Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Nineteen Forties Paintings with Rants by Barnett Newman

Jackson Pollock
Birth
ca. 1941
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Jackson Pollock
Summertime: Number 9A
1948
oil paint, enamel paint and commercial paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Barnett Newman
Moment
1946
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

"We are reasserting man's natural desire for the exalted, for a concern with our relationship to the absolute emotions.  We do not need the obsolete props of an outmoded and antiquated legend.  We are creating images whose reality is self-evident and which are devoid of the props and crutches that evoke associations with outmoded images, both sublime and beautiful.  We are freeing ourselves of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth, or what have you, that have been the devices of Western European painting.  Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man, or "life," we are making them out of ourselves, out of our own feelings.  The image we produce is the self-evident one of revelation, real and concrete, that can be understood by anyone who will look at it without the nostalgic glasses of history."

– Barnett Newman (written in 1948)

Alan Davie
Entrance to a Paradise
1949
oi paint on board
Tate Gallery

 
Adolph Gottlieb
The Alchemist
1945
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Arshile Gorky
Waterfall
1943
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Nicolas de Stael
Marathon
1948
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Stanley William Hayter
Untitled
1946
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

"The love of space is there, and painting functions in space like everything else because it is a communal fact – it can be held in common.  Only time can be felt in private.  Space is common property.  Only time is personal, a private experience.  That's what makes it so personal, so important.  Each person must feel it for himself.  Space is the given fact of art but irrelevant to any feeling except insofar as it involves the outside world.  Is this why all the critics insist on space, as if all modern art were an exercise and ritual of it?  They insist on having it because, being outside, it includes them, it makes the artist "concrete" and real because he represents or invokes sensations in the material objects that exist in space and can be understood

The concern with space bores me.  I insist on my experiences of sensations in time – not the sense of time but the physical sensation of time."

– Barnett Newman (written in 1949)

Kurt Schwitters
(Relief in Relief)
ca. 1942-45
oil paint on wood and plaster
Tate Gallery

Ivon Hitchens
Forest Edge No. 2
1944
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Gerald Wilde
Fata Morgana1949
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

David Bomberg
Bomb Store
1942
oil paint on board
Tate Gallery

Marlow Moss
Composition in Yellow, Black and White
1949
oil paint and wood on canvas
Tate Gallery

Lucio Fontana
Spatial Concept
1949-50
painted and pierced canvas
Tate Gallery

Nineteen Forties Paintings with Remarks by Mark Rothko

Karel Appel
Hip, Hip, Hoorah!
1949
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Grace Pailthorpe
April 20, 1940 (The Blazing Infant)
1940
oil paint on hardboard
Tate Gallery

Mark Rothko
Untitled
ca. 1946-47
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

On shapes:
     They are unique elements in a unique situation.
     They are organisms with volition and a passion for self-assertion.
     They move with internal freedom, and without need to conform with or to violate what is probable in the familiar world.
     They have no direct association with any particular visible experience, but in them one recognizes the principle and passion of organisms.  
     The presentation of this drama in the familiar world was never possible, unless everyday acts belonged to a ritual accepted as referring to a transcendent realm.
     Even the archaic artist, who had an uncanny virtuosity, found it necessary to create a group of intermediaries, monsters, hybrids, gods and demi-gods.  The difference is that, since the archaic artist was living in a more practical society than ours, the urgency for transcendent experience was understood, and given official status.  As a consequence, the human figure and other elements from the familiar wold could be combined with, or participate as a whole in the enactment of the excess which characterize this improbable hierarchy.  With us the disguise must be complete.  The familiar identity of things has to be pulverized in order to destroy the finite associations with which our society increasingly enshrouds every aspect of our environment.
     Without monsters and gods, art cannot enact our drama: art's most profound moments express this frustration.  When they were abandoned as untenable superstitions, art sank into melancholy.  For me the great achievements of the centuries in which the artist accepted the probable and familiar as his subject were the pictures of the single human figure – alone in a moment of utter mobility.  
     But the solitary figure could not raise its limbs in a single gesture that might indicate its concern with the fact of mortality and an insatiable appetite for ubiquitous experience in face of this fact.  Nor could the solitude be overcome.  It could gather on beaches and streets and in parks only through coincidence, and, with its companions, form a tableau vivant of human incommunicability.
     I do not believe that there was ever a question of being abstract or representational.  It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breaching and stretching one's arms again.

– Mark Rothko (published in the journal Possibilities, winter 1947-48)   

Gordon Onslow-Ford
A Present for the Past
1942
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Ceri Richards
Blossoms
1940
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Stephen Gilbert
Untitled
1948
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Robert Motherwell
Ulysses
1947
oil paint on cardboard mounted on wood
Tate Gallery

Hilde Goldschmidt
The Sphinx
1948
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer.  It dies by the same token.  It is therefore a risky and unfeeling act to send it out into the world.  How often it must be permanently impaired by the eyes of the vulgar and the cruelty of the impotent who would extend their affliction universally! 

