28 June, 2007

Color Field Painting

Untitled: Red, Gray, Violet
5.5" x 4"
Original Pastel
June 20, 2007
Casey Klahn

This is one of my recent Rothko responses. I did another two this morning (photos are pending).

Let me share the following quote from our author:
"Art therefore is a generalization. The use of the plastic elements (editor: the artist's tools) to any other ends, which are most usually particularizations and descriptions of appearances, or which serve the stimulation of separate senses, are not in the category of art and must be classified in the category of the applied arts." Mark Rothko
Rothko indicates that abstraction is the ultimate end "type" of art, which is a main theme in Abstract Expressionism. Obviously, art has moved on from then (the Forties and Fifties through roughly the early Seventies), and artists are producing realist work again. We'll get into DeKooning later, who had to explain to his peerage why he went back to the figure instead of pure non-figurative abstraction. Link here to Wiki on abstraction, and here to ArtLex definition, which you must scroll or page to under the letter "a".

Anytime you say that "thus and such" is the last word on something, you get into trouble. I don't blame the AEs for looking for the ultimate definition of art, since the urge to be your best is what takes even artists to the top of their field. Certainly that happened for this group of American painters in the post-war years.

And, since they insisted on being "of the age", they did feel apocalyptic overtones to their time. Think: Atom Bomb. Pollock brought that up in a famous quote, and the times also were influenced by the overwhelming and then-present effects of the Second World War. Of course they needed an end-all art, since maybe they were in an end time.

But, when you get over the apocalyptic hump, you return to the studio and make some art. Will it be realist, or abstract? There are shades of each, and abstraction can be at the level of the idea, not just the subject or style of a painting. Today we live in a post-abstract world, where new things have to be created for art to flourish. Is there something new for abstractionists to say? I think so. What about realists. Of course there are new things to say!

William Lehman has a good brief on the whole mess at his post: Design VS Art.



Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post Casey! Today we live in a post-abstract world. Yes we do and I find that abstracts have wonderful meanings! I went to visit a friends blog today and she made a comment on how a painting that she did in 2005 now has a different meaning to her. I think that's wayyyy kewl don't you Casey? It's amazing the meanings that can be found in abstracts. :) Thank you for posting this. :)

Casey Klahn said...

You probably mean Corrine at Jafabrit. It is an interesting look into the artist's "head", so to speak!
I deny the truth of different meanings, though. Maybe we can peel back the onion and understand the meaning of something, but I don't follow the concept of two different meanings. Rothko felt that logic was critical for artists.

Anonymous said...

I like this one! Especially the violet in the background and the dusting of red across the top.

tlwest said...

may be thats whats wrong with me I dont have a drop of vulcan blood in me -- errr logical that is....

Casey Klahn said...

You don't fool me, Terri.
Thanks, Meg!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting Casey...so your saying that you don't believe that our understanding and view of things grow on a daily basis? When a paintings has more then one meaning, it just means that the artist has grown to learn more from painting and life. I would think..that's just me though. :)

Casey Klahn said...

Logic says that "a" cannot be both "a" and "b" at the same time and place and in the same way.
Which sounds like a sentence that has very little to do with art!
But, what I mean is that an artist's "meaning" for a painting, or their idea, is one thing. Now, perceiving that meaning is another thing.
Even the artist may be not fully aware of what they were thinking. Maybe they were in the subconscious mode - never really clearly thinking at all. Sometimes the "automatic" paining can be great, but I wonder myself how many subconscious ideas an artist can put in one painting and have it still succeed. (We're not talking about Corrine's skull painting, but in general)

Philip said...

So what does a 'Casey' abstract look like - do you have something off the wall to show us perhaps?

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion. It made me wonder - does the artist's idea or intention for a painting mean anything to anyone but the artist? You might measure the success of a painting in the number of viewers who get the same meaning from it that you do. Or, you could measure success by how much the viewers get out of a painting, making the experience their own (and probably unique).

Since I've only ever done a couple abstracts, I'm not sure. I know I liked how everyone interpreted it differently. I still don't know how I'd interpret it; the subconscious meaning hasn't made itself known to me yet.

Casey Klahn said...

Philip-Because I want to present a unified corpus, I'm going to avoid posting them as a group. But, I did go back and add a "tag" called "My Abstracts" if viewers want to see my few abstracts. Thanks for asking.
Meg-I don't know how to measure success in this context. That might be another thread altogether (but I'm glad you brought it up).
Rothko insisted that his art was participatory. The viewers were integral in the life of a painting that goes out into the world.
For my part, I am loathe to try to apply my own meaning to a Rothko. He had an idea when he painted, and I wish to know that. My response, though, is my own. Maybe just semantics to some.
Of course, Rothko wrote a bunch about his work. We found out that van Gogh is well revealed by his letters, too.
I also think that viewing an artist's work in a grouping is essential to "getting" an idea of his/her ideas and content.
When I went to the MoMA last June, I visited the Abstract Expressionist's collection (5th Floor) and enjoyed viewing one or two works by Pollock, Rothko, Krasner, Motherwell, Newman, etc. It gave me an idea of the (confusing) unity of the movement, but I left wondering more about each individual artist's corpus.

Gesa said...

Casey, I've been having another look through your color field posts - they are very good and I wondered if there's a book or two you'd recommend: something visual, not too theoretical but something which talks about 'movement' rather than individuals - as far as that is possible?
Many thanks!

Casey Klahn said...

Gesa, That's a tough one, since they are usually so wordy. Those forties and fifties artists were fond of philosophy!

Believe it or not, my book is well balanced between theory and images:

Then, see this one that I picked up at the MoNA book store. It is balanced but organized by artist (one entry per artist, and an image):

Casey Klahn said...



Then, I would get the subject in the search engine at the Smithsonian Museum of Art. That'd be the best online reference for color field. Next would be the MoNA, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art websites.

If these aren't too good, e-mail me.

Gesa said...

Many thanks! The Smithonian is a great resource I hadn't come across before. In fact, they have a current exhibition on on Color as Field - ordered the catalogue as well as the one you mentioned. Thanks again, and I may be back with more questions :)

Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism