David Smith was one of the most influential American sculptors of the 20th century. Technically, an important predecessor is surrealism , with its emphasis on spontaneous, automatic , or subconscious creation. The newer research tends to put the exile-surrealist Wolfgang Paalen in the position of the artist and theoretician who fostered the theory of the viewer-dependent possibility space through his paintings and his magazine DYN. Paalen considered ideas of quantum mechanics , as well as idiosyncratic interpretations of the totemic vision and the spatial structure of native-Indian painting from British Columbia and prepared the ground for the new spatial vision of the young American abstracts. Motherwell is mentioned with a question mark. Additionally, it has an image of being rebellious, anarchic, highly idiosyncratic and, some feel, nihilistic.
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The essay may not have remained current, but the phrase "Post Painterly Abstraction" stuck. When abstraction became painterly in a new way in the s, Greenberg became an advocate, but the old label stuck: the painterly abstraction of Oltski and Poons was referred to as "post painterly. Painterly means, among other things, the blurred, broken, loose definition of color and contour. There are many artists whose work combines elements of both, and painterly handling can go with linear design, and vice versa.
This still does not diminish the usefulness of these terms or categories. With their help -- and keeping in mind that they have nothing to do with value judgments -- we are able to notice all sorts of continuities and significant differences, in the art of the present as well as of the past, that we might not notice otherwise. The kind of painting that has become known as Abstract Expressionism is both abstract and painterly.
Twenty years ago this proved a rather unexpected combination. Thus the notion of abstract art as something neatly drawn and smoothly painted, something with clean outlines and flat, clear colors, had become pretty well ingrained. To see this all disappear under a flurry of strokes, blotches, and trickles of paint was a bewildering experience at first. It looked as though all form, all order, all discipline, had been cast off.
Some of the labels that became attached to Abstract Expressionism, like "informel" and "Action Painting," definitely implied this; one was given to understand that what was involved was an utterly new kind of art that was no longer art in any accepted sense.
This was, of course, absurd. What was mostly involved was the disconcerting effect produced by wide-open painterliness in an abstract context. That context still derived from Cubism -- as does the context of every variety of sophisticated abstract art since Cubism, despite all appearances to the contrary. The painterliness itself derived from a tradition of form going back to the Venetians. Abstract Expressionism -- or Painterly Abstraction, as I prefer to call it -- was very much art, and rooted in the past of art.
People should have recognized this the moment they began to be able to recognize differences of quality in Abstract Expressionism. Abstract Expressionism was, and is, a certain style of art, and like other styles of art, having had its ups, it had its downs.
Having produced art of major importance, it turned into a school, then into a manner, and finally into a set of mannerisms.
Its leaders attracted imitators, many of them, and then some of these leaders took to imitating themselves. Painterly Abstraction became a fashion, and now it has fallen out of fashion, to be replaced by another fashion -- Pop art -- but also to be continued, as well as replaced, by something as genuinely new and independent as Painterly Abstraction itself was ten or twenty years ago. The most conspicuous of the mannerisms into which Painterly Abstraction has degenerated is what I call the "Tenth Street touch" after East Tenth Street in New York , which spread through abstract painting like a blight during the s.
The stroke left by a loaded brush or knife frays out, when the stroke is long enough, into streaks, ripples, and specks of paint. These create variations of light and dark by means of which juxtaposed strokes can be graded into one another without abrupt contrasts. Out of these close-knit variations or gradations of light and dark, the typical Abstract Expressionist picture came to be built, with its typical density of accents and its packed, agitated look.
In all this there was nothing bad in itself, nothing necessarily bad as art. What turned this constellation of stylistic features into something bad as art was its standardization, its reduction to a set of mannerisms, as a dozen, and then a thousand, artists proceeded to maul the same viscosities of paint, in more or less the same ranges of color, and with the same "gestures," into the same kind of picture.
And that part of the reaction against Painterly Abstraction which this show tries to document is a reaction more against standardization than against a style or school, a reaction more against an attitude than against Painterly Abstraction as such. As far as style is concerned, the reaction presented here is largely against the mannered drawing and the mannered design of Painterly Abstraction, but above all against the last.
By contrast with the interweaving of light and dark gradations in the typical Abstract Expressionist picture, all the artists in this show move towards a physical openness of design, or towards linear clarity, or towards both. They continue, in this respect, a tendency that began well inside Painterly Abstraction itself, in the work of artists like Still, Newman, Rothko, Motherwell, Gottlieb, Mathieu, the Kline, and even Pollock. There is no question, in any case, of repudiating its best achievements.
Almost a quarter of the painters represented in this show continue in one way or another to be painterly in their handling or execution. One of them, John Ferren, even retains the "Tenth Street touch," but by boxing it within a large framing area he somehow manages to get a new expressiveness from it. Clarity and openness as such, I hasten to say, are relative qualities in art.
