Happy Birthday Jackson Pollock

Not many people know this but Jackson and I share the same birthday. To commemorate this, here is a little piece about him.

 

“When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of “get acquainted” period that I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.”

Jackson Pollock's work at the Museum of Modern Art

PAINTINGS

Pioneer of ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM; b. Cody, Wyo.

He began to study painting in 1929 at the Art Students’ League, New York, under the Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. During the 1930s he worked in the manner of the Regionalists, being influenced also by the Mexican muralist painters (Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros) and by certain aspects of Surrealism.

From 1938 to 1942 he worked for the Federal Art Project. By the mid 1940s he was painting in a completely abstract manner, and the `drip and splash’ style for which he is best known emerged with some abruptness in 1947. Instead of using the traditional easel he affixed his canvas to the floor or the wall and poured and dripped his paint from a can; instead of using brushes he manipulated it with `sticks, trowels or knives’ (to use his own words), sometimes obtaining a heavy impasto by an admixture of `sand, broken glass or other foreign matter’. This manner of Action painting had in common with Surrealist theories of automatism that it was supposed by artists and critics alike to result in a direct expression or revelation of the unconscious moods of the artist.

Pollock’s name is also associated with the introduction of the All-over style of painting which avoids any points of emphasis or identifiable parts within the whole canvas and therefore abandons the traditional idea of composition in terms of relations among parts. The design of his painting had no relation to the shape or size of the canvas — indeed in the finished work the canvas was sometimes docked or trimmed to suit the image. All these characteristics were important for the new American painting which matured in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

During the 1950s Pollock continued to produce figurative or quasi-figurative black and white works and delicately modulated paintings in rich impasto as well as the paintings in the new all-over style. He was strongly supported by advanced critics, but was also subject to much abuse and sarcasm as the leader of a still little comprehended style; in 1956 Time magazine called him `Jack the Dripper’.

By the 1960s, however, he was generally recognized as the most important figure in the most important movement of this century in American painting, but a movement from which artists were already in reaction (Post-Painterly Abstraction). His unhappy personal life (he was an alcoholic) and his premature death in a car crash contributed to his legendary status. In 1944 Pollock married Lee Krasner (1911-84), who was an Abstract Expressionist painter of some distinction, although it was only after her husband’s death that she received serious critical recognition.

Breaking the ice

It was Jackson Pollock who blazed an astonishing trail for other Abstract Expressionist painters to follow. De Kooning said, “He broke the ice”, an enigmatic phrase suggesting that Pollock showed what art could become with his 1947 drip paintings.

It has been suggested that Pollock was influenced by Native American sand paintings, made by trickling thin lines of colored sand onto a horizontal surface. It was not until 1947 that Pollock began his “action” paintings, influenced by Surrealist ideas of “psychic automatism” (direct expression of the unconscious). Pollock would fix his canvas to the floor and drip paint from a can using a variety of objects to manipulate the paint.

The Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle (1943; 109.5 x 104 cm (43 x 41 in)) is an early Pollock, but it shows the passionate intensity with which he pursued his personal vision. This painting is based on a North American Indian myth. It connects the moon with the feminine and shows the creative, slashing power of the female psyche. It is not easy to say what we are actually looking at: a face rises before us, vibrant with power, though perhaps the image does not benefit from labored explanations. If we can respond to this art at a fairly primitive level, then we can also respond to a great abstract work such as Lavender Mist. If we cannot, at least we can appreciate the fusion of colors and the Expressionist feeling of urgency that is communicated. Moon-Woman may be a feathered harridan or a great abstract pattern; the point is that it works on both levels.

Jackson Pollock

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ART REVIEW; Just Enough Color in a World of White

The watercolors of Paul Cezanne rank high among the wonders of Western European art. For this reason, the chance of seeing 46 of them at the Acquavella Galleries is not to be missed.

The most remarkable thing about Cezanne’s watercolors is not so much what he did as what he didn’t need to do. He never manipulated the medium. The white of the paper was an equal partner, not a dance floor on which Cezanne would come on like Nijinsky.

There are landscapes in the Acquavella show — among them ”The Bellevue House on the Hill” (1885-1890) and ”The Mill at the Pont des Trois Sautets” (1890-94) — in which Cezanne almost seems to stand aside while the paper does its full share.

He does not spell out the wooded hillside that leads up to the Bellevue House, but the house itself rides high and steadily. We can read it floor by floor and sense just how much of a climb it would be to get there.

There is nothing ”clever” about what Cezanne does, here or anywhere else. He just leaves it to us to marry the extensive untouched white of the paper with his own perfectly judged touches of color, here and there.

