William Baziotes – Abstract Expressionist

William Baziotes, was born in Pittsburgh June 11th, 1912.  His parents were Greek.  From 1931 to 1933 he worked at Case Glass company in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he was painting glass and running general errands.  He attended evening sketch classes and it was here that he met his lifelong friend Byron Vazakas, who was a poet.  Vazakas introduced Baziotes to the Symbolist poets and to Charles Baudelaire.  It was in 1931 that Baziotes saw the Henri Matisse exhibition at MoMA in New York and decided to move to New York to study painting. 

 

In 1936 Baziotes exhibited for the first time in a group showing at the Municipal Art gallery in New York and gained employment for the WPA as an art teacher at the Queens Museum. He met the Surrealist émigrés in New York in the late 1930s and early 1940s, and by 1940 knew Jimmy Ernst, Matta, and Gordon Onslow-Ford. He began to experiment with Surrealist automatism at this time. In 1941, Matta introduced Baziotes to Robert Motherwell, with whom he formed a close friendship. André Masson invited Baziotes to participate with Motherwell, David Hare, and others in the 1942 exhibition First Papers of Surrealism at the Whitelaw Reid Mansion in New York. In 1943, he took part in two group shows at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century, New York, where his first solo exhibition was held the following year. With Hare, Motherwell, and Mark Rothko, Baziotes founded the Subjects of the Artist school in New York in 1948. Over the next decade, Baziotes held a number of teaching positions in New York: at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and at New York University from 1949 to 1952; at the People’s Art Center, the Museum of Modern Art, from 1950 to 1952; and at Hunter College from 1952 to 1962. Baziotes died in New York on June 6, 1963. A memorial exhibition of his work was presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1965.

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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

Nicolas de Staël – January 5th, 1914

Nicolas de Staël was born on January 5, 1914 in the family of a Russian Lieutenant General, Baron Vladimir Stael von Holstein, (a member of the Staël von Holstein family, and the last Commandant of the Peter and Paul Fortress) and his wife, Olga Sakhanskaya. De Staël’s family was forced to emigrate to Poland in 1919 because of the Russian Revolution. Both, his father and stepmother, would die in Poland and the orphaned Nicolas de Staël would be sent with his older sister Marina to Brussels to live with a Russian family (1922).


Figure by the Sea

He eventually studied art at the Brussels Académie royale des beaux-arts (1932). In the 1930s, he traveled throughout Europe, lived in Paris (1934) and in Morocco (1936) (where he first met his companion Jeannine Guillou, also a painter and who would appear in some of his paintings from 1941-1942) and Algeria. In 1936 he had his first exhibition of Byzantine style icons and watercolors at the Galerie Dietrich et Cie, Brussels. He joined the French Foreign Legion in 1939 and was demobilized in 1941. Sometime in 1940 he met one of his future dealers Jeanne Bucher.

In 1941, he moved to Nice where he met Jean Arp, Sonia Delaunay and Robert Delaunay, and these artists would inspire his first abstract paintings, or “Compositions”. In 1942, Jeannine and Nicolas de Staël’s first child, Anne was born. The growing family also included Jeannine’s nine year old son Antoine. In 1943 (during the Nazi occupation), de Staël returned to Paris with Jeannine, but the war years were extremely difficult. During the war his paintings were included in several group exhibitions and in 1944 he had his first one-man exhibition at the Galerie l’Esquisse. In April 1945 he had a one-man exhibition at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher and in May 1945 his paintings were included in the first Salon de Mai. De Staël’s work was also included in the Salon d’Automne that year. In Paris in 1944 he met and befriended Georges Braque, and by 1945 his exhibition’s brought him critical fame. However times were so difficult, and success’s came too late as Jeannine died in February 1946, from illness brought on by malnutrition.

