Donald Judd

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-judd-donald.htm

Donald Judd was an American artist, whose rejection of both traditional painting and sculpture led him to a conception of art built upon the idea of the object as it exists in the environment. Judd’s works belong to the Minimalist movement, whose goal was to rid art of the Abstract Expressionists‘ reliance on the self-referential trace of the painter in order to form pieces that were free from emotion. To accomplish this task, artists such as Judd created works comprising of single or repeated geometric forms produced from industrialized, machine-made materials that eschewed the artist’s touch. Judd’s geometric and modular creations have often been criticized for a seeming lack of content; it is this simplicity, however, that calls into question the nature of art and that posits Minimalist sculpture as an object of contemplation, one whose literal and insistent presence informs the process of beholding.

Key Ideas

  • Judd’s goal was to make objects that stood on their own as part of an expanded field of image making and that did not allude to anything beyond their own physical presence. As a result, his work, along with that of other Minimalist artists, is often called literalist.
  • Unlike traditional sculpture, which was placed upon a plinth, thus setting it apart as a work of art, Judd’s works stand directly on the floor and as a result, force the viewer to confront them according to their own, material existence.
  • Judd combined the use of highly finished, industrialized materials, such as iron, steel, plastic, and Plexiglas – techniques and methods associated with the Bauhaus School – to give his works an impersonal, factory aesthetic. This served to separate his pieces from those of the Abstract Expressionists, whose emphasis on the artist’s touch gave their images a confessional, personal context.
  • Judd often presented his work in a serialized manner, a strategy that related to the reality of postwar, consumer culture as well as to the standardization and de-subjectifying nature of identical, multiple forms or systems. The multiple was another way to reinforce their materiality. This method was also seen as a part of a more general tendency toward the democratization of art, that is, to make art more accessible to more people, because it was composed of fabricated parts.

My thoughts:

I love the simplicity of Judd’s work, having looked at his paintings, sculptures and architectural work and finding inspiration from minimalistic lines and shapes, just as I did from the artists I have previously looked at. It’s not only the shape, but also his chosen colours as he seems to work in blocks, keeping colours separated avoiding any sort of complexity. I feel that this links in well with artists such as Mondrian and Doesburg who worked quite similarly, particularly Doesburg with him being behind Café Aubette. I really do find a lot of inspiration from minimalism and simplistic works, having completed projects based on Baroque and Rococo in the past, and feel that this project could be used for me to explore something a little bit different to what I have done before.

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Donald Judd

Jackson Pollock

 

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-pollock-jackson.htm

Zeichnung in Tropftechnik, 1960
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), 1950

In its edition of August 8th, 1949, Life magazine ran a feature article about Jackson Pollock that bore this question in the headline: “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” Could a painter who flung paint at canvases with a stick, who poured and hurled it to create roiling vortexes of color and line, possibly be considered “great”? New York’s critics certainly thought so, and Pollock’s pre-eminence among the Abstract Expressionists has endured, cemented by the legend of his alcoholism and his early death. The famous ‘drip paintings’ that he began to produce in the late 1940s represent one of the most original bodies of work of the century. At times they could suggest the life-force in nature itself, at others they could evoke man’s entrapment – in the body, in the anxious mind, and in the newly frightening modern world.

Key Ideas

  • Pollock’s tough and unsettled early life growing up in the American West shaped him into the bullish character he would become. Later, a series of influences came together to guide Pollock to his mature style: years spent painting realist murals in the 1930s showed him the power of painting on a large scale; Surrealism suggested ways to describe the unconscious; and Cubism guided his understanding of picture space.
  • In 1939, Pollock began visiting a Jungian analyst to treat his alcoholism, and his analyst encouraged him to create drawings. These would later feed his paintings, and they shaped Pollock’s understanding of his pictures not only as outpourings of his own mind, but expressions that might stand for the terror of all modern humanity living in the shadow of nuclear war.
  • Pollock’s greatness lies in developing one of the most radical abstract styles in the history of modern art, detaching line from color, redefining the categories of drawing and painting, and finding new means to describe pictorial space.

My thoughts:

Jackson Pollock is another artist that I have looked at who seems to condense art and ideas to a very minimal form, yet can still be seen to represent themes within humanity. His art can also be representative of his life, with some of his paintings being extremely overloaded with marks, and others being left very early on with minimal markings and a lot of blank space. I love how his works can show his thought processes at the time, which is something I have brushed upon in previous work as part of “drawing week”. I really do like the idea of art having a personality, which I feel Pollock’s does, but even more so the idea of stripping themes back to their utter most basic form.

Jackson Pollock

Frank Stella (Abstraction)

http://www.toledomuseum.org/2013/06/27/tma-purchases-two-works-by-frank-stella/

Frank Stella “La penna di hu”. Etched magnesium, aluminium and fiberglass, 1987-2009.

The Toledo Museum of Art has expanded its holdings of post-World War II American abstract art by acquiring two works by Frank Stella (born 1936), Conway I and La penna di hu.

Director Brian Kennedy said these works not only enlarge the Museum’s abstract art collection but also enhance its initiatives in teaching visual literacy. “Stella’s clear emphasis on certain visual elements and principles—in his own words, ‘line, plane, volume and point, within space’ supports our efforts to give visitors a more enriching visual experience.”

La penna di hu is a keynote work for Stella, the culmination of his more than two decades spent exploring formal combinations of various shapes. It is a sculpture uniquely suited to the most fundamental terms of visual analysis because of its varying degrees of translucency and transparency and its variety of intersecting or otherwise interacting shapes.

Not unlike an unfurled peacock tail, the work is brightly colored, dazzling, active and aptly named. Translated into English, the title means “The Peacock Feather” and is named for an Italian folktale that reminds us of the artist’s ancestry in Sicily.

My thoughts:

After looking at Stella’s minimalism work and his black paintings, I also looked at his abstraction work to see the contrast between two different styles. Even though his abstract pieces contain vivid colours and a lot more shape than the linework of his black paintings, I do think that to a certain extent they can still link in with minimalism, as the shapes and colours are still relatively basic. I really like how similar to Mondrian, Stella’s work tells a story in a minimalistic form, which appeals more to me than a detailed paintings as I prefer art that is open for interpretation, which Stella’s work is.

Frank Stella (Abstraction)

Frank Stella

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-stella-frank.htm

The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II (1959)

In 1959, Frank Stella gained early, immediate recognition with his series of coolly impersonal black striped paintings that turned the gestural brushwork and existential angst of Abstract Expressionism on its head. Focusing on the formal elements of art-making, Stella went on to create increasingly complicated work that seemed to follow a natural progression of dynamism, tactility, and scale: first, by expanding his initial monochrome palette to bright colors, and, later, moving painting into the third dimension through the incorporation of other, non-painterly elements onto the canvas. He ultimately went on to create large-scale freestanding sculptures, architectural structures, and the most complex work ever realized in the medium of printmaking. Stella’s virtually relentless experimentation has made him a key figure in American modernism, helping give rise to such developments as Minimalism, Post-Painterly Abstraction, and Color Field painting.

Key Ideas

  • A decisive departure from Abstract Expressionism, Stella’s Black Paintings series consists of precisely delineated parallel black stripes produced by smoothly applied house paint. The striped pattern serves as a regulating system that, in Stella’s words, forced “illusionistic space out of the painting at a constant rate.” This device was intended to emphasize the flatness of the canvas and prompt the viewer’s awareness of painting as a two-dimensional surface covered with paint – thereby overturning the notion of painting as window onto three-dimensional space that emerged in the Renaissance and dominated the medium for many centuries thereafter.
  • Created according to a predetermined, circumscribed system imposed by the artist, the Black Paintings served as an important catalyst for Minimalist art of the 1960s. Similar to Stella’s parallel stripes and smooth handling of paint, Minimalist artists created abstract works characterized by the use of repeated geometric, industrial-appearing shapes stripped of all thematic or emotional content.
  • Stella was an early practitioner of nonrepresentational painting, rather than artwork alluding to underlying meanings, emotions, or narratives, and has remained one to this day. Working according to the principle of “line, plane, volume, and point, within space,” Stella focuses on the basic elements of an artwork – color, shape, and composition. Over time, Stella succeeded in dismantling the devices of three-dimensional illusionism; his shaped canvases underscored the “object-like” nature of a painting, while his asymmetrical Irregular Polygons explored the tension between the arrangement of colors on the flat surface of the canvas as well as the optical effect of the advancing and receding forms.
  • Baroque artists such as the early-seventeenth-century Italian painter Caravaggio developed illusionistic “tricks” that convincingly suggested that their subjects emerged out of the canvas and into the space of the viewer. Several centuries later, Stella took such innovations one step further by literally extending painting into the third dimension in his painterly reliefs, which entered the viewer’s space with their incorporation of protruding materials.
Frank Stella

Marcel Duchamp

https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/dada/marcel-duchamp-and-the-readymade

Marcel Duchamp. Bicycle Wheel. New York, 1951 (third version, after lost original of 1913)

Marcel Duchamp was a pioneer of Dada, a movement that questioned long-held assumptions about what art should be, and how it should be made. In the years immediately preceding World War I, Duchamp found success as a painter in Paris. But he soon gave up painting almost entirely, explaining, “I was interested in ideas—not merely in visual products.”

Seeking an alternative to representing objects in paint, Duchamp began presenting objects themselves as art. He selected mass-produced, commercially available, often utilitarian objects, designating them as art and giving them titles. “Readymades,” as he called them, disrupted centuries of thinking about the artist’s role as a skilled creator of original handmade objects. Instead, Duchamp argued, “An ordinary object [could be] elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.”

The readymade also defied the notion that art must be beautiful. Duchamp claimed to have chosen everyday objects “based on a reaction of visual indifference, with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste.”In doing so, Duchamp paved the way for Conceptual art—work that was “in the service of the mind,” as opposed to a purely “retinal” art, intended only to please the eye.

