Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Post War Modernism Nov 16, 2010

Slide 1:
Center of the Art world moves from Paris to New York 
Lenin is hidden in – 2 icons of the 20th Centruy is blended together
Cult of leader with iconic style of Pollock
Struggle between style and image 
Intensity of communis sympathies is important in USA – Pollock himself was a Communist
The works of these artists would become Capitalist from Socialist
This work stages the polarisation of American Abstract Style and Communism in the Soviet Union 

Slide 2: 
As in Europe through the 1930s there were leftist sympathies - Depression 
During the Depression, numerous welfare programs and unions were instituted to get the country back on its feet and to make individuals feel important 
Roosevelt - New Deal  - W.P.A (Works Progress Admin) Govt funded program that got people o work on public projects 
Motto of all working togteher and getting paid as equitably as possible - also had an arts program
Artists would be hired to do public art projects - to make communities feel united - composed of varied styles 
Projects for art that was beyond the visual - even extending to writing grants 
Governt funded arts as a way to cohesively rebuild society 
Over 5000 artists in USA 

Slide 3:
Application process to WPA - evaluated by panel of peers 
Needed to demonstrate financial need for entry 
Recieved assignments based on skills ($25 - 35 a week) 
Would wait in a line-up o get paychecks - converstaions between artists happened here 
Pollock, Rothco - socialist government supported art program of public works 
MAde murals that were large scale and propagandastic in nature 
Diego Rivera is one of the influential figures to these artists - came from a communist mexican muralist background 
This is the kind of work they were interested in 
Frescos inside Detroit Museum of Art 
Called "Detroit Industry" - Home of Chrysler 
important to economy, equality and freedom, to the American pride 
Idea that workers were paid well 
Alongside that are images of mythic figures 

Slide 4:
Other side of the room 
Sense of the monumentality of seasons - kind of timelessness (mythic figures)
Celebration of work and building and workers
The art museum was founded by capital from the car industry
Though they work for Capitalists - workers feel a communist blend 
The idea that people can work together - blend abstraction and realism - blend capitalis mand socialism is thinkable 
Context of USSR: Stalin has a socialist realism decree (1934) to idealize and empower workers and is legible 
is contrast to moments in mdoern art where artists want to make work that is difficult to decipher 
The USA does not have this decree - but WPA does want to make public work that is legible that adheres to the national program 
Through the 1930s there was the creation of the Popular Front
USA, EU and some USSR worked together against Fascism - let to unify Left and critical individuals from these countries 
Increased USA sympathies with Communists 
Intended to overlook differences in order to confront a common enemy
Regionalism and Nationalistic Art was prominent 
Some Isolationist work existed - celebrated N. American values 
Tried to build up images around the American Dream - to a combination of freedom and individualism as a basis for liberal democracy 
Unique american way of life - give people a sense of place and pride - for ordinary people 

Slide 5:
Farm Security Administration (Hired people to document life in the dust bowl) 
Published and circulated in Life 
Created an archive to let city people to understand life in the ocuntry
Parallels to strategy in the USSR
Gritty pohtograph - feel the humanity of these people 
Not in a sypathetic - but empathic way
Sense of pride - under duress - but captured the resolve of the faces 

Slide 6:
most famous photographs of the 20th Century 
Migrant Mother - pulls on heart strings 
sophisticated image 
crop - furrowed brow 
look in her eye - looking for dignity in duress 