With the ”Mill House,” we know from a photograph taken around 1934 by the Cezanne scholar John Rewald that this was a dreary place in scruffy country. But the artist once again let the white of the paper do much of the work.

The mill house, as he showed it, is light enough to dance in the air, almost. The everyday industrial chimney shoots upward toward the sky, changing color as it tops the tree line. The image as a whole has balance, form and proportion. This is a white world, flecked with yellow and green. Maybe it was never like this (the mill no longer exists), but he makes us feel that this was a place to treasure. He shows us how to look, but he also shows us where to live.

Cezanne was the only man who could paint a rose without describing it and leave us convinced that we have seen it. He did this in the ”Rose in Greenery” in the present show. The greenery is an upward oval of pale green leaves, nuanced with blue and purple.

We never see the rose, but we know that it is there because of the touches of pale pink that surround a white center. We do not see it, but we smell it.

The show also has a magnificent wall of still lifes, some of the grandest of the artist’s evocations of rocks, a very fine group of single-figure portraits and some views of the countryside around Aix-en-Provence (including Mont Sainte-Victoire).

There is also an affectionate little ”Game of Love” in which men and women carry on like puppies. But Cezanne’s erotic interests could come out even where they are least expected, as for instance in the ”Two Melons” (circa 1885). What are those two melons doing, one asks oneself, if not making love?

For the colossal sensuality that Cezanne usually kept private, the great drawings of the rocks above the Chateau Noir are the place to look, no matter how indirectly he showed his feelings. There are two such drawings in this show. Rocks are rocks, and we don’t usually think of them as having feelings. But in their tender conjunctions, an undeclared love has its place.

Something that we may never see again on a single wall is the group of eight still lifes that all date from 1900 until 1906 (the year of Cezanne’s death).

So far from leaving things out, in these complex constructions, he continually raised the stakes against himself, as in the ”Still Life With Apples and Inkpot” (1902-06).

The great intruder in this watercolor is the massive inkpot. Everything else echoes the red and the gold of the apples.

Not only are the red and gold present in the apples, on the surface of the table and on the walls, but they also give themselves an encore in that, as Mr. Rewald said, ”the contours of some objects have been repeated so often that they almost seem to be vibrating.” As for the inkpot, it has something weighty to add that is all its own.

Mr. Rewald, in agreement with his longtime colleague Lawrence Gowing, went on to say that ”those strange staccato outlines that Gowing aptly called ‘vibrating edges’ somehow integrate themselves perfectly into the sea of washes which surrounds them, so that — whether this was intended or not — they pulsate in unison.”

Throughout this astonishing wall, Cezanne takes his repertory company of household objects — bottles, a decanter, a skull, a patterned rug, a spirit stove, seasonal fruits and kitchen essentials — and he makes them do something new every time. Never do they look like the last work of a dying man.

As William Rubin reminds us in his foreword to the show, Cezanne wrote to his dealer Ambroise Vollard in 1903: ”I am working doggedly, for I perceive the Promised Land. Shall I be like the great Hebrew leader, or shall I be able to enter it?”

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois was born on December 25, 1911, in Paris. As a teenager, Bourgeois assisted her parents in their tapestry-restoration business, making drawings that indicated to the weavers the repairs to be made. In 1932, she entered the Sorbonne to study mathematics, but abandoned that discipline for art. In the mid- to late 1930s, she studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, Académie de la Grande-Chaumière, École du Louvre, Atelier Fernand Léger, and other Parisian schools. In 1938, Bourgeois married an American, the art historian Robert Goldwater, and moved to New York. There, she studied for two years at the Art Students League and was soon participating in print exhibitions.

 

After moving to a new apartment in 1941, Bourgeois began to make large wood sculptures on the roof of her building. In 1945, her first solo show, comprised of twelve paintings, was held at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery in New York and her work was first included in the Whitney Annual (later the Whitney Biennial). In the mid- to late 1940s, she worked at Stanley William Hayter’s printshop, Atelier 17, where she met Le Corbusier, Joan Miró, and other Europeans exiled by World War II. In 1949, she exhibited works from her Personage series in the first show of her sculpture, at Peridot Gallery in New York.

In 1951, Bourgeois became an American citizen. Continuing her mode of abstracted figuration instilled with psychological and symbolic content, she remained stylistically distinct from New York School developments. She did, however, join American Abstract Artists in 1954. In the 1960s, she taught in public schools and at Brooklyn College and Pratt Institute in New York. She would continue to teach at colleges and universities during the following decade. In the late 1960s, Bourgeois’s imagery became more explicitly sexual as she explored the relationship between men and women and the emotional impact of her troubled childhood (her father had had a ten-year affair with her governess). From 1967 until 1972, she made trips to Pietrasanta, Italy, to work in marble.

