Category Archives: American Modernism

Possibly Annoying Details

Straight lines that form geometric shapes always imply some kind of consistent order. It might have something to do with buildings, because walls that don’t meet at ninety degrees, or don’t quite meet at all, seem awkward, even though there … Continue reading

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Late Discoveries

Barry Schwabsky has written an insightful review of two current museum shows, Agnes Martin and Carmen Herrera. Herrera is a fascinating figure for everyone, because she holds the record for late discovery of a living artist—after sixty years of obscurity … Continue reading

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A Different Frame

This collage is like #5 in the way that the frame within the frame is handled—it’s less of an image than the others, more abstract in a way. But also, unlike #s 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7, the arrangement … Continue reading

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A Literary Art

Back at the start of this blog, in 2011 I think it was, I wrote several posts on R.H.Quaytman. She’s still one of my favourite artists, and features prominently in my book. Another artist with a very creative relationship to … Continue reading

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Arrived

Of course all arrivals are temporary, but this collage looks done. Had a bit of doubt as to how the increase in size (4×3′) would throw off the scale relation between the watercolor patches and the larger flat areas of … Continue reading

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Getting Closer

My new, bigger collage has been through a few changes, and it’s getting better (compare with first state). Funny how until that happens it always seems like it never will. Anyway, tried painting on the grey frame but that threw … Continue reading

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The Death of Abstraction

Everyone has heard the claim that painting is dead. That’s one idea that deserves to be looked at more closely, and I will do that. Without giving too much of the book away I’ll just say that abstraction has also … Continue reading

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A Critique

Recently an article by Laurie Fendrich was circulating on Facebook. It’s worth reading, but this is what I said about it: I like most of what she says, but object to this: “Painting contains its own roughly defined rules. The … Continue reading

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The Other Frank

We’re all familiar with the celebrity artist, and lately they are even cropping up in art fairs—it’s a contentious topic in the age of the 1%. Some musicians and actors are actually pretty serious about their painting, and some of … Continue reading

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A Normally Sensual Artist

A few years ago I heard the prominent art critic and historian Katy Siegal describe Motherwell as “an intellectual,” meaning to distinguish him from more intuitive or emotional artists—to distinguish him from real artists, in other words. I find this … Continue reading

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Domes and Circles

In general you could say that Stella’s prints are where he keeps touch with the normative form of art—two dimensional and bounded by a rectangle. The relief paintings and sculpture break right out of the frame, and the prints are … Continue reading

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Over the Circle

Readers familiar with my blog are probably wondering why I haven’t started in again on Frank Stella. Just waiting. Have many thoughts, and following on the theme of recent posts about Kandinsky there is an opportunity to say something. Stella … Continue reading

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Stanley Whitney

The last few posts have been circling around an idea that I think is pretty important, grounded as it is in studio practice but with implications for history and even for our understanding of time. I keep thinking about something … Continue reading

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Twisting and Lifting

After two posts on geometry that doesn’t line up I want to mention another deviation from the abstract norm found in Noland’s work. Brittle is hardly a word we associate with Noland. Sensuous is the more usual descriptor. But that … Continue reading

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The Possibilities

Following along with Noland in the previous post, to bear down on what seem like small decisions in the art of the sixties and seventies—they were presented as momentous changes in those days so inevitably began to seem small—is one … Continue reading

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Unbalanced

A Kenneth Noland piece like this one opens up a space any abstractionist should find attractive to enter, best described in Noland’s own words: “It’s been on my mind—what would something be like if it were unbalanced? It’s been a … Continue reading

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Snapshot

Two posts back I mentioned two concepts of the picture. The second one—broken, fugitive, moving, unstable—has a definite relation to the most profound idea in modern photography, the “decisive moment.” You could even connect it to street photography in particular, … Continue reading

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Ubiquitous Klee

The narrative of post-war American art is by now pretty dull. It’s hard to say how many really believed it; certainly most artists have always had a broader view of the world. It was probably at base a marketing strategy … Continue reading

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Putting Pieces Together

This is the kind of collage I like to see from Motherwell, though there aren’t many like it. Parts of it resemble Arp’s torn paper collages, discussed earlier on this blog. It doesn’t escape from the pattern of blocky figures … Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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Other Figures

I’ve been looking at (and reading) a catalogue of Motherwell’s early collages. It has to be said that Motherwell is one of the important reference points for abstraction today. This is hardly a common view, but as a practitioner I … Continue reading

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Figure

This collage by Robert Motherwell is exceptional, in my opinion. It has a kind of cleanness and freshness that puts it over the top professionally, though those are not necessary qualities in any modern art, certainly not in collage, which … Continue reading

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Politics and Art of the Abstract Type

It’s been an interesting nine months. Like many I’ve been completely captivated by Bernie. Never in my life have I felt like giving money to a politician, but can’t anyway since I’m not American. For that matter, I’ve never heard … Continue reading

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New Beginning

The blog is starting up again, and it’s gratifying to know that readers I had before are happy to see it come back. The occasion is the imminent publication of my book, my first book. Artists don’t have to write … Continue reading

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Brian Nation

This is from the blog of my old friend Brian Nation, a truly gifted writer—although he’s not a famous writer because, as he said at one point, he found it more enjoyable to act at being a writer than to … Continue reading

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Lifeline

In tough times go back to the work that helps you know yourself. The supportive aspect of authority, even though that authority is not indwelling, but granted by you..

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Return

The world it turns, and will continue to do so.

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Authority Again

Thinking more about authority—I’ll bet that many, including artists, maybe especially artists, think it means ordering people about. It may well be that in daily life, but in art it’s more to do with a kind of truth, a truth … Continue reading

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Complete

There’s many ways to simulate wholeness, completeness, whatever one wants to call it. As many as there are ways to simulate an excess.

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Power and Authority

I think that power and authority have to be sharply distinguished. Power is what individuals seek to compensate for whatever lack they feel. Or just for the sheer pleasure of controlling someone else, if that’s what gives them pleasure. Authority … Continue reading

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