Slide 7:
Looking for Dignity in Duress

Slide 8:
Already by the late 1930s Regionalism and Popukar Front were critically attacked 
People started to say this regionalism is artistically regressive - too Socialist Realist - close to Fascist aesthetic 
Popular Front : Disillusionment with Socialism - intensity of Stalin's tenets (purging of intellectuals, socialist realism) 
USA finds Stalin close to Fascism 
Lynchpin of the socialist disillusionment is the Nazi-Soviet pact in 1939 despite initiating the Popular Front 
kind of a peace treaty - though neither party meant it - strategic plan 
Against what USA and EU wanted to believe about the progress that can be ,made by communism 
1939 - SU invades Finland - demonstrates that Stalin is extremely imperialist, expansionist and authoritarianism 
Backlash against the Soviets, moment in which there is a change of seasons (so to speak)
Autumn Rhythm by Pollock - becomes the American style of painting over all else - illustrates ideas bound up with freedom and liberation 
Greenberg 1939 - writes Avant Garde Kitsch - was formerly a supporter of PF - rejects partisam politics altogether - rejects realism  
Calls it "simple and banal" and "for the masses" 
Equates kitsch with mass culture. What does kitsch mean? mass-produced popular culture, decoration, not engaged in the discourse of high art - Art should be difficult - as far away as can be from commercial culture 
Lot of paradoxes in his argument - Artists have socialist leanings, become disillusioned and grapple with this struggle. Question the kind of art people mean - sounds like an anti-socialist position. However, Greenberg also saw it as being anti-capitalist because of its rejection of kitsch. Mass culture is responsible for the deterioration of 'real' art.  Kitsch could be a way of suppressing individual freedom - against american way of life 
Art should not have an agenda other than its own intrinsic values - carve out a space for itself on its own terms - back to autonomy 
His writing was important to the work being bought and shown and circulated in international exhibitions 
Calls for the development of a new American Avant-Garde that is elite - specialized and preserve the best of culture amidst the ideological confusion
Considered it a critical strategy by which ambitious work can escape the political 
Mark his socialist beleifs - protect art until socialsim "arrives" 
Development of the Neo-Avant-Garde : it is a see-saw that goes back and forth between autonomy and engagement 
His concerns found resonance in post-war conditions - Fascism collapses, Communist rises
Shaped by ideological tensions 
1945 - Treaty of Yalka - Soviets give quite a bit of territory to the USA - have a crucial role in the defeat of Axial powers 
USSR is much more depleted as a coutry - 
Being separate, USA develops their coutnry  unlike Europe 
USA has developed the Atomic Bomb - gives a clear ascendancy to the USA 
USA rejects Soviet Alliance - msitrust between 2 countries 
USA gives arms back to sectors in Germany - considered ultimate betrayal by Stalin 
Beginning of Cold War - USA felt powerful and resentful - saw Soviets as imperialist 
Communism and Soviet Union become the enemy and the example of the enemy that will infiltrate and destroy democracy and freedom - polarization 
1947 onwards - Truman elected - every single POTUS has become a champion of freedom and democracy 
Communist Revolution in China increases paranoia of the USA 
1950 Anti-Communism is the offical policy of the USA
CIA is formed and are the gate-keepers of anti-communism and to oversee members of NATO
Marshall plan (1947) - aid program where devastated countries are given American money to rebuild as long as the overseers are American  - moment where the USA is able to establish themselves poltiically under the guise of aid-giving 
1950 Joe McCarthy makes an important address to Congress - Anti-Communism. Beginning of See Something, Say Something. 
Reporting of neighbours - seem like they must be spies - intesne times 
Belief in a dominant theory of communism 
There are a whole series of hearings of Un-American activities 
This is the context in which Abstract Experessionism develops 

Slide 9: 
Borrow from older styles of European art - similar to these movements 
Expressive paitn application, gestural use of paint 
Movement of lines - connection to surrealism
Pollock is interested in Surrealist automotism 
title is important 

Slide 10: 
Movement towards abstraction 
playing with picture plane - foreground and background is indistinguisnhable 
Acceptance of this is shaped by Greenberg and Rosenberg 
sCarve out the 2 dominant modes of looking at this work
Greenberg focuses on formal and technical innovations of the work *(movement towards flatness, all-over composition that may go on forever, painterliness ) 
Rosenberg: Emphasized existential drama of the work 
Both agreed that America was the new center of culture 
This kind of work was seen as an escape from not having to confront beliefs head on because it is a time of anti-Leftist thought 
At the Same time they were appalled by many American thing - how capitalism and mass culture were taking over everyday life - but Un-American to Admit this 
Horror and fear of nuclear war - profound and wide-spread 
Pollocks attempt to think about - in a hidden way - the hidden gulit, fear of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 
Knowledge of horrific things that the USA had done 
Wanting to make innovative work - technologically and formally creative - getting rid of representation altogether 
Greenberg insists that Abstract expressionism is mroe an individualistic expression of anxiety 

Slide 11:
Many works grappled with the crisis of the being a free individual
Being a free individual is anxious - freedom itself is an ethical quarrel as only you are responsible 
Weight of accountability is heavy when you have total freedom
Feelings of alienation is prevalent at the time 
Reminds you of Surrealism - expressed his anixiety
Created a personal myth - tied to his own biography and his own life 
Saw himself as an individual outside everyday society - could not escape a sense of melancholy
Many personal tragedy

Slide 12:
Titles - reflect conflict 
Biographical account of his artwork is not his entire thought 

Slide 13: 
Resenberg would argue that biography is the crux of understanding art 
Completely abstract - not jsut in content - but also in title -
Allusion to 'The Tempest' - about the tragedy of loss in that play
Think of the piece as the ocean - complex, distress, profound
One of the first drip-painting 
1947 marks a change in his career 
Takes canvas - throws it on the ground - loose canvas (action paining)
Uses sticks dipped in commercial, industrial paint and drips it on canvas 
Expression of Pollocks existential angst 

Slide 14:
Scale of Canvas is important - large pieces 
Work that was done on a large scale (murals) was usually meant to indoctrinate people 
His interest in surrealist automatism is apparent - lines 
Interested in dreams and thinking about the experience of life 
Seeks Jungian psycho-analysis 
Jung emphasized indivudalsim and self-knowledge by wrestling with introverted and extroverted layers 
See expression of that in way the work is done 
First people to develop art-therapy 
Freud says "there is no such thing as an accident" 
Everything we do just needs to be deciphered to understand our actions 
Pollock "I deny the accident" different to Duchamp's "indifference" 
States he is in complete control - total mastery of the art - argues that his art is purposeful 
Spontaneity, Expression - see art as a kind of heroic, existential struggle with the creative act

Slide 15: 
de Kooning - Reference ambiguous and mythological way
Never gave up traditional methods of painting 

Slide 16:
Never as abstract as Pollock - continues gesturing in early '50s 
Described by Rosenberg as "action painting" 
Last one sold for $137.5 million (2nd most expensive painting ever sold) 

Slide 17:
JP's wife - turbulent relationship
Was influential on him - interested in similar things as him 
Her canvases get smaller as his get bigger 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Anti-Family Man

Robert Frank

Family of Man was seen by 9 million people. Frank says something else with photography. Sets out on a road trip across America.

Moments of unease, alienation. Only in the USA, only named by place and site. Some families have mroe than others. In opposition to "togetherness" show the imbalances and rascism that underpins social life in the USA. Challenges that people encounter.

Crowd scences are not filled with joy. Looking for the particularity. Not entirely composed in an artful way. Immediate, not reworked in any way. Pictures viewed as a publication. Darker tone to Frank.

Considered a controversial book in USA. Frist printed in France.

Interrogated for being a communist spy. Time filled with suspicion and not togetherness. Realistic view of divisions on society. Not intended to be viewed as single photograph. Meant to be a series. Not perfect - doesnt have a beginning and an end. Frustrating, stunning, confusing.Represent the people who would not be included. Emgree americans write.

American version of 1959 is removed for being "un-American"

The Family of Man 1950s

Becomes the director of photography at MoMa.

The Family of Man Cover - mass accumulation of photograpger. Title says a lot about the humanistic project that Steichen saw himself part of. Cold War and Nuclear Age is going on. Era of McCarthyism. Political and Social tension. Democratic premise that we are all the same.

Family of Man p. 182
"We 2 form a multitude" Different economic social backgrounds, many famous photographers. Not about authorship - mroe about Steichen and his ideological theme.

Act of voting all around the world. Pictures of mothers and children. Things like "we are all born."

Vehicle of cold-war politics under capitalism. This is the way we live. Use a photograph as a means of levelling people. We aree the same through the photograph. People reduced to a photograph are interchangable.

Ripped from youre contexts.

Installation photograph - make us feel warm. touchstones of photography. Social mission of photography. Democracy of the photograph should be questioned. Ethics of photographs - how they can promote a kind of universal. Careful of not losing the particular.

Picture of Atomic Explosion at the end of the exhibition - edited out of exhibition

France Photography

Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Decisive moment is a kind of pre-visualisation different from Steiglitz "proper moment." Considers it his special artistic intuition. Looking for significant moments in ordinary life that surprise us. Instant in which formal spacial relationship of the subject are composed to reveal a special meaning. Acutely aesthetic. Dont compose the scene - you find it.

Place de l'Europe: Man jumping, caught mid-air. Formally composed well.

Gestapo Informer Accused - Shot of a victim of the Nazi's. Woman is pointing out an informant. Capturing of the expression and historical document becomes important. Excitement of winning and exposing perpetrators.

Different subjects with different ideas of meaning. All about a single shot. Not about a manipulation. tHe real photographer has the patience to make these pictures. Described as a detective laying in wait with his camera

France PhotographyN

Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Decisive moment is a kind of pre-visualisation different from Steiglitz "proper moment." Considers it his special artistic intuition. Looking for significant moments in ordinary life that surprise us. Instant in which formal spacial relationship of the subject are composed to reveal a special meaning. Acutely aesthetic. Dont compose the scene - you find it.