The progression of a painter's work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity; toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer.  As examples of such obstacles, I give (among others) memory, history or geometry, which are swamps of generalization from which one might pull out parodies of ideas (which are ghosts) but never an idea in itself.  To achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood.

– Mark Rothko (published in the journal The Tiger's Eye, 1949)

William Gear
Interior
1949
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Eduardo Paolozzi
Targets
1948
paint on plaster
Tate Gallery

Peter Lanyon
Headland
1948
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Merlyn Oliver Evans
The Mark of the Beast
1940
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Prunella Clough
The White Root
1946
oil paint on board
Tate Gallery

Leonard Rosoman
Bomb Falling into Water
1942
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Monday, July 30, 2018

Busy Paintings from the Nineteen Eighties

Ken Kiff
Triptych: Shadows
1983-86
acrylic paint, oil paint and pastel on board
Tate Gallery

George Warner Allen
The Return from Cythera
1985-86
oil paint and tempera on canvas
Tate Gallery

Gillian Ayres
Antony and Cleopatra
1982
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Derrick Greaves
Falling I
1984-85, 1992-93
oil paint and acrylic paint and paper on canvas
Tate Gallery

Yesterday

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father's hand the last time

he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk to me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don't want you to feel that you
have to
just because I'm here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don't want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

– W.S. Merwin, from Opening the Hand (Atheneum, 1983)

Anselm Kiefer
Urd, Verdandi, Skuld (The Norns)
1983
oil paint, shellac, emulsion and fibre on canvas
Tate Gallery

Anselm Kiefer
Palette
1981
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Bridget Riley
Achæan
1981
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

John McLean
Opening
1987
acrylic paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

R.B. Kitaj
Cecil Court, London, W.C. 2 (The Refugees)
1983-84
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

R.B. Kitaj
The Wedding
1989-93
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Howard Hodgkin
Rain
1984-89
oil paint on panel
Tate Gallery

Berryman

I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war

don't lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you're older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity

just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice

he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally

it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop

he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England

as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry

he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how you can ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't

you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write

– W.S. Merwin, from Opening the Hand (Atheneum, 1983)

John Hoyland
Gadal 10.11.86
1986
acrylic paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Rita Donagh
Counterpane
1987-88
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Georg Baselitz
Folkdance Melancholia
1989
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Visual Predilections of the Nineteen Sixties (Highbrow)

Renato Guttoso
Still Life in the Studio
1962
ink and watercolour on paper
Tate Gallery

Patrick Heron
Green and Purple Painting with Blue Disc: May 1960
1960
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Barbara Hepworth
Maquette, Three Forms in Echelon
1961
bronze
Tate Gallery

"This work relates to Barbara Hepworth's proposals for a public sculpture on the John Lewis Department Store in Oxford Street, London.  She worked on the proposal for six months in 1961.  Despite Hepworth's considerable care, her proposal was rejected.  The John Lewis Building was designed by Slater and Uren Architects and begun in 1956 in order to replace the old building bombed in the war.  Large walls clad in Portland stone adjoin each end of the main frontage, and these were identified as sites for decoration.  When construction began Jacob Epstein was approached to make a design for the west facade, but he declined through pressure of work.  When O.B. Miller made his invitation to Hepworth in May 1961 he specified that it was her monumental Meridian that prompted the approach.  Hepworth accepted the following day.  "I am convinced, from an abstract point of view, that the Three Forms in Echelon with radiating strings rising upwards is my interpretation of the John Lewis Partnership, its Members and the Public."  . . .  Hepworth was understandably deflated by Miller's response.  After consulting a colleague, he wrote: "To neither of us does the design seem to integrate successfully with the building, nor to create the impression of an organic unity that will be recognised by people qualified to judge as an outstanding example of your work."  This stimulated a lengthy, point by point defence of the work.  Hepworth stated "I would like to say that I think the forms would be a very good foil to the building," and suggested that the result was "an illusion of light and space, as well as thrusting forms and curves which would work when looking upwards at the building – when naturally the forms begin to blend one with the other."  Finally, Hepworth believed it typical of her work: "The way I work, is to get an idea subconsciously and then pursue that formally, with quite a considerable belief, within myself, that the formal content will speak back to the public.  In this case, the harmony and relationship of the three rising forms, would, I suspect, provoke some interest subconsciously in the harmonious relationship that exists in the Partnership."  However stout the defence, it was to no avail and Three Forms in Echelon was rejected.  Two days later, Hepworth took up the proposal suggested by Miller of an alternative derived from an existing work, specifically mentioning Winged Figure.  . . .  Winged Figure, which constituted the ninth proposal for the building, was accepted almost immediately.  The plaster was unveiled in St. Ives in August 1962 and the cast was installed on the building in Oxford Street on Sunday, 21 April, 1963, almost two years after the original invitation."  Although the building of Winged Figure was a substantial undertaking, the sculptor herself acknowledged that the rejection of Three Forms in Echelon was "rather a shock." 