In so far as they belong to the physical aspects of painting they are but means, neutral in themselves and guaranteeing nothing in the way of ultimate aesthetic value. The physical clarity and openness of the art in this show do not make it necessarily better than other kinds of art, and I do not claim that the openness and clarity which these artists favor are what make their works necessarily succeed.
I do claim, however, that it is to these instrumental qualities that the paintings in this exhibition owe their freshness, as distinct from whatever success or lack of success they may have as aesthetic finalities.
And I do claim -- on the basis of experience alone -- that openness and clarity are more conducive to freshness in abstract painting at this particular moment than most other instrumental qualities are -- just as twenty years ago density and compactness were.
It is meant to illustrate a new trend in abstract painting. It includes a number of artists who I do think are among the best new painters, but it does not include all of these. Even if it did, it still would not be a show of "the best new painters. Among the things common to these thirty-one, aside from their all favoring openness or clarity and all being Americans or Canadians , is that they have all learned from Painterly Abstraction. Their reaction against it does not constitute a return to the past, a going back to where Synthetic Cubist or geometrical painting left off.
Some of the artists in this exhibition look "hard-edged," but this by itself does not account for their inclusion. They are included because they have won their "hardness" from the "softness" of Painterly Abstraction; they have not inherited it from Mondrian, the Bauhaus, Suprematism, or anything else that came before.
Another thing the artists in this show, with two or three exceptions, have in common is the high keying, as well as lucidity, of their color.
They have a tendency, many of them, to stress contrasts of pure hue rather than contrasts of light and dark. For the sake of these, as well as in the interests of optical clarity, they shun thick paint and tactile effects. In their reaction against the "handwriting" and "gestures" of Painterly Abstraction, these artists also favor a relatively anonymous execution.
This is perhaps the most important motive behind the geometrical regularity of drawing in most of the pictures in this show. It certainly has nothing to do with doctrine, with geometrical form for its own sake. These artists prefer trued and faired edges simply because these call less attention to themselves as drawing -- and by doing that they also get out of the way of color. These common traits of style go to make up a trend, but they definitely do not constitute a school, much less a fashion.
Otherwise many of the painters in this show would be better known than they are right now. There is much in Pop art that partakes of the trend to openness and clarity as against the turgidities of second generation Abstract Expressionism, and there are one or two Pop artists -- Robert Indiana and the "earlier" James Dine -- who could fit into this show. But as diverting as Pop art is, I happen not to find it really fresh. Nor does it really challenge taste on more than a superficial level.
So far aside, perhaps, from Jasper Johns it amounts to a new episode in the history of taste, but not to an authentically new episode in the evolution of contemporary art. A new episode in that evolution is what I have tried to document here.
This is somewhat at odds with Mr. Could it be that only the Los Angeles area artists were selected by Mr.
Post-Painterly Abstraction - History and Concepts
The movement embraced the gestural abstraction of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, and the color field painting of Mark Rothko and others. It blended elements of Surrealism and abstract art in an effort to create a new style fitted to the postwar mood of anxiety and trauma. Quick view Read more Action Painting was a term coined by art critic Harold Rosenberg to refer to the gestural and somewhat existential mode of Abstract Expressionism, often characterized by drips, flung paint, and rapid, spontaneous strokes by the artist. Quick view Read more A tendency within Abstract Expressionism, distinct from gestural abstraction, Color Field painting was developed by Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still in the late s, and developed further by Helen Frankenthaler and others. It is characterized by large fields of color and an absence of any figurative motifs, and often expresses a yearning for transcendence and the infinite.
It was more a process of art self-awareness. Among Modernist painting movements, Post-Painterly Abstraction was one of the last to emerge before Post-Modernist attitudes gained prominence in the late 20th Century. Paint accumulates in layers and heaps, creating ridges and valleys. The surface of the painting is flat. Paint and surface are one. Colors are linear, not layered, and are also vivid and bright, expressive of their own essential qualities but nothing else. There are no details in the painting other than color, form and space.
His parents were middle-class Jewish immigrants, and he was the eldest of their three sons. Since childhood, Greenberg sketched compulsively, until becoming a young adult, when he began to focus on literature. During the next few years, Greenberg travelled the U. Greenberg married in , had a son the next year, and was divorced the year after that. It was then that Greenberg began to write seriously, and soon after began getting published in a handful of small magazines and literary journals. Kitsch, on the other hand, was the product of industrialization and the urbanization of the working class, a filler made for the consumption of the working class: a populace hungry for culture, but without the resources and education to enjoy cutting edge avant garde culture. Greenberg writes, Kitsch, using for raw material the debased and academicized simulacra of genuine culture, welcomes and cultivates this insensibility.