Thursday, January 15, 2009

Abstract Expressionism

I recently read an article in the latest issue of ArtNews about Clyfford Still, the Abstract Expressionist painter and it got me thinking about that movement as a whole. Now, I have to admit, that Abstract Expressionism was never a movement that particularly interested me (from a stylistic perspective), but I appreciate the fact that it was a purely American movement, and I understand the desire the Abstract Expressionists had to break free of the viewed constraints of representational art and embrace a new approach . I think abstract art requires a very open mind to be fully appreciated, and I've heard countless people say, "I don't get it". At times I've agreed with them (I hate to admit). On a recent trip to New York I had the opportunity to go to the MoMA and the Metropolitan and stand face to face with some monumental Abstract Expressionist works. It's a breathtaking moment when you see paintings that, until that very moment, you've only seen in books. It's quite easy to overlook a painting that's represented by an 2 in. by 2 in. picture, but in person, they take on an entirely new meaning for you, and in that one trip I think I gained a whole new perspective on Abstract Expressionism. Whether it be the spontaneity of Pollack, the spirituality of Rothko, the grotesque figures of Kandinsky's Woman series, or the flames of color bursting through the canvases of Clyfford Still, I suddenly felt like "I got it". For someone who somewhat favors representational art, and whose own art falls under that category, abstract art can be a challenge to understand. What I think the great thing about Abstract Expressionism is, is that it doesn't really need grandiose explanations or interpretations. All that's required is that you open your eyes and your mind and feel. Here's a quote by Clyfford still that I just love: "To be stopped by a frame's edge is intolerable" . If you look at his art, you'll know exactly what he meant.

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