be the happiest city of India, most likely due to the calm and order resulting from its unique design.

Corbusier Death (Bon Voyage)

Le Corbusier died on August, 27, 1965 of an apparent heart attack while swimming in the Mediterranean. In spite of the many times in which the state had rejected his services, he was given a funeral in the courtyard of the Louvre on September, 1st 1965.

Le Corbusier’s six decade career reshaped cities from India to South America. He disseminated his ideas through his forty books and hundreds of published essays and worked on over four hundred architectural projects and the extensive practice established him as one of the most controversial and most influential artists of the twenty century.
 
However, many of his ideas were too utopian and idealistic to be put in practice, especially the ones reflecting his desire for a sort of order of society and extreme control.

Le Corbusier’s perspectives and interpretations of the world and its interaction with architecture often changed and remain difficult to trap down. Even today, his work continues to be studied, reinterpreted and criticized gaining new meanings over and over again, inspiring generations to come.

 

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Marina Abramovic – Death Toll Rising

“Once, Picasso was asked what his painting meant. He said, ‘Do you ever know what the birds are singing? You don’t. But you listen to them anyway.’ So, sometimes with art, it is important just to look.”

Towards the late 1950’s, Abstract expressionism began losing impetus, and many artists across the world, especially in America and Europe, embraced performance art. In that context, Marina Abramovic’s work is typical of the ritualistic strain in the 1960’s performance art, and very often involves putting herself in grave danger and performing lengthy, harmful routine that result in her being burnt or cut, or enduring some privation.
 
Her work might be interpreted as having displaced art from traditional media, as she moved it straight onto her body.

Background

Marina Abramovic was born on November, 30, 1946 in Belgrade, the capital of what was than Yugoslavia to an affluent family with politically active parents. Vojin and Danica Abramovic were Yugoslav partisans during World War II, and continue their engagement in General Tito’s communist party.
 
They were awarded high positions in the public sector for their contribution during the war; her mother became head of the Museum of Art and the Revolution in Belgrade, and her father worked with state security and was in the Marshal’s elite guard.

Marina’s relations with her mother were always fought. Her mother took strict control of eighteens-years-old Marina and her younger brother Velimir; under her mother’s strict supervision, she experienced life as difficult and cold. Although her mother was traditional, difficult and sometimes violent, she supported her daughter’s interest in art, encouraging her to express herself creatively through drawing and painting and at twelve was given her own studio at home.

Marina, age 5, in Belgrade
Marina, Age 5, Belgrade

Body Art & The Rhythm Series

Marina studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, from 1965 to 1970; during this period her earlier figurative expressions became increasingly abstract. During her further studies at Krsto Hegedusic’s studio and at Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, from 1970 to 1973, she began to use her body as a tool in her art, creating performative art pieces, creating sound installations, but moving towards works that directly involved the body.
 
In this period Abramovic spent most of her time at the SKC, Studentski Kulturni Centar, a cultural center in Belgrade, where she met young conceptual artists such as Rasa Popovic, Nesa Paripovic and Rasa Teodosijevic.

In 1973, Abramovic met the artist Joseph Beuys in Edinburgh and later that year at the Cultural Center in Belgrade. His happenings made a strong impression on Marina and greatly influenced her work. The same year, she enacted the performance piece Rhythm 10 at Vila Borghese, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Rome.
 
This piece is the first of the five performances in The Rhythm Series, in which she explored the limits of her body and consciousness.

On the Rhythm 10, she used a series of 20 knives to stab at the spaces between her outstretched fingers. In the process, every time she pierced her skin, she used another knife from those carefully laid out in front of her.
 
Halfway through, she began to play a recording of the first-half of the hour long performance, using the rhythmic beat of the knives striking the floor, and her hand, to repeat the movements, cutting herself at the same time.
 
She understood that drawing on the audience’s energy drove her performance, which was marked in this piece, and this aspect became an important concept informing much of her later work.

Viewing both performance and art as reaching beyond the realm of awareness, Marina has created performances in which she sleeps or becomes drugged into unconsciousness to examine this aspect of life; she used performance to push her mental and physical limits beyond consciousness.

For instance, in Rhythm 5, 1974, she created a star shape with wood shavings covered in gasoline and lit the wood on fire. After cutting her hair and nails and than dropping them into the fire, she lay down within the burning star, a symbol of Communism in Yugoslavia, as well as a symbol of the occult.
 
During this performance, audience members realized her clothes were on fire and she had lost her consciousness due to the lack of oxygen they pulled her out, and the performance was ended.

 

Pushing the limits further, in the performance piece entitled Rhythm 0, with a description reading ‘During this period I take full responsibility’ and ‘I am the object’ Marina invited participants to use any of 72 objects on her body in any way, they desired, completely giving up control.
 
Those 72 objects included a feather, pen, saw, lipsticks, book, band-aid, rose, salt, gun, paint, bullet, scissors etc. The audience divided itself into those who tried to protect her wiping away her tears, and those who sought to harm Abramovic, holding the loaded gun to her head, and.
 
