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 

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