Check out the work of Jacob Lawerence, particularly his Migration Series. This 60-panel epic was completed when he was only 23 years old.
Tag Archives: Modern Art
Check out the work of Robert Reed, an alchemist of color and geometry. https://hyperallergic.com/491306/the-bauhaus-and-the-black-experience-the-magnificent-and-mysterious-robert-reed/
“Every era has to reinvent the project of “spirituality” for itself. (Spirituality = plans, terminologies, ideas of deportment aimed at the resolution of painful structural contradictions inherent in the human situation, at the completion of human consciousness, at transcendence.) In the modern era, one of the most active metaphors for the spiritual project is “art.”
…The newer myth, derived from a post-psychological conception of consciousness, installs within the activity of art many of the paradoxes involved in attaining an absolute state of being described by the great religious mystics. As the activity of the mystic must end in a via negative, a theology of God’s absence, a craving for the cloud of unknowingness beyond knowledge and for the silence beyond speech, so art must tend toward anti-art, the elimination of the “subject” (the “object,” the “image”), the substitution of chance for intention, and the pursuit of silence.
…no longer a confession, art is more than ever a deliverance, an exercise in asceticism. Through it, the artist becomes purified — of himself and, eventually, of his art, The artist (if not art itself) is still engaged in a progress toward “the good.” But formerly, the artist’s good was mastery of and fulfillment in his art. Now it’s suggested that the highest good for the artist is to reach that point where those goals of excellence become insignificant to him, emotionally and ethically, and he is more satisfied by being silent than by finding a voice in art.
…Committed to the idea that the power of art is located in its power to negate, the ultimate weapon in the artist’s inconsistent war with his audience is to verge closer and closer to silence… And none of the aggressions committed intentionally or inadvertently by modern artists have succeeded in either abolishing the audience or transforming it into something else. (A community engaged in a common activity?) They cannot. As long as art is understood and valued as an “absolute” activity, it will be a separate, elitist one. Elites presuppose masses. So far as the best art defines itself by essentially “priestly” aims, it presupposes and confirms the existence of a relatively passive, never fully initiated, voyeuristic laity which is regularly convoked to watch, listen, read, or hear — and then sent away.
…But these programs for art’s impoverishment must not be understood simply as terroristic admonitions to audiences, but as strategies for improving the audience’s experience. The notions of silence, emptiness, reduction, sketch out new prescriptions for looking, hearing, etc. — specifically, either for having a more immediate, sensuous experience of art or for confronting the art work in a more conscious, conceptual way.
…Contemporary art, no matter how much it’s defined itself by a taste for negation, can still be analyzed as a set of assertions, of a formal kind. For instance, each work of art gives us a form or paradigm or model of knowing something, an epistemology.”
A friend recently loaned me an excellent book on teaching art appreciation: Getting It: A guide to understanding and appreciating art by Becky Hendrick. Below is a simple outline of the book’s main points.
Art Appreciation=Life Appreciation
2 Requirements for Appreciating Art:
1. Look at it objectively without prejudice
2. Know enough information about its relationship to history and culture
-Not created for external demands (like graphic design or advertisements, it’s internally motivated)
-Non-verbal language, looking at art is like hearing a foreign language for the first time
-Content rather than subject matter (not an one sentence “answer”)
-“That’s terrible” really means “I don’t like it” Learn to be aware of personal preference
-If you bring the wrong set of expectations to a work of art you won’t be able to “get it”
-Most people spend an average of 10 seconds looking at a work of art
How to Look at Art:
-Describe it objectively without interpretation (a skill that needs to be practiced)
-Make subjective connections (this makes me think of_______)
-Analyze the content of the work
-Interpret and judge
-Artists communicate in a different language they learn through making art
-Line, shape, space, value, color, texture, etc.
-Artists make a series of decisions based on their knowledge of their visual vocabulary
-If it’s in a book or on a screen it’s not actually the work of art
-Pictures can’t communicate scale or subtleties
“Art may not ‘mean’ anything in the literal sense, but like the atmosphere preceding a storm, it puts us into a frame of mind for pondering the timeless questions of existences and meaning.”
The contemporary art world feels like a river swollen with the deluge unleashed by modernism. It rushes forward inexorable, surging through all definitions of art and breaking all conventions. This energy has opened the flood gates to all kinds of art-making and has washed away the linear progression of “isms” that marked the earlier art world. However, such energy can hardly continue forever. At some point artists must build a dam to slow this forward momentum to a steady stream while allowing the deluge to pool into the depths of a reservoir that will sustain and nourish the community around it. The wild river opened up the landscape and allowed for a global trade of ideas, but our communities need an expanse of art that will nourish them instead of rushing ever forward in the continual movement of art about art.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Tate Modern in London. I didn’t have as much time to wander around and contemplate the art as I would have liked, but I was able to make several observations:
I. I discovered the “missing link” between realism and abstraction-Monet’s paintings.
Some abstract artists work in a way that highlights the beauty of texture, color, and form without obviously referencing the visual world we are familiar with. This becomes a stumbling block to many viewers who have difficulty seeing the craft or level of care put into such paintings because they are looking for the world they know. However, paintings like the above serve as a reminder that the beauty of nature is abstract. Trees, mountains, sunsets, etc. are not beautiful because they look like themselves, but because of their forms, colors, and textures. Monet and the other impressionists began paving the way for abstraction by seeking to depict the beauty of the world in a way that would help their audience see with fresh eyes.
II. The Tate used a combination of past and modern art to help viewers understand what they were seeing and to show them how to approach the art.
Understanding art requires an understanding of each movement’s place in art history. Art works derive some of their significance from their location in history. In several exhibits the Tate would provide examples of past art that influenced modern artists to help viewers better understand some of the artistic decisions the artists had made.
III. My favorite painting at the Tate, and the one I felt was the most visually striking, was Max Ernst’s “The Entire City.”
I know some artists and critics who balk at the idea of picking a favorite work of art after visiting a museum. My art education helps me to appreciate and understand art that I may not like, but I still gravitate towards work that I find beautiful or attractive. It is human nature to categorize things based on our personal preference, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as one can move past that and see the merit in work they may not like.
IV. The more contemporary the art, the less information or explanation accompanies it.
One thing that frustrated me was the lack of information on contemporary art pieces. This was all the more irritating because most of the art from more than twenty years ago had a paragraph or two to help viewers understand the work better. Famous paintings which many viewers likely would have learned about in school were still accompanied by basic explanations. Yet the more contemporary work, which the average viewer would likely have no familiarity with, would frequently lack any kind of conceptual framework or title.
V. Art that illuminates music- Gerhard Richter’s Cage paintings. (Description taken from Tate exhibit)
“Richter’s monumental Cage paintings were completed in 2006 and first exhibited at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Like his earlier squeegee abstractions, they are the outcome of several layers of painting and erasure. Their surfaces are animated by lines where the squeegee has paused, by brushstrokes, other scrapings, and areas where the skin of oil paint has dried and rippled. Cage 1 with its soft lateral striations evokes the surface of a gently running river; in Cage 2 a veil of grey covers autumnal yellows like a thin mist; in Cage 3 grey paint seems much more material recalling the coarse surface of a concrete wall. Deep reds dominate the upper and lower section of Cage 4 and are more concealed in Cage 5. Cage 6has the greatest chromatic range but there is still a sense of understatement and muted light.
Richter was listening to the music of John Cage while he worked on these paintings and titled them after the composer. He has long been interested in Cage’s ideas about ambient sound and silence, and has approvingly quoted his statement ‘I have nothing to say and I am saying it’. Richter is also drawn to Cage’s rejection of intuition as well as total randomness, planning his compositions through structures and chance procedures. While there are no direct links between any particular work in this series and any composition by Cage, some critics have suggested affinities between the two figures’ approaches and between the constant flux in Cage’s music and the space created by Richter’s paintings.”
V. Whenever I visit at museum or gallery I make a list of artists I want to research later.