Less Figure, Less Grid

Still worrying about Robert Motherwell. Why? For the same reason as any artist might come to mind—because of how bad he is, and how good, and because those qualities are more or less undecidable right now. He’s bothersome, and his bothersomeness comes from the feeling that we may be making the same decisions without knowing it. He was entitled not to know because that was his time. We can’t afford to be under the shadow of that time, we have our own to measure up to.

I find many of the collages too figurative—the figures are too easy for him, and they all fill the surface in more or less the same way. A few pasted sheets oriented to the grid, a couple of lines, a circle, and we’ve got another disassembled/under construction “post-cubist” figure. He does it so well, but once we see the pattern, the work shrinks a bit. I like better the ones that are more liquid, spready, torn, disintegrating—in other words more conventionally abstract by the standards of today. Ouch. What a confession.

Robert Motherwell, Collage in Yellow and White, With Torn Elements 1949

Robert Motherwell, Collage in Yellow and White, With Torn Elements 1949

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