Eventually, after she stood motionless for six hours, the protective audience participants insisted the performance be stopped, seeing that others were becoming extremely violent.

This piece was an example of Abramovic’s belief that confronting exhaustion and physical pain was important in making a person absolutely present and aware of her/his self. The work is also reflected her intention to include the spectators in the process; her interest in performance art was to transform both the performer and the audience, as the participants in the show.

She said that the inspiration for such work came from both her experience of growing up under Tito’s Communist dictatorship, and of her relationship with her mother. Her work in Yugoslavia was much about rebellion, not against just the family structure but the social structure and the structure of the system there; she was trying to overcome these kinds of limits.

1975 and on

These pioneering works were created at the time when performance art was still a new emerging art form in Europe, and she had little knowledge of performance being outside Yugoslavia.

In 1975, in Amsterdam, Abramovic met the German-born artist Frank Uwe Laysiepen, known as Ulay. He was a son of a Nazi soldier, born in 1943, in a bomb shelter in Solingen, an industrial city in Westphalia, Germany.
 
By fifteen, he had been orphaned, and was fending for himself. Marina met him on November, 30
th in 1975 in Amsterdam and their chemistry was immediate. According to her words, when she back to Belgrade, she got so lovesick that she couldn’t move or talk.
 
At the time, she was married to a former fellow-student from the Belgrade Academy of Fine Arts, but it was an oddly slack union; both spouses still lived with their parents. A few months later, Marina ran away in Amsterdam, at twenty-nine, to rejoin Ulay, her soul mate.

Ulay and Abramovic made art for twelve nomadic years, from 1976 to 1988, the two were artistic collaborations and lovers. Amsterdam was their base, but their home on the road, on Europe was a black Citroën van, which figured in their symbiotic work in performance of ideal couplehood.
 
They also lived in India’s Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and with Australian Aborigines, and spending some time in Sahara, Gobi and Thar deserts.

They performed their works in gallery spaces, mostly in Europe; some of their best known works included Imponderabilia, from 1977; it included a naked couple planted like caryatids on either side of a narrow doorway at the entrance to a gallery, they backs to a frame.
 
Everyone who entered had to sidle past them, deciding which body to face.

Also, Breathing in/ Breathing out, 1977, in which they inhaled and exhaled from each other mouths until they almost suffocated. The performance named Rest Energy, from 1980, a highly intense piece that revealed the fragility of the line between death and life; it was only four minutes and ten seconds long.
 
Ulay and Abramovic faced each other, aiming an arrow a tense bow, just inches from her heart. They placed small microphones on their chests in order to make audible their increasingly rapid heartbeats in response to the growing danger.

Opposite Directions

When Marina and Ulay decided to end their relationship, they embarked on their last performance on March, 30, 1988, The Lovers; the walking along the Great Wall of China. Abramovic walked from the Shanhai Pass at the wall’s east end, Ulay walked in a opposite direction, from the wall’s western end near the Gobi Desert. After ninety days, they met and reunion marked a definitive end to their romantic relationship, as well as the twelve-year long artistic collaboration.
 
Their union was much battered and repaired, though it ultimately couldn’t survive the demands of such intense proximity or a discrepancy in ambition.

Since that point, they have had very little contact with each other, both proceeding independently with their own artistic career.

Marina returned to independent work and making it both solo as well as with artistic collaborators. In this period, she worked increasingly with video and sculpture; Transitory Objects for Human and Non-Human Use, which comprise objects meant to incite audience interaction and participation.

Blood and Bones

During the 1990s as a respectable performance artist Marina Abramovic taught at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the Hochschule der Kunste in Berlin, as well as Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste in Hamburg and at the Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste in Braunschweig in Germany.

In 1997, Abramovic was invited to represent Serbia and Montenegro at the Yugoslavian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. But, she broke off the collaboration after a conflict with the Montenegrin minister of culture. However, the performance piece Balkan Baroque was shown instead at the Italian pavilion, where it caused a stir.
 
She was awarded the Golden Lion prize for Best Artist of the Biennale.

The Balkan Baroque piece was created in response to the innumerable deaths that had taken place in the former Yugoslavia. In this performance, Marina spent four days, six hours a day, sitting on top of 1,500 cow bones in a white dress, washing each of these bloody bones, surrounded by projected images of her parents and herself.

The accompanying sound included her recorded description of methods used in Balkans for killing rats and her singing of her native folksongs. The performance progression was made visceral due to the fetid smell and unbearable heat of the basement room.
 
For the artist, it was not enough to simply recount the number of people lost in modern-day wars in Balkans. She aimed to remember the lives, hopes and efforts of individuals killed by carefully touching and cleaning ‘their’ physical blood and bones.
 
The comparison between the inability to scrub all the blood and the inability to erase the shame of was is a concept that Abramovic viewed as having universal reach.

