Saturday, March 27, 2010

Abstract Painting

Accused of being narrow-minded about art, I respond that, well, yes, I am, but on the other hand I am not hostile to everything that might be called modernism. There is nothing by a modernist that I love like I love Caravaggio or Alma-Tadema, but there are things I find interesting. My favorite abstract painter is Yale dropout Mark Rothko. Perhaps this is not surprising, since he was explicitly trying to do what ancient art did, using images acceptable in the modern world. He once wrote,
Without monsters and gods, art cannot enact our drama. When they were abandoned as untenable superstitions, art sank into melancholy.
He found an answer in abstraction, trying to paint hope and despair as blocks of color rather than figures from myth. Sometimes, in the right mood, I think I see it. Rothko is also one of those painters whose works create an effect when you see them in person that you cannot get from a photograph. They are layered and look different from different angles, sometimes seeming to be screens behind which you can glimpse divine or infernal realms.

I also kind of like Clifford Still's jagged canvases (above), although the less said about Still and his theories of art, the better.

And Helen Frankelthaler.

But, honestly, I would probably trade the whole lot for one drawing like this one.

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