Nov 15, 2007

Coming to Terms with the Postmodern Age.

As you well know an artist can get away with anything these days. We keep trying to get away with more because everything has already been done and it has been done with incredible skill and beauty. I have had a profound dislike of minimalist art, DADA, and postmodern art for some time and am slowly learning to appreciate and even adore some of it.
It all started with Mondrian. I had to do a report on him for a design class. He had this Grey Tree painting that I loved and as I learned about the spiritual pursuit underlying his art I began to think it wasn't so pretentious. Then I watched a video about him, as they panned the camera through a gallery of his work I could feel the resonance not available in printed reproductions. Later I went to visit the minimalist art wing in the Portland Art Museum and discovered it was my favorite wing, all the pieces had a profound resonance. Agnes Martin made no sense to me in a book, but standing in front of her work I found it indescribably beautiful. I have heard from many people that they did not like Pollock until they saw his work in person, now they love it!
I still have trouble with the Postmodern and DADA aesthetic but after reading about the context they were born out of I can finally appreciate them as important movements. DADA being a reaction to the senselessness of war, the initial impulse to make art without reason or rules is inspiring but the destructive attitude that went along with the movement really puts me off. They wanted to obliterate everything previously held sacred or revered. While it's certainly worthwhile to deconstruct cultural assumptions the bitterness is hard to find attractive as an artistic aesthetic. I have only learned a little about it yet and may change my mind. These days it seems much of the art out there is either a dry imitation of something else, a forced attempt to do something unique for its own sake, or its very conceptual. So far I am not very drawn to conceptual art but my continuing education may change my mind on that, too.

The above picture is one of my first attempts at abstracting from an observed subject, the Columbia river. This painting at right is a small canvas I painted after looking at Paul Klee's work. I was using it as a warm up to try to get in a less structured spirit before I began work on another painting. I think I will continue to paint over it as a warm-up improvisation.

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