 

 

Butcher Knives Ladder

In the early 1970s, while many artists made very little effort to capture, or document, their performances on video. They felt that the true performance could never be repeated.Marina Abramovic has since argued for the importance of continuing the life of performance art works through re-performance; the only real way to document a performance art piece is to re-perform the piece itself.

In 2002, in The House with the Ocean View, Abramovic spent twelve days in the Sean Kelly Gallery without speaking, eating and writing. Contained within three so called rooms built six feet off the ground, she slept, urinated, drank water, showered and gazed at the spectators wearing a differently colored outfit each day.
 
She could walk between the rooms, but the ladders leading to the floor had rungs made of butcher knives. In this performance, Marina ritualized the activities of daily life, focusing on the self and simplicity while eliminating all aspects of dialogue and narrative.
 
She stated that she saw this piece as an act of purification- for her, but also for any viewer who entered the space. Additionally, the piece was a shift from the masochism of her earlier works to performances that focus on ideas of presence and interaction, although there is still the element of danger (present in the butcher knives ladder).

 

One of the key figures of performance art, Marina Abramovic was part of the earliest experiments in this media, and nowadays, she is one of the few pioneers of the generation still creating and working in this field.
 
She has been, and continues to be, an essential influence for performance artists and contemporary art in general, making work over the last several decades, especially for works that challenge the mind and the limits of the body.
 
Abramovic’s feminism has always been a mythical rather than a political; her confrontation with the physical and self and the primary role given to the body, a female body have helped shape the direction of Feminist art in the second half of the 20
th century, especially in the 1990’s.

 

Retrospective

In 2010 the MoMa in New York City held a wide-ranging retrospective of Abramovic’s work, The Artist is Present. From opening time to closing, eight to ten hours a day, and for seventy-seven days, she sat immobile at a bare wooden table, gazing into space. Members of the audience participated by sitting in a chair opposite Abramovic’s; her intention was emotional connection with anyone who wanted to look at her however long.
 
It was an experiment that had never been tried before; The Artist is Present is the longest durational work ever mounted in a museum.

 

In order to give new life to older performance work, both, hers and the works of others artists, Abramovic create the Marina Abramovic Institute for Preservation of Performance Art, opened in 2012, in Hudson, New York.
 
As a non-profit organization, the Institute supports teaching, preserving and founding performance art, ensuring legacy for performance art and for the ephemeral art itself.

 


 

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How Georgia O’Keeffe Changed The World

GeorgiaOKeeffeInChemise

A prolific artist, Georgia O’Keeffe spent 70 years making art and contributing to the development of American modernism ⎯ she produced more than 2000 works over the course of her career. She was a prominent member of the creative Stieglitz circle, influencing early American modernists.
 
She is notable for her role as a pioneering female artist ⎯ although she disavowed their interpretation of her work ⎯ she was a strong influence on the artists of the Feminist art movement, including Miriam Shapiro and Judy Chicago, who saw feminine imagery in O’Keeffe’s flower paintings.

Family

O’Keeffe was born on November, 15, near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1887, as the second of seven children. Her parents grow up together as neighbors; her father Francis Calixtus O’Keeffe was Irish, and her mother Ida Totto was of Dutch and Hungarian heritage.
 
As a child, O’Keeffe developed a curiosity about the natural world and an early interest in becoming an artist. Art appreciation was a family affair for O’Keeffe: her two grandmothers and two of her sisters also enjoyed painting.
 
She came from a family where female education was stressed and she was fortunate to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, from 1905 to 1906; in 1907, O’Keefe moved in New York, attended classes at the Art Students League and learn realist painting techniques from art-teachers William Merritt Chase, F.
 
Luis Mora and Kanyon Cox. In New York, she expanded her ideas about art by visiting galleries, in particular, Gallery 291, owned by photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen. This place was one of the first few places in the United States where European avante-garde art was exhibited.
 
Georgia O’Keeffe was, for the first time, exposed to popular European artists such as Henri Matisse and Auguste Rodin.
GeorgiaOKeeffeInChemise

Love

Few years later, in 1912, and after attending a drawing class at the University of Virginia’s Summer School, she began focusing on her art. Alon Bement, her teacher, professed an innovative teaching style that was heavily influenced by the artist Wesley Dow, whose approach to composition and design was influenced by the principles of Japanese art.
 
While teaching at Columbia College in South Carolina in 1915, Georgia O’Keeffe begun experimenting with Dow’s theory of self-exploration (through art); she took natural forms, such as clouds, waves and ferns, and begun a small series of charcoal drawings that simplified them into expressive and abstracted combinations of lines and shapes.
 
She mailed a few of them to her friend Anita Pollitzer, a former classmate, who brought the drawings to the attention of Alfred Stieglitz in January 1916. Recognizing her potential, Stieglitz exhibited ten of her charcoals at his Gallery 291, and this began their professional relationship.
 
While O’Keeffe continued to teach, she returned to New York in 1917, to view her first solo exhibition, arranged by Stieglitz at 291. During that time, O’Keeffe and Stieglitz began a love affair that would last until his death.
 

Alfred Stieglitz attached this photograph to a letter for Georgia O’Keeffe, dated July 10, 1929. Below the photograph he wrote, “I have destroyed 300 prints to-day.
 
And much more literature. I haven’t the heart to destroy this…”

 

Shape & Color

O’Keeffe incorporated the technique of other artists and was especially influenced by Paul Strand’s use of cropping in his photographs. She was one of the first artists to adopt the method to painting by rendering close-ups uniquely American objects that were highly detailed yet abstract.
 
While some of these works are highly detailed, in others, she stripped away what she considered the inessential to focus on shape and color.
 
Blue II, from 1916, is indicative of O’Keeffe’s early monochromatic drawings and watercolors, which evoke the movement of nature through abstract forms. While the curvilinear form in Blue II is reminiscent of a plant form, O’Keeffe was playing the violin that would have been in O’Keeffe’s line of sight as she played.
 
The intense blue color suggests that she may have been familiar with Wasily Kandinsky’s notion that visual art, like music, should convey emotion through the use of color and line.

Live & Paint

In 1918, Stieglitz offered to financially support O’Keeffe for one year so that she could live and paint in New York; she took a leave of absence from her teaching position and for the first time dedicated herself solely to making art.
 
Meanwhile, Stieglitz divorced his first wife and he and Georgia O’Keeffe married in 1924.
 
As an artist, Stieglitz, who was 23 years older than O’Keeffe, found in her a muse, taking over 300 photographs of her, including both portraits and nudes. As an art dealer, he championed her work and promoted her career.
 
During the 1920s, Stieglitz introduced O’Keeffe to the Stieglitz Circle, his friends and fellow artists, including John Marin, Paul Strand, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley. Georgia O’Keeffe was profoundly influenced by Strand’s photography and the camera’s ability to behave like a magnifying lens, as well as Charles Sheeler’s Precisionism.

Flowers

Following these interests, she began making large-scale paintings of natural forms at close range, and, during this time, also switched from watercolors to oil paint. By the mid-1920s, O’Keeffe was recognized as one of the most significant American artists of the time and her art begun to command high prices.
 
In one of O’Keeffe’s first large- scale renderings of flower, Petunia No.2.,which represents the beginning of her exploration of a theme that would mark her career, she magnifies the flower’s form to emphasize its shape and color.
 
Her flowers images often received interpretation that O’Keeffe disagreed with, particularly from feminist critics who saw her paintings as veiled illusion to female genitalia.
 
For Georgia O’Keeffe, there was no hidden symbolism, just the essence of the flower. In addition, the anatomy of the petunia is incredibly detailed, and O’Keeffe may have been emphasizing the androgyny of the reproductive parts in order to counter the idea that her subject matter was connected to her gender.

New Mexico

Around 1929, O’Keeffe fascination with the landscape of New Mexico began, and she became enamoured with New Mexico’s landscape of barren land, vistas and local Navajo culture; works produced from this landscape captured the beauty of the desert, its vast skies, distinctive architectural forms, and bones which she collected in the desert.
 
O’Keeffe’s eventual purchase of two properties in New Mexico further connected her to the land.
 
Through the precise rendering of the weathered skull’s surface and sharp edges in Cow’s Skull: Red, White and Blue, from 1931, she captures the essential nature of the skull while also referencing the transience of life.
 
Isolated on canvas, divorced from its desert context, O’Keeffe uses the cow’s skull and the red, white and blue background to represent both naturalism and nationalism, or the relationship between the American landscape and national identity.
 
Moreover, the subject could allude to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, thereby making an environmental and economic statement; what is clear that O’Keeffe created a memento mori that elevates this relic of the New Mexico desert to the status of an American icon.

Retrospective

During the 1930s and 1940s, O’Keeffe’s popularity continued to grow and she was honored with two important retrospectives, in 1943 at the Art Institute of Chicago, and in 1946 at the MoMA, their first retrospective of work by woman.
 
Georgia O’Keeffe split her time between New York, living with Stieglitz, and painting in New Mexico. From the 1940s on, O’Keeffe’s art was outside the mainstream as she was one of the few artists to adhere to representation in a period when others were exploring non-representation or had abandoned painting altogether.
 
Back in New York, Stieglitz had begun to mentor Dorothy Norman, a young photographer who later helped manage his gallery, an American Place. The close relationship between Stieglitz and Norman eventually developed into an affair. In his later years, Stieglitz’s health deteriorated and he suffered a fatal stroke on July, 13, 1946, at the age of 83.
 
O’Keeffe was with him when he died and was the executor of his state.
 
In 1949, three years after Stiegitz’s death, O’Keeffe moved permanently to New Mexico. During the 1950s, she produced a series of works that featured the architectural forms of her patio wall and door at Abiquiu, one of her two homes near Santa Fe.

