02 July, 2007

Untitled: Red, Gray, Blue

Untitled: Red, Gray, Blue
8" x 5"
Original Pastel
July 1st, 2007
Casey Klahn

Remember we were talking (in my post: Color Field Painting) about Rothko and the Abstract Expressionist's desire to take their art to the final or ultimate expression of art. The critic Clement Greenberg was an influential voice for the art movement that would take abstraction to absolute and near-absolute expression.

The Encyclopedia Britannica offers some insight here into Greenberg's reasoning for going whole hog into abstraction:

The intellectual justification for his approach had been articulated a few years earlier in two essays published in Partisan Review. "The Avant Garde and Kitsch" (1939) was a manifesto in which Greenberg made a sharp distinction between "true culture" and "popular art." He asserted that quality in a work of art had nothing to do with contemporary social and political values. "Retiring from the public altogether," he wrote, "the avant-garde poet or artist sought to maintain the high level of his art by both narrowing it and raising it to the expression of an absolute…." This was necessary, he argued, because of the ways in which modern society had debased high art into kitsch. In "Towards a Newer Laocoon" (published in Partisan Reviewin [sic] 1940) Greenberg explained the necessity for avant-garde artists to break away from the traditional dominance of subject matter and place a new emphasis on form.

We're still emphasizing form, or formal qualities of art, today. I was talking with another artist the other day who takes after Andrew Wyeth, and he was extolling the abstract values in all styles of painting that succeed. My friend, Stan Miller, was saying that one of the great artist's patrons insists on hanging a large Wyeth upside down. The abstract composition is that good, even though it's a "realist" work.


tlwest said...

Neato I like this one the best!

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks, Terri!

Philip said...

I still look forward to seeing a true Casey Klahn abstract that comes from your own unique soul! What holds you back (no excuses please!)?

Anonymous said...

Your blog is always so interesting to visit. In my oppinion Casey, you are a good friend but you are also a teacher to me.Thanks! :) Wonderful post!

Adam Cope said...

without being spurious, i thought this was a picture of two paint brushes when i first saw it...then i remembered it was meant to be 'abstract'.

without being contrite, of course great art has an abstract or formal base. but IMO it is a two way street... even the AE's of the 1950's have become iconic of a certain era & certain style. all those fab stories of CIA funding (annoying like 'La Maison de Culture Francaise') brews up signifier/signified connections that have a .... figurative base.

paint on casey!

Casey Klahn said...

Philip is spurring me on to what I don't know, but it's a good prod. These are abstract, Philip!
Maybe you refer to my (self-identified) struggle between my abstract, abstracted, and realist stuff. Wait til you see the figure work I'm getting ready to post!
I think as I go along, especially with the old timer Abstract Expressionists, I am learning something about the whole mess.
I think the AE's are amusing for their extreme abstract approach, and I wonder why realism is so popular today. All tensions in the present day art world, and endlessly fascinating.
Anyway, I'm not at all sure that "pure" abstraction is the full expression of my own soul, Philip. Stay tuned!
Thanks, Angela. Keep up your own great search in art!
Adam, good to hear from you. I trust things are well for you in France.
I like the AE's much for their rejection of political content, but I'm sure the CIA stories are rich, nonetheless.
Check you later.

Philip said...

What I was referring to is that whilst we have seen a few abstracts of yours these last two seem to be nods to Mark Rothko. Correct me if I am wrong, but I wondered of there is a Casey Klahn abstract lurking in there somewhere that doesn't defer to other artists quite so directly. I am sure your soul is full of creative activity that is much wider than AE - I just wondered if we might catch a glimpse some day of that particular avenue. It's only a little prod!

Casey Klahn said...

I guess I do nod toward Mark Rothko when I comment on and title these abstracts. They actually take more from Diane Townsend, who has (IMO) taken after Rothko.
This gives me a good opportunity to talk about how I see my abstracts diverging from the past. I'm usually not too concerned about being separated from influences, since they are critical to serious art.
But, I think I'll save it for a post!
Great questions, Philip. Thanks!

Casey Klahn said...

Because I have some people looking in who want to see only unified works, I will put off the next abstract for a few days.
So, I was going to delineate my work, and point out the differences from Diane and from Rothko.
First of all, you won't see Diane Townsend's color field stuff on her web site. She pulled it, and is now showing gestural works (which I also love).
I may try to get her to consent to an interview, soon, and maybe she'll let me show some of her stuff on a post.
Anyway, Rothko's color fields are (most obvious thing, here) oil paintings in monumental format. Mine are small, and in pastel. If you saw the two side by side (wow, I'd probably eliminate a structural component if I saw that!) then they would be quite different.
Technically speaking, oil painting can involve glazes of transparent color, or layers. Pastel does, too, but the effects are somewhat different.
My pastels are more opaque, but some glazing is present. I intentionally overwork the surface for these, although it doesn't appear that way.
Here's the main difference: I combine some different and (some think) important formal qualities in these. I combine the color field and the gesture on the same surface. I also combine color and non-color (gray, if you will).
BTW, there was a lot of "automatic" effort on my part when I first started these abstracts. I don't knowe if intention is creeping in or not, but I sure may suffer that if I keep talking it to death!
Har, Har!

jafabrit said...

how interesting! about hanging a painting upside down, but I think it says a LOT about the quality of composition.

Enjoying the comments too.

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks, Corrine!

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