Place de l'Europe: Man jumping, caught mid-air. Formally composed well.

Gestapo Informer Accused - Shot of a victim of the Nazi's. Woman is pointing out an informant. Capturing of the expression and historical document becomes important. Excitement of winning and exposing perpetrators.

Different subjects with different ideas of meaning. All about a single shot. Not about a manipulation. tHe real photographer has the patience to make these pictures. Described as a detective laying in wait with his camera

Later photographers

Man Ray

Noir et Blanche - first exhibited in 291, and was inspired by African Art. Experiments with the picture - bulding off something like the pictorialists to the point of taking it apart. Shows us the blowout negative. Considered strange. Associated with surrealists. Taking things that were ordinary and showing us the strangeness of these things. Challenging the ordinariness of the photogrpah

Anatomies - Transformed into something else. Shows the womans head leaning back to show repressed urges. Tilted head looks like a penis head. Experiment with technique and subject matter. Morphing is important. Not so different from Dali's Metamorphosis

Minotaur - Female body turns into monster, interest in myth, title of another surrealist image. Like pictorialism it shares an interest in light

Chance Encounter,.... - 

Portrait of Meret Opperheim - Experiments with sunjects in strange places. Paint across arm that is not shadow. But in contrast to real shadows. Illusions to rela things. Deliberately suggestive - looking for poetic metaphor. Interest in solarization.(light onto -ve)  

Belle Haleine - Fashion photographer. Dopcuments other surrealists - Duchamp's work. Challenge to authorship. 

Rayograph - Experiments of actual objects onto the printing paper as it is developing. Claims that it is "by chance". Surrealist enigma at play 

Rayograph 1925 - What is it? "Throw your camera away if you want to make photographs" It is not the machine and even if you use the machine - it is not the art. Before and after shot is where the art lies. Way of making claims for photography as art

Paul Strand: 

Drawn to Steiglitz ideas and his ideas. Steiglitz becomes mroe experimental - begins to move away from pictorialsim. Tries ot be more modernist. Advises Strand to try and find a way to do photography that connects to cubism or surrealism 

Wall Street : People look like little bugs put against a monumental structure. Not entirely decipherable (connections to cubism and surrealism) Shapes that dominate the composition - emphasis on straight planes and overlapping planes in an effort to reveal a modern tension between man and industry. Alienation

Steiglitz - Equivalen( 1929, 1930)t: Pushes abstraction through close-ups, magnifiying or a crop. Took photograph of the cloud from the ground. Become unrecognizable. Other art is also more abstract. But there is a connection - where is there up or down. Confusion of up and down in abstract art is addressed here. Similar to monochromes. 

Edward Weston 

Worked in Cali as a portrait photographer - was successful - reads about Steiglitz and goes to New York.On his drive across the country he stops in numerous towns and takes pictures that are not pictorial. Uses sharp-focus. 1922, meets Steiglitz and shows his pcitures. 

Combination of sharp photography and pictorialists ideas become his own look. Isolates a subject to its simplified, semi-abstract form. Marks the distinctive break in Abstract. 

Pepper # 30 - Compare to Weston's Nude. Maginified to the point of abstraction. 

Nude: What lies beyond subject and form. Looks for "a kind of life-force". Idea from Bergson. Searching for some pure essence of existence. Heavy task 

Cabbage Leaf - Close to a surrealist image. See parts/fragments as universal symbols that (for him) were interchangable. Symbols of life-force. Reduced subject to their fundamental structure. 

Excusado - Toilet - concept of pre-visualisation. The important moment is before you take the photograph when you visualise what will be on the glass. What qualities and values are you looking for? Tight compositions, exclusion of non-essentials. "Subject matter is not important. Instead what the photographer brings to it" 
By magnifying things finds something elemental in it. "Elegant accessory of human heygine" Toilet echoes lines of body. Even the greeks did not reach this level fo sensuality as we did in modernity. 


Organised by Steiglitz.

 Include Frank Eugene. Printed in Camera Work (until 1917) that is the nest journal he begins. Takes a needle and scratches on the negative. Scratches on Adam's body in Adam and Eve. 

Gertrude Kasebier. 
Atmospheric effect lends mystery to a traditional Mother and Child picture. Simplified subject with a main focal point. 

Going through portraiture and giving it an artistic touch that was not there before. Commercial portraits tried to stay as true to life as possible. Makes it out of focus

Clarence White
Nude - Romantic subject - art that is romantic

Edward Steichen

August Rodin - portrait of the sculpture with his sculpture. Resembles painting but done in a pictoral way in a pictorial space. Reflect 19th Century prepensity for moodiness, meditative fantasies. Fascinated by light. Light was particularly special to light becasue it is the direct translation of the writing of light. 

Moonlight: The Pond: Dark, enigmatic, brooding. Looking for transitions between light and dark. Sums up photo-seccessionists aesthetic. Evoke a mood in order to be suggestive of something beyond visual experience. Something metaphoric.

The Flatiron Building - 1905

Steiglitz creates 291 in NY to promote photography. 

November 4 Lecture

Modern Photography
- used previously in Futurism, Cubism, Constructivism
- Allowed art to follow different goals than mimesis
The invention of photography in 1839 is one of the most pivotal inventions that will change the way visual culture is organised, presented and circulated. It engaged with modern life in a way no other media had. 
Used for portraiture, documentation. Humans are attached to photographs 
Shifting understanding of photography in Modernism and in relation to the concept of art.

Idea of photography as art is a modern art - upon invention was seen as "not art" 
Art used to be restricted to Painting and Sculpture

Resistance to Photography of Art 
- It is a machine - person who snaps a photograph does nothing 
           but some artists thought that this made it art 
- Photography was increasingly democratic 
            more convenient, quicker, more accessible 
            Kodak Eastman - Started in Rochester, signifies the moment when photography is totally democratic 
            Slogan "You Press the Button, We Do the Rest"
           sounds "too easy" to be art 

Walter Benjamin:
- Acknowledgement in 1936 that mass reproduction of imagery that could be circulated would forever change the traditional notion of what art is 
-Works of art had traditionally been precious, unique - this was shattered 
-Democratic impulse of photography - high art is accessible to the masses 
-Thinking about art could be available to everyone 
-Shattering of aura that original works of art had - religious aura 
-Removed from the original context and put into another in the mass media through photographs 
-Challenges notions of uniqueness, originality, authorship, authenticity 
- A political potential to photography through and by virtue of its reproductivity 
-photographs can spread messages 
- Can be used to subvert dominant ideology - Hartman 
-Place for political discourse activated through photographs 

  1. Portrait of Stieglitz: Its mechanical nature made photography and "underdog." Some practitioners tried to make it art. Photographers tried to imitate art to make claims for it as art. American born son of Jewish immigrants. Most adamant advocate for art. Editor of the American Photographer. Promotes the hand-held camera. Stresses importance of development as opposed to taking the picture. Manipulation of negative leads to the artistic result. 
  2. Fountain - Stieglitz
  3. Winter on 5th Ave: Cropped out sides of the negative. Choice is the determinant of art. Uses less than 1/2 of his plate to make photograph. Looking for "proper moment" in his photo. Tried to show weather was not a deterrent. You can make excellent photographs in any weather
  4. Reflections, Night, NY : Also interested in Rain. His reputation regarding photography was built on the fact that he was using an hand-held camera observing moments in real time 
  5. Sunlight and Shadow: Photographed in difficult moments. Called them "snapshots." Quick, in the moment. Its what happens afterward that make it artistic. Trying to break away from idea of photography as nothing but a painted image. Believed that quickness makes the media intrinsic. Looked for the intrinsic qualities of the painting. Although he was a proponent of the hand-held camera. He was opposed to the idea of art as democratic. Only inspired artists can make fine images. In 1869, he changes his journal as Camera Notes (1897 - 1903). These practitioners are writing and sharing their images across channels. Camera Notes was international in scope. Tried to build a discourse on photography on art. Looked for photographers that emphasized his take on photography. It has a certain aesthetic that other media dont. This journal leads to American Pictorial Movement. This was a circle of american photographers who steer clear of topical issues. It is about how a subject is handled. Almost anything can be photographed, but how it was handled. Chief tool was soft focus to evoke a kind of mystery in the picture. Lend something to the subject that it does not inherently possess. Photography's connection to relaity is what made it "not art". Showed simplified compositions - wanted to remove image from its dependence on the real world and tried to constitute it as a separate image. Challenged artistis to not imitate art and construct visual models specific to the camera. Wanted to create an exhibition specific to photgraphy to show post-camera, tonal values, play between light and shadow. Showed that photography was as legitimate as painting but did not have to imitate it. He realised that camera clubs are not the way to go. Becasue they popularise it. He solicits other photographers and organise themselves as the Photo-Sessecvitionists.