Yay - I have a new series and it's created by the delightfully talented Erin of Art Social! Love her tagline" "seriously in love with art". And we FINALLY got to meet at Alt. Over the next few months in her charming and creative style, Erin is going to present Art One Oh One, the modern art course we all SHOULD have had in college, right? No stuffy, boring professors for you - I've got ALL the best info from THE most talented folk.
"Every so often, a painter has to destroy painting. Cezanne did it, Picasso did it with cubism. Then Pollock did it. He busted our idea of a picture all to hell. Then there could be new paintings again."
- Willem de Kooning
I can pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with contemporary art. Let me set the scene: It was 2006 in Fort Collins, Colorado. I'm listening to Justin Timberlake's SexyBack on my ipod nano and rocking my college best - a Hollister hoodie & SoCal-inspired jeans - and I've registered for a little art history class called "Contemporary Art: 1945 - Present." After the Abstract Expressionism portion of the semester, I knew I'd found my specialization. This is a big moment for an art history major.
What's not to love about Ab Ex - the artists' incessant boozing, the boys' club, the influx of existentialist thinking - so much drama, so many incredibly brilliant thinkers. It was an art par-tay, to say the least. Don't know too much about Ab Ex? Oh, friend, let me tell ya...
First, let's meet a few artists from the Ab Ex crew:
Ab Ex started in New York City in the mid-1940s. It was one of those "perfect storm" kind of art movements. Various people, events, and circumstances came together at just the right time to create one of the biggest turning points in the history of art.
One of the keys to the movement's success and monumentality was its mixture of European and American roots. The violent disruptions of WWII had an international impact on the art world. Many great European artists and thinkers fled from Europe to NYC during this time. Because of this, New York emerged as the most important cultural center of the West. Exciting, right? With so many brilliant people in one place, something big and creative was bound to happen... and it did.
The war had a far-reaching effect on artists, causing them to reevaluate their creative process and rebel against current artistic styles. Artists wanted a new form of production and expression, one that was looser, abstracted, spontaneous, and instinctual. This desire for a more raw, immediate form of expression mixed with an influx of European ideas about the unconscious mind and existentialism set the Ab Ex wheels in motion. Boom. Hello, new art movement.
Abstract Expressionism became a style and an attitude. The movement was broken into two major groups - Action Painting and Color Field Painting - but at the core of both groups were the same main elements:
01. allover-ness: they completely abandoned traditional composition. The paint extends to the edge of the canvas and beyond. There is no one focal point, which causes our gaze moves continuously around the painting.
02. size: go big or go home, that was their motto.
03. gesture: Pollock loved dripping and pouring paint, definitely his jam. Because of the way paint fell onto the canvas, we can imagine the actions the artist made while creating the work. The artist's action, mark, or gesture became the subject matter.
04. the unconscious mind: because of their interest in more immediate forms of expression, the Ab Ex crew became obsessed with the psyche and spontaneous creation.
05. rejection of representational forms: they weren't interested in depicting real objects or scenes. Their focus was on formal qualities like line, shape, and color... and the pure act of creating.
Ab Ex's focus on the act of painting itself captured the art world. Abstract Expressionism, like many major art movements before it, made artists everywhere realize they could - as de Kooning noted - completely destroy painting and the currently accepted idea of what painting is... and start all over again, making completely new art. But, of course, every action (painting - ha!) has an equal and opposite reaction... Next time I'll be talking about the creation of the next big - and very different - art movement: Pop Art. Wahoo!