Bike lanes NYC Lower Manhattan, February 2017. photo by dave holmander
On Four Introductions and 1945-1949 Journal Entry One
The current journal entry is divided into two sections with the first beginning the introduction and the second that period 1945 to 1949 and is based upon the textbook “art since 1900” published by Thames & Hudson.
By way of starting this first journal entry I want to say that thought out the reading I was particularly pleased to note that thematically it followed and built upon the foundation which was laid in “ Critical Theory MFV801” seminar in the first residency by tying key words to the discussion thus building a bridge from the prior to new material. With it came applicable impacted various aspects of modernist art and specially contemporary abstract within the twenties and thirty with surrealism reference to the theoretical and political of the seventies and eighties feminism; and, “the working of subjectivity and sexuality” (p15) . It is my opinion that “Lynda Benglis, Untitiled, 1974” (p19) is a profound example of the latter.
Social history likewise has been depicted through art and continues today though it is a complex mosaic not always easily identified but is mingled with various strains of Marxism in a more pure form of philosophical inspiration. We might suggest “aestheticism conceiving the work of art as a purely self-sufficiency and self-reflexive experience” (23) espoused by Theophile Gautier. Autonomy served this purpose also which engendered capitalistic logic into the late sixties thus the codification of art to the present.
Ideology played a roll in aesthetics. It was Gyorgy Lukacs speaking extensively about the relationship of Marxism and social art history. Most notably his “key concept was that of reflection, establishing a rather mechanistic relationship between the forces economic and political base and the ideological and the institutional superstructure” (p27) thus Meyer Schapiro concludes “cultural representation is the mirror reflection of idelogical interest” (p28) and this is evidenced in artistic representation.
There is however, a difference in popular culture and it’s appeal to the masses of society.
While to the novice it might appear to be slight of hand to the art historian or critic it is a “question of how so-called high art or avant-garde practices relate to the emerging mass-cultural formation of modernity” (p29). Therefore, particularly with American social art historians there was intense desire to establish it’s own identity after WW2 so formulation of “neo-avant garde” (p31) become critical as it is distinct. Irrespective, the strength of the modernist art movement and the interconnectedness of social causes and the accompanying history for one hundred years lack cohesiveness while emulation some over riding themes from which to build upon.
Roland Barthes, French literacy’s studied semiology as a separation from signs and came to the conclusion that “content has to be replaced by referent “ … “But … axiom are already there … as signs “ (p33). These conflagrations mimics formalism and structuralism where as Barthes intends to point to a historical links of modernism with literary works. While and example of formalism may be view in the work of George Brague, Violin , 1910; this follow the arbitrary nature of Pablo Picasso, Bull’s Head, 1942. However; this process indeed has had it’s limits but nonetheless the foundation of the modernist movement is set in canonical precedent.
The sixties mark once again an attitude of linguistics inroads into the modernity of art and it’s expansion with the enlargement and identification of the “shifter” (p41). Most importantly, the use of “I” and “you” as a mechanism in conduction a conversation between the first person and the second or third person as you might have it, but also in support of work wherein the visual experience is insufficient for the critic or art lover to fully appreciate the work and thus the presence of experience.
Any discussion no matter how brief of poststructuralism and deconstruction would not be complete without some mention of the “perpetual allusion” (p47) which in essence is marked by the term “simulacrum” . A little known or use term yet the very foundation which virtually all of presence day society functions under. The reality of non-reality of living in a mode of non-reality that we think life is or should be. Living life as a fantasy and completely devoid of the possibility of knowing reality. It is the allusion, which the economic forces have manipulated people to believe the way life should be, and failure to realize they are a cog in someone else’s wheel. Thus the impression of representation and it is here where I believe the artist may face the greatest challenge but also the greatest opportunity even to be cutting edge or a new avant-grade.
In 1945 David Smith constructs “Pillar of Sunday” (p364). The subject is not nearly as important as it is a departure from the Cubist who created space on a flat surface but now in real space Surrealist in their free stand works. The period is mark with a great variety of new entries but also breathes new life into prior works like Julio Gonzalez, “Women Combing Her Hair“, 1936 and Pablo Picasso, “Head of a Women“, 1929-30 (365).
In Europe it is still a difficult time after WW2 ended the emotional effect of the horrific war still fresh in the mind . But the short lived “Cacaism” (p369) immerges liken to “Dadaism” (p369) which followed The Great War. Without doubt the major works of this period stems from France and a significant exhibition “Galerie Rene Drouin in Paris in May 1946 “(p369). Most profound is Jean Dubuffet’s “Volonte de puissance” 1946 (p370) which depicts a nude stunted child having survived a horrific experience but emotionally scared.
This period brought forth a desire to move forward and away from the back drop of the lingering effects of war. Though the famous Bauhaus school of modernist design was closed by the Nazis interest in it’s concept finds it way to Black Mountain College in North Carolina with imports like Josef Albers from Chicago but previously from Bauhaus in Berlin. This largely an experimental concept within and egalitarian college, but it brings forth a new dimension to modernistic of expression which is purely Americanized. With Mohol-Nagy, Albers new radical design advance with a dialectical viewing experience as refected in Josef Albers, “Homage to the Square” 1970 (p379).
Continuing that same year and into 1948 “Abstract Expressionism” gains a foothold and latter Life magazine will publishes a photo by Nina Leen title “The Irascibles”, 1951 of a sorted group of artist working autonomously but having been brought together through an exhibition held at New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art and as such their work takes root and has had a profound impact in visual art.
This is the year Life magazine ask it readers select the greatest living artist. They pick Jackson Pollick for his drip painting. His work is intriguing and complex but most notably for it’s “hallucinated literalness” (p387) . It is how light reflect off the work which is unique. His process was to lay canvas horizontal to the floor and make drippings while standing over the work thus as the paint dry there was not dropping of paint on the vertical slop thereby the reflective quality of light on the finished work emulated a more uniform illustrative viewing experience.
1949 also saw another sub division in the modernist movement called “Brutalism”. One was called the Coba group because its proponents hailed from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam where a group of young artist where endeavoring a new direction bring to light African tribal art and untapped children’s art. At the same time with similar goal New Brutalists in England emerged again with the notion to move forward and shake of the past. It was more of a pealing back the veneer of the gilded image and expression the substructure as the grand revealing. This was expressed in the architecture of modern building design a more boxes look of support post and beams are left exposed and window trimmings are raw basic yet it’s expression influences all modern art from collage to metal to sculpture.