Blue Reclining Nude

De Staël met Francoise Chapouton in the spring of 1946, and they married in May. In October 1946 thanks to his friendship with artist André Lanskoy (whom he met in 1944) de Staël made a contract with Louis Carré who agreed to buy all the paintings that he produced. By January 1947 the de Staël family moved into larger quarters thanks to increased recognition and increased sales. In 1947 he befriended his neighbor American private art dealer Theodore Schempp. De Stael’s new studio in Paris was very close to Georges Braque’s and the two painters became very close friends. In April 1947 his second daughter Laurence was born. In April 1948 his son Jerome was born, also that same year in Paris he began a long friendship with German artist Johnny Friedlaender. His paintings began to attract attention worldwide. In 1950 he had a one-man exhibition at the Galerie Jacques Dubourg in Paris and Schempp introduced de Stael’s paintings to New York, with a private exhibition at his Upper East Side apartment. He sold several paintings to important collectors including Duncan Phillips of the Phillips Collection. He had considerable success in the United States, and England in the early 1950s. In 1950 Leo Castelli organized a group exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York City that included him. In 1952 He had one-man exhibitions in London, Montevideo, and in Paris. In March 1953 he had his first official one-man exhibition at M. Knoedler & Co. in New York City. The show was both a commercial and critical success. In 1953 he had an exhibition at the Phillips Gallery in Washington DC, (known today as The Phillips Collection in Washington DC) and they acquired two more of his canvasses. Visiting the United States in 1953 de Staël and Francoise visited MoMA, the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania and various other important institutions.

After returning to Paris, de Staël met visiting New York art dealer Paul Rosenberg who offered de Staël an exclusive contract. De Staël signed with Paul Rosenberg partially because Rosenberg was French and because he was an important New York art dealer who showed many Cubist painters whom Nicolas de Staël admired. By the end of 1953 the demand for de Staël’s paintings was so great that Paul Rosenberg raised his prices and continually requested more paintings. The demand was so high for his planned spring 1954 exhibition, that Rosenberg requested an additional fifteen paintings. Once again this exhibition was both commercially and critically successful. In April 1954 de Staël’s fourth child Gustave was born. In that spring he had a successful exhibition in Paris at Jacques Dubourg’s gallery. His new paintings marked his departure from abstraction and a return to figuration, still-life and landscape.

The Shelf

But by 1953, de Staël’s depression led him to seek isolation in the south of France (eventually in Antibes). He suffered from exhaustion, insomnia and depression. In the wake of a disappointing meeting with a disparaging art critic on March 16, 1955 he committed suicide. He leapt to his death from his eleventh story studio terrace, in Antibes. He was 41 years old.

Ressentiment

Source:ART in the PICTURE .com

Harvard gets Barnett Newman cache

The Centre for the Technical Study of Modern Art, a research division of the Harvard University Art Museums, has been given Barnett Newman’s studio materials and related ephemera.

The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation donated the materials to assist scholars in the collection, study and conservation of Newman’s paintings. The gift complements the University’s existing archive of Newman’s correspondence and works of art previously donated by his wife Annalee.

A leading member of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Newman’s monochromatic paintings, marked by single vertical bands which he called “zips”, have proven difficult to restore. In 1977 a team of conservators investigated Newman’s materials and painting techniques after a visitor to the Stedelijk Museum made five large slashes in the canvas of Cathedra (1951).

The gift, which includes discarded paint trials, notes, unpublished sketches, and cardboard models of his best-known sculpture, Broken Obelisk (1963), gives researchers technical information about the artist’s studio practice.

Jackson Pollock – Before Blue Poles


Jackson Pollock 'Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952' 1952enamel and aluminium paint with glass on canvas, Collection of the National Gallery of Australia © Jackson Pollock, 1952/ARS. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney 2002 Jackson PollockBlue Poles: Number 11, 1952′ enamel and aluminium paint with glass on canvas, Collection of the National Gallery of Australia © Jackson Pollock, 1952/ARS. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney 2002 

The abstract paintings of the American artist Jackson Pollock (1912–1956) are among the highest achievements of 20th-century art. During an unparalleled period of creativity from the late 1940s to the early 50s, Pollock abandoned the conventional tools and methods of the painter, putting aside brushes, artist’s paint and traditional composition, and poured and flung house paint directly onto large canvases placed on the floor. Inspired by the work of earlier modern artists that he admired such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, Pollock’s painting has had an enormous impact on contemporary art up to the present day.

Pollock’s life story is no less startling than his art. From humble beginnings in a family of Wyoming farmers, he struggled for years to overcome an apparent lack of natural talent before his rise to artistic stardom in the New York art world. Pollock’s fame – fuelled by articles in the popular press such as Life magazine which in 1949 posed the question ‘Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?’ – was followed by a slide into alcoholism and depression, and a concomitant decline in output. His death in a car accident at the age of 44 has prompted comparisons to other short-lived American icons, such as Charlie Parker and James Dean.