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With the rise of feminism and the art world’s new pluralism, her work found a wider audience. In the 1970s, she began to do Performance [more] pieces—among them A Banquet/A Fashion Show of Body Parts (1978), in which she wrapped art historians and students in white drapery with sewn-in anatomical forms—and expanded the scale of her three-dimensional work to large environments.

The first retrospective of Bourgeois’s work was organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1982–83), and her first European retrospective was assembled by the Frankfurter Kunstverein (1989). Bourgeois was selected to be the American representative to the 1993 Venice Biennale. Her collected writings were published in 1998. In 2000, three thirty-foot-high towers by Bourgeois, commissioned by the Tate Modern in London—I Do, I Undo, and I Redo—were featured in that museum’s inaugural exhibition. Many of her large-scale works have been exhibited as public art, including three spider sculptures installed at Rockefeller Center in New York in 2001 under the aegis of the Public Art Fund.

Bourgeois’s achievements have been recognized with, among other honors, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1973), membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1981), a grand prize in sculpture from the French Ministry of Culture (1991), and the National Medal of Arts (1997). Bourgeois lives and works in Manhattan.

Banksy wall could fetch £200,000

A businessman is hoping to make over £200,000 by selling a wall which was painted on by graffiti artist Banksy.

Banksy painting on the Portobello Road

The Banksy artwork was painted in daylight behind a screen

 The graffiti, on the side of a media production firm’s base on west London’s Portobello Road, shows a painter finishing off the word “Banksy”.

Company owner Luti Fagbenle covered it with plastic and put the wall on an internet auction site.

“I wanted to keep it, but maintaining it against the weather became a full time job,” he said.

Scaffolding appeared one Sunday morning in September outside Mr Fagbenle post-production editing company, while the Portobello market was open.

The “engineers” refused to say what it was for. A few hours later the scaffolding was removed, revealing Banksy’s work.

Painting of Israeli soldier being frisked by a girl

Banksy painted on and around the Israeli security wall last year

The reclusive artist has refused to comment on the sale, but a representative has confirmed it is genuine.

His work has grown in popularity. Brad Pitt and Christina Aguilera are among celebrity collectors.

Last year one of his works, Space Girl and Bird, sold for £288,000.

Bobby Read, art expert at specialist insurer Hiscox, said: “This sale confirms Banksy as a modern-day cross between Michelangelo and the Scarlet Pimpernel.

“2008 starts where 2007 left off with Banksy making headlines.”

The eBay sale has received 67 bids so far, with the top bid at over £200,000.

Herbert Bayer

Bayer apprenticed under the artist Georg Schmidthammer in Linz. Leaving the workshop to study at the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony, he became interested in Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus manifesto. After Bayer had studied for four years at the Bauhaus under such teachers as Wassily Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy, Gropius appointed Bayer director of printing and advertising.

Charting Space

In the spirit of reductive minimalism, Bayer developed a crisp visual style and adopted use of all-lowercase, sans serif typefaces for most Bauhaus publications. Bayer is one of several typographers of the period including Kurt Schwitters and Jan Tschichold who experimented with the creation of a simplified more phonetic-based alphabet. Bayer idesigned the 1925 geometric sans-serif typeface, universal, now issued in digital form as Architype Bayer which bears comparison with the stylistically related typeface Architype Schwitters.

In 1928, Bayer left the Bauhaus to become art director of Vogue magazine’s Berlin office. He remained in Germany far later than most other progressives, and did work for the Nazi Party. In 1936 he designed a brochure for the Deutschland Ausstellung, an exhibition for tourists in Berlin during the 1936 Olympic Games – the brochure celebrated life in the Third Reich, and the authority of Hitler. In 1938 he left Germany and settled in New York City where he had a long and distinguished career in nearly every aspect of the graphic arts.

In 1946 Bayer relocated again. Hired by industrialist and visionary Walter Paepcke, Bayer moved to Aspen, Colorado as Paepcke promoted skiing as a popular sport. Bayer’s architectural work in the town included co-designing the Aspen Institute and restoring the Wheeler Opera House, but his production of promotional posters identified skiing with wit, excitement, and glamour. Bayer would remain associated with Aspen until the mid-1970s. Bayer gave the Denver Art Museum a collection of around 8,000 of his works.

In 1959, he designed his “fonetik alfabet”, a phonetic alphabet, for English. It was sans-serif and without capital letters. He had special symbols for the endings -ed, -ory, -ing, and -ion, as well as the digraphs “ch”, “sh”, and “ng”. An underline indicated the doubling of a consonant in traditional orthography.

Bayer’s works appear in prominent public and private collections including the MIT List Visual Arts Center.