Category Archives: Principles of Abstraction

John Walker

I remember when there was a vogue for the work of John Walker. I didn’t like it because at that time he was using the same form over and over, which he called “Alba,” and said was derived from Goya. … Continue reading

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John Eisler

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Style of Work

What makes Stella so productive (and you have to investigate to find out how much, because most of the work is not widely known) is a two part process. First lots of planning and preparation, then head long improvisation and … Continue reading

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Blue Poles

Another contentious late Pollock is Blue Poles. Some people call it an outright failure. I think it was failing, but he saved it the same way he saved an earlier picture, now in the Guggenheim collection in Venice. Alchemy is … Continue reading

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Portrait and a Dream

Talking about possibilities in late Pollock—he undoubtedly went through difficult periods, as we all do, but to my eyes the work of the mid-fifties shows no slacking off. If he could have lightened up a bit I’m sure he would … Continue reading

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Convergence

Keeping on with the idea of looking at Pollock’s later works as individual pieces, not as members of a series, Convergence is one of the late large abstractions. Standing in front of it at the Albright-Knox the first thing that … Continue reading

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Patience

An artist never has no reason not to wait. One has to let the work emerge and why rush it? Time in the ordinary sense, as something to be measured, has no meaning in art, and the value of activity … Continue reading

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More Complex Form

One couldn’t come up with an artist further from the concerns of modern day, formalist inclined abstraction than George Eliot—her novels are all about moral challenges. I can hardly express my esteem for what she did, and who she was. … Continue reading

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Plants and Animals

If some readers are not convinced by my description, in the previous post, of Krasner’s work as ruled by a plant metaphor, I submit these two works, which have titles and colours to match that theme. But it’s interesting that … Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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Lee Krasner

As I said in an earlier post, Lee Krasner gave Pollock’s Easter and the Totem to the MoMA, and I think that was a measure of her regard for that work, which otherwise is not much celebrated. The conventional wisdom … Continue reading

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Kojève

Recently read a great article by Boris Groys on Kojève. Never read Kojève myself but I know that he taught Hegel to the surrealists, and I learned a lot about that from a very good book about surrealist objects by … Continue reading

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Outside the Border Fence

Following from the previous post, I think it helps a lot to travel, and not just to Miami or Basel. I talk about this in my book. But though you can take your body to different places, it’s hard to … Continue reading

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Repeating Patterns

As in all improvisation, patterns tend to recur. In fact, the more open and free the improv, the more subject it is to repetition. This is something I’ve learned from music, and this is why preparation helps a lot. Art … Continue reading

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Abstract Order

Following on from the previous post, Stella’s manner in the late prints especially, but also in many of his reliefs, is to be vivid, crazy, overloaded and loud. That’s what puts a lot of viewers off. It’s a style and … Continue reading

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Formal Principle

I’ve been trying to work out exactly what kind of order Stella is aiming for, looking at the prints and late paintings. I think that to avoid an ordering principle is probably, for Stella, a kind of abstraction. The topic … Continue reading

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Time and Change

Many of the things I say on this blog are widely recognized. They are not always expressed the same way. Actually, I don’t know if “widely recognized” is the right phrase—it might be more like conventional wisdom of the past. … Continue reading

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Olga Rozanova

Been looking at great collages by Rozanova. They have that beautiful freshness of beginnings. For her, abstraction was an open future, so she had no idea how to value work like this. It was all an experiment. We can decide … Continue reading

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Art for the Age of Trump

Thinking about constructivist collage—in other words, art of a revolutionary period—makes one wonder what kind of art is right for today. Does my Collage #10 really measure up, or is to too much Kutesy-Klee and Kandinsky-Kute? Are the animal/organic and … Continue reading

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Collage at the Beginning

Years ago, in her book on abstraction, Briony Fer suggested that collage was at the origin of the practice. I didn’t know what importance to attach to that idea, but I liked it. Her examples were collages by the Russian … Continue reading

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Collage #10

This largish (48×48″) collage follows the same pattern as #s 5&8—it has a rectangle within the rectangle, a plane within the plane, a picture within the picture. It’s over an old painting in enamel on wood, and I was afraid … Continue reading

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Size and Importance

Further on from the previous post—if Stella was part of a larger, more general response to abstract expressionism, I think the generally accepted understanding of that response has been too limited. We usually hear that it was a reaction against the … Continue reading

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Bigger and Better

In some quarters one hears the claim that bigger means more serious or more ambitious. Not necessarily, because bigger doesn’t necessarily mean more. It’s one way to get attention in the world, and maybe does indicate a desire to get … Continue reading

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Wooster’s Version

I hope my readers will excuse this long quote from one of the Jeeves and Wooster books: The effect the apparition had on me was to make me start violently, and we all know what happens when you start violently … Continue reading

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Simplicity and Strangeness

Personally, I don’t find much value in thought. I had some experience of it when I was young, but for most of my life I’ve been more concerned with something else that I’m not sure how to name. There are … Continue reading

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Color and Mark

I used to think that Stella’s Exotic Birds were not his best works. I could appreciate them as a necessary breakthrough, but bad works nevertheless. I never liked the template approach, that the forms were ready-made and just decorated with … Continue reading

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Somehow Both

Further to the Marisa Merz work in the previous post, and to the discussion about story telling in abstraction—we are familiar with the common object decontextualized to the degree that it becomes “abstract,” and also with the evocative shape or form … Continue reading

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Forms of Realism

The best part of Facebook, in fact the only good part, is some of the people one can meet. Recently I connected with a young writer called Joobin Bekhrad, of Iranian extraction but living in Toronto, who loves to post … Continue reading

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Once Again New

It’s been pointed out, most cogently by Nietzsche, that what stirs us most in what we read is what we already know. He means philosophy or any kind of wisdom writing, not political screeds on the internet. But we still … Continue reading

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The Artwork in Our Time

Miklos Legrady, an artist in Toronto who has a penchant for polemic, has just published on e-flux conversations what he thinks of as a rebuttal to Benjamin’s famous artwork essay. It takes the form of a close reading with commentary. … Continue reading

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