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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mapping of the essay by Anjan Behera

Anjan K. Behera
CIA- 2, MEL-132
Western Aesthetics

Map of the essay-
‘Literalism and Abstraction: Frank Stella’s Retrospective at the Modern’
by Philip Leider

Paragraph 1 – Pollock’s abstraction
a) Pollock’s works - touchstones for abstraction and literalism.
b) A reading of Pollock’s work has a significant influence on the way one understands Stella’s work.
c) Abstractionist view of Pollock – clearly expressed by Michael Fried – thorough part of literature. How his art -
- Broke painting’s dependence on a sculptural space.
- Line as a free entity in art.
- Carried abstract art further from the depiction of things – creation of a new kind of space.
d) The art focused more on the colour and appearance.
e) These views have inspired artists like Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, etc.
Paragraph 2 - The development of literalist ideas
a) Had a gradual emergence – via arguments and conversation – less in published criticism.
b) Early literalism saw patterns of line within their function of bounding space.
c) These paintings were seen rather as skeins of paint dripped directly from the can.
- Paint having transferred directly from can to canvas with no contact from the artist’s traditional transforming techniques.
- One could visualize the painting being made.
d) Made the entire procedure of painting more obvious.
e) Pollock treated his paintings with ‘plain familiarity’ – treated the picture as a thing
- Left handprints, put cigarette butts out in it.
- Expressing an idea that the kind of object the art is derives strength from the directness of our attitudes towards them.
Paragraph 3 – Literalism in Pollock’s abstract art
a) Literalism sees Pollock as the best abstract art ever made – two reasons – affirmation of the objectness of the painting and the direction of the artist’s relations to his materials.
b) This view led people to find ways to continue in the meaningful creation of abstract art.
Paragraph 4 – Attempt to study objectness of paintings
a) Explored by Jasper Johns in mid and late 1950s – however his study met little support.
b) Left out several crucial points.
Paragraph 5 – Abstraction in painting
a) Objectness was the most important element.
b) Inspired two-dimensionalism – the way to achieve it was through colour, maybe through colour alone.
c) The differences can be noted by comparing a Noland circle painting with a Johns target
- Noland circle painting - colour, centredness, two-dimensional abstraction. No reference to objects belonging to the three-dimensional world.
- Johns – about an object called a target and an object called a painting.
d) Both paintings were an instant success in colleges everywhere.
Paragraph 6 – Stella’s reading of John’s work
a) John left the cleverness, irony and paradox – drawing inspiration from Pollock and Still.
b) Noland perhaps took the idea of the possibility of a centred image.
c) Stella however directly took upon the striping idea, to keep his pictures flat, solving it further to move on to other things.
Paragraph 7 – Stella’s work
a) Stella’s interest in keeping pictures flat was because his one and only aim was to create abstract art that would survive as post-Pollock art.
b) The consistency of Stella’s anti-literalist ideas throughout his career are remarkable.
c) Other newer abstractionists like Louis, Noland and Olitski all pursued this ambition by exploring colour.
d) According to Stella, greater abstraction was being obscured by structure and composition.
e) He went on to work on these themes as a slap on the face revenge, the resultant paintings being displayed in the Museum of Modern Art.
Paragraph 8 – The nature of Stella’s abstract paintings
a) His paintings displayed at the Museum of Modern Art were seen as arrogant, the prime focus being to advocate his principles of abstract art.
- One cannot use the space for a non-abstract to create an abstract art
- The colours should not suggest a non-abstract object – grass, sky, etc.
- One must be careful about the kind of image, how it’s placed and the shape the entire picture has.
b) Pollock’s message was to keep the field dominant, to be careful about colour, keep the space free from the space needed to depict three-dimensional forms and eliminate gesture.
c) The picture as a whole should be right.
The pictures were criticized because they had nothing to say
Paragraph 9 – A move towards three-dimensional art
a) Artists like Carl Andre and Don Judd are drawn towards the literal objectness of Stella’s paintings, who ironically described her work as consistent and non-referential.
b) Andre seemed the first to draw the conclusion that a true post-Pollock abstraction may lie in three-dimensional art.
c) Both the artists manifested the three dimensional implications of Stella’s works.
d) They shared a fundamental presumption of literalism –
- If one considers three-dimensions to be where the best abstractions can take form, then there is no sense in making art in three dimensions that tries to approximate the sensations or appearances of the two dimensions.
e) An affirmed three dimensionality would lead to a more powerful piece of art.
f) Judd notes several important characters of Stella’s three-dimensional work – one among them being order of the stripes – simple one thing after another.
g) Andre heavily depends on order.
Paragraph 10 – Differences between Judd and Andre and the ABC art
a) The differences emerged gradually all through the 1960s.
b) Andre limited himself to solutions that were respectful and were in compliance with the problems of sculpture.
c) Judd remained indifferent to sculpture and its problems.
d) Both found themselves part of a movement – ABC art or ‘Minimal art’, or Primary Structures.
Paragraph 11 – Focus on the development of a literalist art in America
a) Criticism now focused on the development of a literalist art in America which extends from 1959 to present day – included works of artists like Andre, Flavin, Judd, Serra, Morris, etc.
b) Limiting it to themes like minimal, reductive, anti-form are doing more damage to the art than ever.
Paragraph 12 – New ideas emerge
a) Abstraction critics like Clement Greenber, Michael Fred, William Rubin and others turned the focus towards a second-rate, imitative gestural painting – redirected attention to where quality was coming from – works of Louis, Newman, Noland, Olitski, etc.
b) Abstractionist criticism has done very little to help literalism.
Paragraph 13 – Abstractionist criticism and literalism
a) Abstractionists functioned as though there was no literalism – hardly considered literalism except for works of Stella, Noland and Olitski.
b) Stella was engaged with literalism and in contradicting convictions of John about where quality in contemporary art lay.
c) Literalists misunderstood Stella – for being so inextricably mixed up with artists like Judd and Andre.
Paragraph 14 – Literalism and Abstraction after 1960s
a) It was clear that within literalism several tendencies/ideas had occurred.
b) Goal of art making was still high abstraction? No one answer.
c) The move into the three-dimensional, interest in materials led to new orders and ideas far complex than expected.
d) Literalism was accepting ideas that would have been unthinkable 7-8 years back.
e) Undertakings of these artists were sought in traditions older than Modernism and resembles the emerging Abstract Expressionists.
f) It was an era of newness for both abstraction and literalism, the idea of what to do as artists, also for both uncertainty.
g) Bound them to the tradition of modern art.
Paragraph 15 – Post 1969
a) Stella loosened overall design structure.
b) Turned authority of paintings over to colour
c) It is the art of our time.
Reference –
Leider, Philip. “Literalism and Abstraction:
Frank Stella’s Retrospective at the Modern.”Art in Modern Culture:
An Anthology of Critical Texts. Eds. Franscina, Francis and Jonathan Harris.
London/New York: Phaidon, 1992.

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