Within the life and work of this extraordinary artist, the National Gallery of Australia’s Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952 occupies a special place. Pollock’s last monumental abstract painting, Blue Poles is the final instalment in a series of works which have changed the course of modern art. The controversy, however, that followed the work’s purchase for 1.3 million Australian dollars – a record price at the time both here and in the United States – and the subsequent claims that the work began as a drunken collaboration between Pollock and other artists, have made it difficult to see the picture through the journalistic hype. The time is ripe for a re-evaluation of Blue Poles.

The focus exhibition Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, at the Gallery from 4 October 2002 until 27 January 2003, commemorates the painting’s 50th anniversary, and explores the meaning of Blue Poles by placing it within the broader development of the artist’s work. Paintings, drawings and prints by Pollock from the Gallery’s collection will be displayed alongside a selection of his works borrowed from American and European museums. Representing key moments in the artist’s career, the exhibition will trace the evolution of Pollock’s style from the early figurative work of the 1930s to the abstract ‘drip’ paintings of the 50s, leading to a fuller understanding of the genesis of Blue Poles.

Jackson Pollock painting, Summer 1950, photo: Hans Namuth Jackson Pollock painting, Summer 1950 photo: Hans Namuth

The turning point in Pollock’s career was the mid-1940s. Two significant events occurred in 1945: his marriage to fellow artist Lee Krasner and their move to a house in the countryside in East Hampton. It was in the studio that they set up in the barn that Pollock first began pouring paint, either straight out of the can or with sticks and hardened brushes, directly onto a canvas placed on the floor. In an interview he justified his unusual method of painting by saying that ‘the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture’. 1. Pollock felt that his painting technique reflected not only the ‘inner world’ of the unconscious but also the cultural experience of the time he was living in. 2 Unexpectedly, to express these things, he felt compelled to move away from figurative art. As he remarked in 1949: ‘I try to stay away from any recognisable image; if it creeps in, I try to do away with it . . . to let the painting come through. I don’t let the image carry the painting . . . It’s extra cargo and unnecessary.’ 3. It was important that the meaning of the art work should not be carried by any recognisable image, as this was something extraneous to the medium of painting itself: ‘Experience of our age in terms of painting – not an illustration of but the equivalent: concentrated, fluid.’ 4. To express the modern age, painting would have to be equal to that age – not to illustrate it through an image but to participate in the intensity and fluidity of modern society through the very manner in which the painting was produced.

Although Pollock rejected many of the traditional methods of artistic control over his painting, preferring to pour, dribble, fling and pool paint onto the canvas, the effect is often staggering and incredibly beautiful. In the ‘classic’ pictures of the period 1947–50, such as One: Number 31, 1950 the black, white, brown, and blue-green arcs of flung paint on unprimed canvas seem to cartwheel before the viewer’s eyes in a majestic dance of colour. Neither a nihilistic statement nor a ‘paint pot flung in the public’s face,’ Pollock used the effects of gravity, liquidity of materials, and the collisions between paint and canvas to show the viewer how oil paint behaves when it is pooled, what enamel looks like when it is thrown onto different kinds of surfaces – either dry paint, wet paint or unprimed canvas. Similarly, in his smaller scale enamel on paper works, such as Number 12, 1949 we are directly confronted by the vivid, shiny physicality of the enamel, as well as the extraordinary effects of puckering, marbling, puddling and interlacing of paint in all its raw beauty. In other words, he allowed the materials to speak their own language. As the traces of gravity, liquidity, and fortuitous occurrences appear to have taken place with a minimum intervention of the artist, the painting has what Pollock claimed it should: ‘a life of its own.’ 5.

At the same time, as the art historian Meyer Schapiro has pointed out, dripping is one of the painterly techniques of ‘handling, processing, surfacing, which confer to the utmost degree the aspect of the freely made’.  6. Pollock signalled through his liberated use of materials that he was free of constraints on his own individuality, artistic or societal. He was liberated to the extent of not entirely planning in advance what he was going to do. His works were not based on preliminary studies: ‘I don’t work from drawings, I don’t make sketches and drawings and color sketches into a final painting.’ Moreover, as he commented ‘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.’  7. In other words, he freed himself from his own pre-conceptions of what would happen on the canvas, giving free rein to the physical body and its performance ‘in’ the painting. By working in large scale and by placing the canvas on the floor, Pollock allowed his full body movement to be engaged. We read the grand, sweeping lines of flung paint in One: Number 31, 1950 not as the result of a rationally driven, artistic ordering process but rather as evidence of the physical arc of the arm as it swings across the canvas. This focus on the physical, combined with the often-published photographs by Hans Namuth of the artist at work has been instrumental in the notion of Pollock as the ‘action painter’, an artist more concerned with the authenticity of the physical act of painting than with the measured consideration of the how the act should be performed.