Barbara Hepworth
Maquette, Three Forms in Echelon
1961
brass and string on wooden board
Tate Gallery


Paul Feiler
Inclined Oval Brown
1964-65
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Paul Feiler
Vertical Reflections Blue
early 1960s
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

"While maintaining Feiler's characteristically cool and modulated colouring, Vertical Reflections, Blue comes from a group of works in which the artist explored the working environment of the studio.  The abstracted forms ultimately derive from familiar studio items such as stretchers, easels and mirrors.  These elements are overlaid and interlocked to form a structured composition."

Bernard Cohen
Floris
1964
oil paint and tempera on canvas
Tate Gallery

"This painting was named after the Soho patisserie whose skilled decorations Cohen admired.  It was also inspired by the 'enclosed' world of the Arthurian legends.  Cohen first painted the small land towards the top left, then emphasized its perimeter, first by highlighting it with white dots and then by surrounding it with ever-wider echoing contours in red overpainted with black.  The outermost of these were reinforced by 'spokes'.  Isolated clusters of incident were then painted in the remaining areas, the largest being a mass of dark line.  Finally, Cohen continued, over these, the ever-expanding contours generated by the first shape, before ending the painting in the centre of the spiral at upper right."

Morris Louis
Alpha-Phi
1961
acrylic paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

Jasper Johns
0 through 9
1961
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

"0 through 9 was made by Johns in 1961 when he was living in New York.   This large work, rendered in distinct areas of red, blue and golden yellow, presents the viewer with the numerical figures 0-9, each scaled to fill the whole canvas and superimposed over one another, such that while each number is visible, it is difficult to discern them individually.  It is one of a series of twelve works by the artist, some produced in editions.  In total, there are five paintings in the series the same size as the Tate work, including one made using a grey monochrome technique known as grisaille.  Johns also made three smaller paintings on paper, a metallic relief, a pastel and a lithograph."

Victor Pasmore
Black Abstract
1963
oil paint on board
Tate Gallery

Norman Reid
Mr. Pencil at Annestown
1960-81
oil paint on canvas, mounted on board
Tate Gallery

"Annestown is a village on the Irish coast.  In this painting it is seen from the beach.  In the centre, the main street runs uphill between buildings.  A striped lighthouse stands out against the coastline beyond.  Developed from a gouache made on the spot in 1952, this composition was greatly modified when the artist decided to make it read equally well with either of its two longer edges at the top.  Although this aim was realised, the original orientation is the only one he now approves.  The first two words of the title refer to a character made fun of in a cartoon of 1830 by Randolphe Toepffer.  There 'Monsieur Pencil' is an artist who, after making a drawing from nature, is pleased with it both ways up."

Ben Nicholson
Feb. 1960 (ice-off-blue)
1961
oil paint on board
Tate Gallery

Frank Roth
Jodrell Bank
1964
acrylic paint and oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

"The artist wrote: 'I had never heard of Jodrell Bank [the famous radio telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire] until my painting was completed.  I was showing the painting to a friend, and he remarked that the painting looked like a photograph in that day's New York Times.  He showed me the photograph, which I liked and it resembled my painting and I liked the name, so that is how the title came about.'"

Jean-Pierre Yvaral
Ambiguous Structure No. 92
1969
acrylic paint on chipboard
Tate Gallery

"Jean-Pierre Vasarely, known as Yvaral, was born in Paris in 1934, the second son of the artist Victor Vasarely.  After studying advertising and graphic design at the École des Art Appliqués in Paris, he began to experiment with geometric abstraction in 1954.  Yvaral's optical paintings, kinetic reliefs and screenprints explored the illusion of movement.  The swelling, warping patterns on this canvas are typical of his approach.  Yvaral began to experiment with colour composition in 1968, after working exclusively in black and white from 1960.  His optical experiments, achieved with mathematical grids, connect with contemporary interests in new technologies as well as developments in optical science.  However, the title complicates any sense of positivist knowledge, with the adjective 'ambiguous' suggesting something open to interpretation, as well as highlighting the contradiction of employing a logical system to create a trompe l'oeil effect." 

Bryan Wynter
Meander I
1967
oil paint on canvas
Tate Gallery

– quoted texts based on curator's notes from the Tate Gallery