National Gallery, Canberra, August 2017
Abstract Expressionism is easy, and fun! A child could do it, although it generally wouldn’t. It takes an adult with life-tempered chutzpah to attempt it and then whack a frame around it.
Here’s a d-i-y trip down Memory Lane:
Now, The Varnished Culture can reveal how the high-profile practitioners make good, as evidenced in the world-class display seen recently at Canberra’s National Gallery.
Take Frank Stella and his pantheon of floating, by-the-numbers pastiches of violent colour. It looks like the cover to some book on Russian Futurism, with what Robert Hughes rightly called his “slightly blurred, funereal pinstriping”. This photo doesn’t reveal the work’s cubist bump, like a pregnant belly, but you get the idea. Go mad with the spray-paint!!!
Next, we consider the strange case of strange Willem De Kooning.
De Kooning’s piece is stated to have been painted “with fury and energy.” But Rubens he ain’t. He ain’t even Picasso. We think the fury might emanate from the victims he portrayed in his famous series of lumpy, leering, travesties of justly enraged females, thinking they’d like to ‘go Dutch’ in the most violent sense possible.
Andy weighs in with his screen-printed Mao (ho hum).
Rothko’s colours are striking and are the product of patient layering of paint over paint, building up the intensity, adding a touch more here, and touch more there – all, as he must have despairingly concluded when ending his own life, to no good purpose.
Well, there we are. So much contemporary art, especially that filtered through the acrid gauze of abstract expressionism, fails to bridge the gap between the viewer and the possible, fails to confer any hint of understanding or real emotion, and even worse, is now freighted with hoary propaganda. Public Art is now largely a Marxist construct of destruction, a subsidised tool in which unlikely bedfellows mount a grim attack on Western enlightenment via diverse tactics, by rendering it an irrational confusion. The individual is largely irrelevant now, except as a stooge in a vast identification parade of identity ‘types.’ The perpetrators lack conscience, and hence, they lack imagination.
The good news is that is isn’t all this way. For example, the superb Anselm Kiefer and his neo-expressionistic works (see above, in the National Gallery, putting the abstract expressionists to shame) might focus on historical or political events and symbols, but never at the expense of his art. When Kiefer renders an image redolent of the holocaust, for example, one feels emotion, and appreciation – one does not feel obliged to genuflect, dictate sanctimonious lecture notes, or put on a beret.
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