Jackson Pollock 'Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952' 1952enamel and aluminium paint with glass on canvas, Collection of the National Gallery of Australia © Jackson Pollock, 1952/ARS. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney 2002 detail: Jackson PollockBlue Poles: Number 11, 1952′ 1952enamel and aluminium paint with glass on canvas, Collection of the National Gallery of Australia © Jackson Pollock, 1952/ARS. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney 2002 

Nevertheless, as Pollock himself insisted, he did carefully orchestrate his actions in such a way as to ‘deny the accident’.  8. The delicate tracings of splashed, dribbled and flowing pigment actually attest to the control that Pollock had over his materials, demonstrating that part of the artist’s intention was to exploit accident while managing his performance with extraordinary dexterity. As Frank O’Hara once wrote about Pollock’s painting:

There has never been enough said about Pollock’s draftsmanship, that amazing ability to quicken a line by thinning it, to slow it by flooding, to elaborate that simplest of elements, the line – to change, to reinvigorate, to extend, to build up an embarrassment of riches in the mass by drawing alone. 9.

It is for this reason that the paintings are so compelling, because in Pollock’s work we have the feeling of order wrested out of disorder. Giving in to the nature of the materials and the forces of gravity, and giving free rein to the human desire to burst all constraints, Pollock’s paintings were able to embody a recurrent theme in contemporary America, that of modern man as ‘the helpless prey of forces both within and without himself’. At the same time, by exhibiting his technical finesse in the management of these forces, Pollock achieved a victory in the face of what could only seem impossible odds.  10.

Another important element of Pollock’s technique is the ‘all-over’ composition. When we look at the classic paintings and our eye roves over the surface looking for some way of making sense of the picture, we realise that it is not easy to identify discrete areas of the canvas that can be differentiated visually. As the critic Clement Greenberg argued, the all-over composition, in which the traditional distinction between figure and ground is all but obliterated, responds to a modern feeling that ‘all hierarchical distinctions have been exhausted, that no area or order of experience is either intrinsically or relatively superior to any other’.  11. Rather than imposing hierarchy onto our experience of the painting, Pollock asks the viewer to choose his or her own points of interest. As Pollock insisted, the viewer ‘should not look for, but look passively – and try to receive what the painting has to offer’.  12. To look for, to bring a pre-conceived idea to the painting, would interfere with the experience of being in front of the work.

Crucial to understanding the 1952 painting Blue Poles is the knowledge that it is a late work in which Pollock re-assessed his drip style in the classic pictures of 1947–50. In many respects, the approach in Blue Poles is similar to his earlier works such as One: Number 31, 1950; the painting is built up with successive layers of dripped and poured paint evenly dispersed across the canvas. However, it also differs in a number of important respects, not least of which are the strong vertical elements of the ‘poles’. As the exhibition Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles demonstrates, this departure was both a reprise of a recurrent motif in Pollock’s work and a self-conscious re-evaluation of the painting technique for which he was famous.


Notes
1Interview with William Wright (1950). Reprinted in Jackson Pollock: Interviews, Articles, Reviews, New York: MoMA, 1999, p. 20, hereafter referred to as IAR.
2ibid., p. 21.
3Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga, New York: Clarkson N Potter, 1989, p. 591.
4Jackson Pollock, handwritten statement (1950), in IAR, p. 24.
5‘My Painting’ in Possiblities 1 (1947–1948). Reprinted in IAR, p.18.
6Meyer Schapiro, ‘Recent Abstract Painting (The Liberating Quality of Avant-Garde Art, 1957)’ in Modern Art: 19th and 20th Centuries, Selected Papers, New York: George Braziller, 1978, p.218.
7Interview with William Wright; ‘My Painting’ in IAR pp. 22, 18.
8Interview with William Wright, IAR, p.22.
9Frank O’Hara, Jackson Pollock, New York: George Braziller, 1959, p. 26.
10See the discussion in Michael Leja, Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993, p.278.
11Clement Greenberg, ‘The Crisis of the Easel Picture’, Partisan Review, April 1948. Reprinted in John O’Brien (ed.) Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986, p. 224.