Tag Archives: Robert Motherwell

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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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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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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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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The Deep

This late Pollock has come in for some critical contempt over the years, not least because the title seems to confer on it a Melvillean sort of portentiousness, but without Melville’s humor. It has to be Melville because it has … Continue reading

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Professionalism as Ending

I know that the previous post ended on an apparent contradiction. Rothko’s mature and characteristic  work certainly looks strong in comparison to what preceded it—simplified, clarified, professionalized and rationalized, but it’s no longer an origin, more a conclusion. The way … Continue reading

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Real history

Robert Motherwell, in his Elegy series, alluded to a history that had some meaning to his viewers, even if few had had direct contact with it. They might remember their own experiences of WWII, and reflect that the subversion of … Continue reading

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Infinity of Images

Reading Groys can also be encouraging. In my case it confirms the avant-gardist qualifications of my work—surprising to me as much as anyone. One of the strongest pieces in his book Art Power is the opener, “The Logic of Equal … Continue reading

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Politics

I’ve just been reading in the LRB about a young Chadian who, with great resourcefulness, got himself to Pakistan so he could study, and then was rounded up and “sold” to the Americans as an Al-Qaeda member and ended up … Continue reading

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Figuration

I agree with Picasso’s dismissal of abstraction, and simple mathematics can explain why. A brushstroke that renders some particular thing does more than a brushstroke that sits on a canvas wanting to be admired for itself, so it’s a better … Continue reading

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So far

This blog is getting complex, and though I’m glad to be getting comments on older posts I’m also afraid that some good moments will be lost because of the very nature of a blog, which is that it is always … Continue reading

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Visual or non-conceptual

I’m really glad to get Peter Stott’s critique of my take on Motherwell. I try to leave openings for argument, and could do with more of that. I share his skepticism about “meaning,” and agree that abstraction is made for … Continue reading

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Tapies

Just an in-between post to acknowledge the passing of Antoni Tapies, a great artist. I first came to appreciate his work a few years ago when I saw a show of his prints in Barcelona. They are in what I … Continue reading

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The Theater of Art

Both Scott Lyall and David Court have some skepticism about the concept of theatricality, probably because of the too heavy presence of Michael Fried in that discussion so far, so I thought it might be a good idea to take … Continue reading

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Titles historical

Terry’s way with titles is basically the same as Motherwell’s, although seems very different. The fundamental difference is that Atkinson is more of a modernist, since no matter how specific their references his titles are always reflections on the role … Continue reading

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A literary measure

I’d like to answer the question I asked about Motherwell’s work a few posts back by suggesting that it fails for both reasons; the Elegies series is both too literary and not literary enough. The works are too literary because … Continue reading

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Sex and history

Each of the last four posts has reproduced one of Motherwell’s Elegies, so some readers might be getting tired of seeing them. It’s not because I think that they are all great, it’s because I want to make it clear … Continue reading

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Risk

The bullfight inevitably suggests risk. That was why Picasso liked it. He must have seen bullfighters gored or killed, so he knew the risk was real. His ink drawings and etchings of bullfights, so many from the fifties, make a … Continue reading

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Success

Just to gloss the last part of the previous post, success, meaning recognition and money, is good for artists. It enables. It makes things possible. And it can even be heroic, because the artist can become more, or bigger than … Continue reading

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Abstract Allegories

Imagery in abstract pictures is often allegorical. It doesn’t have to be. The interest of the works of someone like Howard Hodgkin, for example, is that they represent specific matter—a portrait of a particular person, a certain place and time. … Continue reading

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Motherwell’s melancholic poetry

Motherwell’s series Elegy to the Spanish Republic, is derived in a very sophisticated way from a poem by Lorca called “Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías,” an account of the death of a bullfighter. Motherwell shows his superiority to the leftist … Continue reading

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