I’m aware of how hokey the previous post became toward the end—the list of artist destroyers is pop art history, and not very good pop art history at that. However, those pairs—Malevich/Mondrian, Pollock/Rothko and Stella/Richter—are in an important sense my canon; Mondrian, Rothko and Richter the negative or anti-canon, the art I don’t like. What doesn’t ring true today is the possibly implied glamour and romanticism (in the pop sense) of destruction, especially since they are all male. There’s no shortage of women artists in my personal canon, and many of them have been treated on this blog, and in my book, so I don’t feel I slipped up with this list, but there’s more to the topic. I probably just wanted to get in some points against my least favorite artists, especially since they are so generally popular. Mondrian could have been as easily contrasted with Sonia Delaunay, whose grids and circles are formally much more forward looking; Rothko might be played off against Helen Frankenthaler, whose uneven results are so much more memorable than Rothko’s consistency. The problem is that “destruction” doesn’t quite catch everything that’s going on. Yet there is a valid point there. Huffingtonian nonsense about “Picasso: Creator and Destroyer,” shouldn’t scare us away from the real destructiveness and iconoclasm of modernist art. But however violent it may get, it’s never real destruction, of the type we saw in Bamiyan or Timbuktu. And that’s a source of frustration, especially for the avant-garde. There is a drive to destroy culture. That drive is tamed in modernism, and then history stops. Some other sense of change has to emerge.

Helen Frankenthaler's studio circa 1987

Helen Frankenthaler’s studio circa 1987

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