Essence

O’Keeffe’s landscape paintings are similar to her flower paintings in that they often capture the essence of nature as the artist saw it without focusing on the details. In Black Place, Gray and Pink, from 1949, O’Keeffe emphasizes the wide open spaces and emptiness of the landscape around her New Mexico ranch that she purchased in 1940-vistas that are the opposite of her claustrophobic cityscapes.
 
Her paintings of the area capture the sense of place and her attachment to it. The often surprising reds and pinks of the land in these paintings are accurate renderings of the colorful desert scenery.
 
Despite waning popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, a retrospective held by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1970 revived her career and brought her to the attention of a new generation of women in the era of feminism.
 
O’Keeffe’s subject matter was always inspired by her life and the series Sky above Clouds, from around 1964/65is no exception, as the painting speaks to her many travels in the 1950s and 1960s. While en route to the Far East, she became intrigued by the view of the clouds below the airplane and sought to render this aerial view in paint as if to symbolize her own expanded view of the world.
sky-above-clouds-iii

High Horizon

Remarkably, as she was nearly 80 years old at the time, she began stretching enormous canvases nearly 24 feet wide, to capture the expansiveness of the scene. This painting, with its high horizon line and simplified clouds that extend beyond the frame, shows the influence of Eastern landscape painting, which also employs a high horizon line with a broad view of the land.
 
In her later years, O’Keeffe suffered from macular degeneration and began to lose her eyesight. As a result of her failing vision, she painted her last unassisted oil painting in 1972; her urge to create did not falter.
 
With the help of assistants, she continued to make art and she wrote the bestselling book Georgia O’Keeffe (1976).
 
Her last paintings consist of simple abstract lines and shapes and hearken back to her early charcoal drawings.
 
Georgia O’Keeffe died on March, 6, 1986, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and her ashes were scattered at Cerro Pedernal, which is depicted in several of her paintings.

 

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Concerning The Spiritual In Art With Vassily Kandinsky

yellow-red-blue by vassily kandinsky

Perhaps the greatest meditation on how art serves the soul came in 1910, when Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky published The Art of Spiritual Harmony, an exploration of the deepest and most authentic motives for making art.

Uber Das Geistige in der Kunst (Concerning the Spiritual in Art) completed in 1910

A pioneering work in the movement to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality is one of the most important documents in the history of modern art. It explains Kandinsky’s own theory of painting and crystallizes the great ideas that were influencing many other modern artists.

Kandinsky’s words were written in the period between the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the consumer society, ring with remarkable poignancy today.

Kandinsky’s ideas are presented in two parts. In the first part called “About General Aesthetics’’, issues a call for a spiritual revolution in painting that will let artists express their own inner lives in abstract, non-material terms.
 
Just as musicians do not depend upon the material world for their music, so artists should not have to depend upon the material world for their art. In the other part, “About Painting’’, Kandinsky discusses the psychology of colors, the language of form and color and the responsibilities of the artist.

 

Several Circles - Wassily Kandinsky
Several Circles – Wassily Kandinsky

He begins by considering art as a spiritual antidote to the values of materialism and introduces the conception of ‘’stimmung’’, an almost untranslatable concept, best explained as the essential spirit of nature. He considers that in great art, the spectator, as a viewer, or a witness, does feel a corresponding thrill in himself.
 
Such harmony or even contrast of emotion cannot be superficial or worthless; stimmung of a picture can purify the spectator. Such works of art at least preserve the soul of coarseness, they ‘’key it up’’ to a certain height, as a tuning-key the strings of a musical instrument.

Regarding the tendency of the general public to reduce art to technique and skill, Kandinsky argues that its true purpose is entirely different and adds to art history one of the most beautiful definitions of art:

“In each picture is a whole lifetime imprisoned, a whole lifetime of fears, doubts, hopes, and joys. Whether is this lifetime tending? What is the message of the competent artist? … To harmonize the whole is the task of art’’

the blue rider by wassily kandinsky
The Blue Rider – Wassily Kandinsky

Kandinsky admonishes, the conception of l’art pour l’art– art for art’s sake, produces a neglect of inner meanings, a lament perhaps even more sad and ominous in our age of permanent commodification of art as a thing to transact around- to own, to purchase, to display, rather than an experience to have.
 
The spiritual life to which art belongs and of which she is one of the mightiest elements, is a complicated but definite and easily definable movement upwards and forwards. That movement is the movement of experience, it may take different forms, but it holds at bottom to the same inner thought and purpose.
 
As an explanation, Kandinsky offers a visual metaphor for the spiritual experience and how it relates to the conception of genius:

’The life of the spirit may be fairly represented in diagram as a large acute-angled triangle divided horizontally into unequal parts with the narrowest segment uppermost. The lower the segment the greater it is in breadth, depth, and area.
 
The whole triangle is moving slowly, almost invisibly forwards and upwards. Where the apex was today the second segment is tomorrow; what today can be understood only by the apex and to the rest of the triangle is an incomprehensible gibberish, forms tomorrow the true thought and feeling of the second segment.

At the apex of the top segment, only one man often stands. His joyful vision cloaks a vast sorrow. Even those who are nearest to him in sympathy do not understand him. Angrily they abuse him as charlatan or madman.
 
(—)In every segment of the triangle are artists. Each one of them who can see beyond the limits of his segment is a prophet to those about him, and helps the advance of the obstinate whole.
 
But those who are blind, or those who retard the movement of the triangle for baser reasons, are fully understood by their fellows and acclaimed for their genius. The greater the segment, so the greater the number who understand the words of the artist…’’

 

sky blue kandinsky
Sky Blue – Wassily Kandinsky

For Kandinsky, art is a kind of spiritual anchor when all other certitudes of life are unhinged by social and cultural upheaval:

“When religion, science and morality are shaken … and when the outer supports threaten to fall, man turns his gaze from externals in on to himself. Literature, music and art are the first and most sensitive spheres in which this spiritual revolution makes itself felt.
 
They reflect the dark picture of the present time and show the importance of what at first was only a little point of light noticed by few and for the great majority non-existent. Perhaps they even grow dark in their turn, but on the other hand, they turn away from the soulless life of the present towards those substances and ideas which give free scope to the non-material strivings of the soul.’’

But, despite this eternal spiritual element, Kandinsky recognizes that all art is inescapably a product of its time. Examining the music of Wagner, Debussy, and Schoenberg, each celebrated as a genius in his own right, he wrote that “the various arts of today learn from each other and often resemble each other… The greatest freedom of all, the freedom of an unfettered art, can never be absolute.
 
Every age achieves a certain measure of this freedom, but beyond the boundaries of its freedom the mightiest genius can never go. But the measure of freedom of each age must be constantly enlarged’’
and he also adds that the cross-pollination of the different arts can inform and inspire one another… “The arts are encroaching one upon another, and from a proper use of this encroachment will rise the art that is truly monumental.
 
Every man who steeps himself in the spiritual possibilities of his art is a valuable helper in the building of the spiritual pyramid which will some day reach to heaven.’’

 

yellow-red-blue by vassily kandinsky
Yellow-Red-Blue by Vassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky was synesthetic, greatly influenced by Goethe’s theory of the emotional effect of color. He considers the powerful psychic effect of color in the cohesive spiritual experience of art: “Many colors have been described as rough or sticky, others as smooth and uniform, so that one feels inclined to stroke them (e.g., dark ultramarine, chromic oxide green, and rose madder).
 
Equally the distinction between warm and cold colors belongs to this connection. Some colors appear soft (rose madder), others hard (cobalt green, blue-green oxide), so that even fresh from the tube they seem to be dry.
 
The expression “scented colors” is frequently met with. And finally the sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would try to express bright yellow in the bass notes, or dark lake in the treble…Color is a power which directly influences the soul.
 
Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.’’

Considering the color and the form, and defining form as ‘’the outward expression of inner meaning”, Kandinsky examines their interplay in creating a spiritual effect: “This essential connection between color and form brings us to the question of the influences of form on color.
 
Form alone, even though totally abstract and geometrical, has a power of inner suggestion. A triangle (without the accessory consideration of its being acute — or obtuse — angled or equilateral) has a spiritual value of its own.
 
In connection with other forms, this value may be somewhat modified, but remains in quality the same. The case is similar with a circle, a square, or any conceivable geometrical figure, a subjective substance in an objective shell-The mutual influence of form and color now becomes clear.
 
A yellow triangle, a blue circle, a green square, or a green triangle, a yellow circle, a blue square—all these are different and have different spiritual values.’’

 

Composition-VI
Composition VI – Wassily Kandinsky

Considering the inherent aesthetic intelligence of nature, he returns to his piano metaphor: “Every object has its own life and therefore its own appeal; man is continually subject to these appeals. But the results are often dubbed either sub- or super-conscious.
 
Nature, that is to say the ever-changing surroundings of man, sets in vibration the strings of the piano (the soul) by manipulation of the keys (the various objects with their several appeals)’’

There is no ‘’must’’ in art, because it springs from an inner need – the psychological trifecta built up of three mystical elements:

  • Every artist, as a creator, has something in him which calls for expression( the element of personality)
  • Every artist, as child of his age, is impelled to express the spirit of his age( the element of style), dictated by the period and nationality to which the artist belongs
  • Every artist, as a servant of art has to help the cause of art( the element of pure artistry); it is constant in all ages and among all nationality
Improvisation 28 (Second Version)
Improvisation 28 (Second Version) – Vassily Kandinsky

Sharing in Schopenhauer’s skepticism about style, Kandinsky predicts that only the third element “which knows neither period nor nationality’’, accounts for the timeless in art:

“In the past and even today much talk is heard of “personality” in art. Talk of the coming “style” becomes more frequent daily. But for all their importance today, these questions will have disappeared after a few hundred or thousand years.
 