My thoughts:

I feel that Duchamp can link in really well with Minimalism as his idea of “art” is so simplistic by presenting objects in their original, exact form. I think that this is a really interesting way of questioning art, but also how it can make us as viewers look at something so everyday as something completely different. Another example of Duchamp’s work is his “Fountain” instillation, which consisted of him simply presenting a urinal, which was at first rejected as being art and is still considered to be a controversial piece. I find it quite fascinating that something as simple as a urinal can provoke so much thought, and feel as though even if it is disregarded as art for its form, there is something extremely artistic about the reaction and debate it leads to.

Marcel Duchamp

Dada

http://www.theartstory.org/movement-dada.htm

Dada was an artistic and literary movement that began in Zürich, Switzerland. It arose as a reaction to World War I and the nationalism that many thought had led to the war. Influenced by other avant-garde movements – Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Expressionism – its output was wildly diverse, ranging from performance art to poetry, photography, sculpture, painting, and collage. Dada’s aesthetic, marked by its mockery of materialistic and nationalistic attitudes, proved a powerful influence on artists in many cities, including Berlin, Hanover, Paris, New York, and Cologne, all of which generated their own groups. The movement dissipated with the establishment of Surrealism.

Key Ideas:

  • Dada was the first conceptual art movement where the focus of the artists was not on crafting aesthetically pleasing objects but on making works that often upended bourgeois sensibilities and that generated difficult questions about society, the role of the artist, and the purpose of art.
  • So intent were members of Dada on opposing all norms of bourgeois culture that the group was barely in favor of itself: “Dada is anti-Dada,” they often cried. The group’s founding in the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich was appropriate: the Cabaret was named after the eighteenth century French satirist, Voltaire, whose novella Candide mocked the idiocies of his society. As Hugo Ball, one of the founders of both the Cabaret and Dada wrote, “This is our Candide against the times.”
  • Artists like Hans Arp were intent on incorporating chance into the creation of works of art. This went against all norms of traditional art production whereby a work was meticulously planned and completed. The introduction of chance was a way for Dadaists to challenge artistic norms and to question the role of the artist in the artistic process.
  • Dada artists are known for their use of readymade objects – everyday objects that could be bought and presented as art with little manipulation by the artist. The use of the readymade forced questions about artistic creativity and the very definition of art and its purpose in society.
Dada

Bauhaus

http://www.theartstory.org/movement-bauhaus.htm

The Bauhaus was the most influential modernist art school of the 20th century, one whose approach to teaching, and understanding art’s relationship to society and technology, had a major impact both in Europe and the United States long after it closed. It was shaped by the 19th and early 20th centuries trends such as Arts and Crafts movement, which had sought to level the distinction between fine and applied arts, and to reunite creativity and manufacturing. This is reflected in the romantic medievalism of the school’s early years, in which it pictured itself as a kind of medieval crafts guild. But in the mid 1920s the medievalism gave way to a stress on uniting art and industrial design, and it was this which ultimately proved to be its most original and important achievement. The school is also renowned for its faculty, which included artists Wassily Kandinsky, Josef Albers, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee and Johannes Itten, architects Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and designer Marcel Breuer.

Key Ideas:

  • The motivations behind the creation of the Bauhaus lay in the 19th century, in anxieties about the soullessness of manufacturing and its products, and in fears about art’s loss of purpose in society. Creativity and manufacturing were drifting apart, and the Bauhaus aimed to unite them once again, rejuvenating design for everyday life.
  • Although the Bauhaus abandoned much of the ethos of the old academic tradition of fine art education, it maintained a stress on intellectual and theoretical pursuits, and linked these to an emphasis on practical skills, crafts and techniques that was more reminiscent of the medieval guild system. Fine art and craft were brought together with the goal of problem solving for a modern industrial society. In so doing, the Bauhaus effectively leveled the old hierarchy of the arts, placing crafts on par with fine arts such as sculpture and painting, and paving the way for many of the ideas that have inspired artists in the late 20th century.
  • The stress on experiment and problem solving at the Bauhaus has proved enormously influential for the approaches to education in the arts. It has led to the ‘fine arts’ being rethought as the ‘visual arts’, and art considered less as an adjunct of the humanities, like literature or history, and more as a kind of research science.

 

Bauhaus building in Dessau, Germany (1919-1925)

Artist: Walter Gropius

Gropius’s complex for the Bauhaus at Dessau has come to be seen as a landmark in modern, functionalist design. Although the design seems strongly unified from above, each element is clearly divided from the next, and on the ground it unfolds a wonderful succession of changing perspectives. The building consists of an asphalt tiled roof, steel framework, and reinforced concrete bricks to reduce noise and protect against the weather. In addition, a glass curtain wall – a feature that would come to be typical of modernist architecture – allows in ample quantities of light. Gropius created three wings that were arranged asymmetrically to connect different workshops and dormitories within the school. The asymmetry expressed the school’s functionalist approach and yet retained an elegance that showed how beauty and practicality could be combined.

Bauhaus