Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Emasculating the Abstract Expressionists

Fun tie-ins with the previous post:

The drawing on the right is by cartoonist Mike Dater, the text at the bottom reading "Abstract Expressionist Painting What He Sees." Dater, like artist Bill Manion (discussed in the previous post), is satirizing the Abstract Expressionist manifesto that promoted creative inspiration from within. Here the artist's 'vision' has become a part of the landscape, taking the form of a color hodgepodge hovering in the sky. He gestures upward as if acknowledging his source of inspiration (see nearby canvas), clearly a delusion since hovering blobs of color are not a natural phenomenon. When contrasted with the recognizable landscape, the artist's creativity suddenly seems playful and, in the context of Dater's commentary, unsophisticated.

The artist's immunity to his external surroundings is in striking contrast to the Impressionists (Manet, Renoir...) who were reputed to work outdoors--including urban parks--and relied heavily on landscapes for subject matter. The Impressionist vs. Abstract Expressionist experience could turn into a debate over the subjectivity of reality and I'll leave that for readers to think more about.

The lower image is an oil and magna (a variety of acrylic) on canvas by Roy Lichtenstein, entitled Yellow and White Brushstrokes (1965). This is a rich piece that comments on more than just the Abstract Expressionists, but there is a strong reference to them here. The brushstroke was sanctified by the Abstract Expressionist, known to wield his brush with fervor and in turn leave the canvas with a tangible mark of his presence. The mechanical tone of Lichtenstein's painting subverts this emphasis on tactility. Moreover, the thick, black outlines of the brushstrokes and Lichtenstein's signature BenDay-dots lends to them a comic-like quality. Click here for an extended analysis on the painting to which I can't do justice!

1 comment:

  1. I was curious to follow the link from facebook and what a pleasant surprise I had! No one could tell you are a "recently professed closet Modernist"! I loved all the entries, your insightful remarks and your nice writing style. I look forward to more reading :D
    Un beso grande! Fefa-