Only the third element ( pure artistry) will remain forever. An Egyptian carving speaks to us today more subtly than it did to its chronological contemporaries; for they judged it with the hampering knowledge of period and personality.
 
But we can judge purely as an expression of the eternal artistry.

Similarly — the greater the part played in a modern work of art by the two elements of style and personality, the better will it be appreciated by people today; but a modern work of art which is full of the third element, will fail to reach the contemporary soul.
 
For many centuries have to pass away before the third element can be received with understanding. But the artist in whose work this third element predominates is the really great artist.’’

Furthermore, Kandinsky points out, the true artist gives credence only to that inner need, and not to the expectation and conventions of the time. “The artist must be blind to distinctions between “recognized” or “unrecognized” conventions of form, deaf to the transitory teaching and demands of his particular age.
 
He must watch only the trend of the inner need, and hearken to its words alone. Then he will with safety employ means both sanctioned and forbidden by his contemporaries.’’

 

decisive pink kandinsky
Decisive Pink – Wassily Kandinsky

This is the reason why theory invariably fails to capture the essential impulse in art, and he offers a beautiful disclaimer of his own theoretical treatise: “It is impossible to theorize about this ideal of art.
 
In real art theory does not precede practice, but follows her. Everything is, at first, a matter of feeling. Any theoretical scheme will be lacking in the essential of creation — the inner desire for expression — which cannot be determined.
 
Neither the quality of the inner need, nor its subjective form, can be measured nor weighed.’’

He also considers the paradox of what we refer to us as ‘’beauty’’, which is more of a theoretical agreement based on convention, rather than a true spiritual response ‘’ “Outer need” … never goes beyond conventional limits, nor produces other than conventional beauty.
 
The “inner need” knows no such limits, and often produces results conventionally considered “ugly.” But “ugly” itself is a conventional term, and only means “spiritually unsympathetic,” being applied to some expression of an inner need, either outgrown or not yet attained.
 
But everything which adequately expresses the inner need is beautiful…which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul’’.

 

movement 1 wassily kandinsky
Movement 1 – Wassily Kandinsky

Reflecting on the birthplace of art, Kandinsky return to the conception of a creative freedom: “The work of art is born of the artist in a mysterious and secret way. From him it gains life and being.
 
Nor is its existence casual and inconsequent, but it has a definite and purposeful strength, alike in its material and spiritual life. It exists and has power to create spiritual atmosphere; and from this inner standpoint one judges whether it is a good work of art or a bad one.
 
If its “form” is bad it means that the form is too feeble in meaning to call forth corresponding vibrations of the soul… The artist is not only justified in using, but it is his duty to use only those forms which fulfill his own need… Such spiritual freedom is as necessary in art as it is in life.’’

Eventually, he brings everything full-circle to the metaphor of the spiritual triangle, reexamining the essence of art and the core responsibility of the artist:

‘’Art is not vague production, transitory and isolated, but a power which must be directed to the improvement and refinement of the human soul …If art refrains from doing this work, a chasm remains unbridged, for no other power can take the place of art in this activity.
 
And at times when the human soul is gaining greater strength, art will also grow in power, for the two are inextricably connected and complementary one to the other. Conversely, at those times when the soul tends to be choked by material disbelief, art becomes purposeless and talk is heard that art exists for art’s sake alone…

 

braunlich
Braunlich – Wassily Kandinksy

It is very important for the artist to gauge his position aright, to realize that he has a duty to his art and to himself, that he is not king of the castle but rather a servant of a nobler purpose.
 
He must search deeply into his own soul, develop and tend it, so that his art has something to clothe, and does not remain a glove without a hand. The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning.
 
(…) The artist is not born to a life of pleasure. He must not live idle; he has a hard work to perform, and one which often proves a cross to be borne. He must realize that his every deed, feeling, and thought are raw but sure material from which his work is to arise, that he is free in art but not in life’’.

More On Kandinsky:



 

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Comparing Abstract Expressionism And Pop Art

andy-warhol-eating-a-hamburger

Two of the biggest art movements that have dominated the twentieth century are Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. While stylistically very different, both movements compliment each other and reflect the ever-increasing complexity that the 20th century saw with industrialization and globalization.

Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism (AKA The New York School) came out of America, in New York as part of a post World War II painting movement during the last part 1940’s. Abstract Expressionism was the first state-side art movement to achieve international attention, making New York the center of the art world within western culture and now in a place to compete internationally with Paris.

abstract-expressionism-vs-pop-art

The movement moved quickly throughout the United States with San Fransisco area soon becoming an artistic hub for Abstract Expressionism as well. Pop art, however emerged nearly a decade later in the mid-1950’s in Britain and later made it to the United States during the late 1950’s were it really took its roots.
 
With these two movements closely overlapping, it is important to understand the differences and similarities of these movements and their context within contemporary art history.

