Crisis Moment

Krasner’s unique style is made of strongly drawn circles, arcs and ellipses. She has a kind of compulsion to go around with her arm. In her case it’s not a limitation and more than a habit—it’s an expressive language that she develops a long way. The normal problems of how to fill the surface, imagery, association, colour and line, value, adding and linking of parts etc. are there, but she has a place to start to address all of them, namely her typical rounded gesture. I think it’s a very rich practice, full of possibilities. It hasn’t usually been seen so. I remember telling Arthur Danto that a big piece of hers in the Whitney was the best thing I had seen on a recent visit, and he just snorted in scorn. But people like Arthur Danto stick pretty close to the consensus. Her titles bear consideration, and these two have a certain relation to each other. Plant imagery is a banality in some kinds of abstraction, but important to realize is that the real cornucopia is of invention—an overflow of ideas and a feeling of creative abundance. The theme might be an old Dutch still life, but it’s realized as a swarming tangled vinous life, and that’s her mode.

Lee Krasner, Cornucopia 1958

First thing to notice about the second image is that the crisis didn’t last a moment—the picture took eight years. And if the work is the resolution of a crisis, the form it took is a plant-like exfoliation or growth—but not only that. The driving diagonal energy makes a cross or X that breaks the globular forms apart. And the globular forms are distinctly testicular in appearance, so the picture is both a sexual eruption and a castration. I’m trying to say that her manner is based on growth, specifically a plant like growth that can deliver unexpected kinds of fruit, but there is more of society and human emotion in it than that formula might at first suggest. For Krasner, the life of plants is not serene. 

Lee Krasner, Crisis Moment 1972-80

What the crisis was I don’t know, but interesting that parts of this piece are actually collage. Krasner is an exponent of collage as violence, difficulty and disunity—with a very different feel from Rozanova and the other Russians—a tough job for an artist whose work is so strongly unified by the plant metaphor.

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