Here is a short documentary about abstract expressionist Carlos Garcia de la Nuez, just to get your mind percolating and give you a glimpse into the process that an abstract expressionist artist uses.


 

Non-Representational Art

In Abstract Expressionism there is no representation of person, place, or object. With a focus on spontaneous, subconscious expression; Abstract Expressionism focuses on the medium itself and exists without representation of subject. That is to say that these paintings make no attempt to capture the reality of the physical world.

Because of this, as well as Modernist influences, abstract expressionists believe that when you create art you should create art that can only be done using that medium. In this way, Abstract Expressionism is a celebration of the medium.
 
For example: Jackson Pollock created engaging, complex paintings by dripping paint onto canvas, as well Mark Rothko who largely created works of large coloured blocks on coloured grounds.

Here is a work entitled Excavation, by Willem de Kooning showing some of the characteristics of the style…

excavation-by-willem-de-kooning

Abstract Expressionism Isn’t Art

Of course, there are many critics, many of them armchair critics, who like to mock the expressionists for their apparent lack of talent, saying that abstract expressionism isn’t art. It is perhaps easy to see why people would mock the expressionists, in that abstract expressionist artwork is not at all similar to typical realist paintings people have seen throughout history.
 
There are often no people, or things that are recognizable on the canvas, and this results in frustration, confusion, and anger. Abstract expressionists often approach their work in a way that many have described as childish, or easy to imitate.
 
Detractors of abstract expressionism are quick to point out that even they could do this type of art.

In addition to all of this debate, Abstract Expressionists have proudly created art void of any notion that it was the artist’s job to interpret their art, which only serves to make matters worse for the viewing public.
 
They instead left interpretation to their viewer, and often that conclusion is a strong dislike for the work, as the viewer has no way “in”.

While Abstract Expressionism has been highly regarded for its merit within the art community, it may be inaccessible to a wider audience outside of the art community who may be seeking something tangible within art which they can relate to.

Watch this TED Talk which discusses the idea that even your cat could be an abstract expressionist, should they so desire to be.


 

Pop Art

In contrast to this, Pop Art typically has a very clear subject in its works. In many ways, Pop Art was a reaction to Abstract Expressionism. Rather than trying to create art that is a reflection of the medium, Pop Art typically used screen printing in order to mass produce its works.

You Can’t Talk About Pop Art And Not Mention Andy Warhol

While Abstract Expressionism created a void of interpretation; Pop Art had themes of consumerism and commentary on mass production deeply ingrained into nearly every piece to come out of the movement. Pop Art draws on recognizable figures from mass media, and draws the audience in with the familiar but challenges them by having it presented in a new, novel fashion.
 
In fact, in his now famous studio simply called ‘the factory’, Andy Warhol had a production line of artists creating his now iconic art work. With Andy, it didn’t stop at mass producing artwork and even getting others to do the work for him (while still calling it his own), he touched on other mediums such as film, of which he has several underground “classics” as well, such as his film about the Empire State Building, which literally watches the lofty structure for 485 minutes.

Another famous artist from the pop art movement, Roy Lichtenstein, combined hand painting with the mass production style of pop-art. He would create the initial image by hand, and then project it onto canvas in order to trace the image.
 
His art was in the style of mass-produced comic book style and never before seen within the art community.

Roy Lichtenstein - Live Ammo (Blang!), 1962

Pop Art Vs. Abstract Expressionism

While Abstract Expressionism works explored art in it’s purest form (authentic, expressive, void of meaning); Pop Art challenged what one can consider to be art by using images appropriated from our culture that exist all around us.
 
Because of this, some critics were enraged by the Pop Art movement as they did not feel that the image of a soup can, nor comic book images to have artistic merit. So, while abstract expressionism seemed to really irritate people for one reason, pop art had a similar effect, but for entirely different reasons.
 
One reason we can isolate, perhaps, is that Andy Warhol had the gall to eat a burger and film it. The ending really is the best part here, as those of you with a healthy sense of irony and cynicism will no doubt realize.

 

 

Colors That Rankle The Serious Observer

The use of flat bold colours and sharp edge, caused additional criticism to pop art as it looked more like design than any recognizable art at the time. However, Pop Art was providing a much needed commentary on art.
 
Not only that, it was doing so in a very fun, light hearted way. In addition to providing commentary, Pop Art moved away from Abstract Expressionism in that by using contemporary images that were familiar to people which in turn made it much more accessible than Abstract Expressionism.

1950s-pop-art

This is not to say that Abstract Expressionism was not without it’s critics, Abstract Expressionism was challenging artistic conventions in its own way, with many critics feeling that the works were overly simplistic, and that it strayed too far from what was what had been established as art.

While both arestylistically divergent, Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism can be seen as providing similar artistic catharsis by challenging artistic norms and creating a dialogue. It is fascinating that they are able to achieve this both while being stylistically and conceptually separate from one another.

We’ll leave you with this for now. Art about art. How postmodern!