Research Paper: Abstract Expressionist Painting Artistic

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[. . .] [8: Ibid. ]

The following piece is an excellent example of Rothko's reductionist forms. The piece is entitied "White, Red on Yellow" and is an excellent example of reductivism and the use of color to create a dramatic impact. It is a simplistic looking painting upon first glance. However, these paintings were not meant to be viewed in passing. One is supposed to sit and contemplate them, to see if an emotion arose As the viewer continues to gaze at the painting, they begin to notice the fabulous subtelties of the painting that are not apparent at first glance or if the painting is viewed from far away. One begins to notice tha the top square is not white, but is instead muted tones of greys and browns.

One begins to notice that the top ot the white area is lighter than the bottom and that there seemed to be a light source coming from the upper right corner. These elements give the simple painting a new life. One further begins to notice tha the edges of the squares are not exactly straight. They were hand painted, rather than by utilizing tools to make them perfect. The last thing that one notices is that the smaller colored squares are not equal and that they relate to each other differently.

As one can see what at first appeared to be a smple painting of three squares is actully complex. This is an example of how inerpretaion of expression goes beyond it apparent simplicity. This is an excellent case for American expressionism. Upon first glance, the painting seems so simple that it is difficult to imagine. Most casual observers would stop at that and move onto the next piece without stopping to grasp the concepts within the simplicity. This painting is meant to be comtenplative and thought provoking, This is an excellent example of interpretation of the expressionist movement paintings.

Rothko, Mark. No. 13 (White, Red, on Yellow), 1958. Oil and acrylic with powdered pigments on canvas / 3/8 x 81 3/8 in. (242.2 x 206.7 cm). Gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation Inc., 1985 (1985.63.5). Accessed 26 March 2012 from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1985.63.5

Although expressionism has its roots in the early part of the 20th century, its most important period is between 1943 in the mid 1950s. Now that an understanding of expressionism and how it differed from previous eras of artistic expression has been established, we can now begin to discuss the role that it played in shaping society and art in the post war era. Expressionism was an original American art form. The movement allowed the focus of the art world to shift from Paris to New York. The paintings were used in traveling exhibitions and in publications that were distributed throughout of the Americas and Europe[footnoteRef:9]. [9: Ibid. ]

Although there were many artists of note and American expressionism was not restricted to a single form, it is important to understand the basic principles and movements that we used to define and propel this form of art to the forefront of the art society. Not only was American expressionism an important step in promoting American artists, the CIA also used it as a form of propaganda to demonstrate to the world that the United States was an important social force in shaping global ideas. It would be difficult to argue that the art form was developed specifically by the CIA as propaganda. The art form developed on its own with its founding artists at the forefront. The CIA simply seized the opportunity that it saw when this art form began to gain popularity and notoriety on a global basis.

Keeping its role as propaganda in mind, let us now examine some of the major pieces and works of the movement in light of their meaning and cultural significance. The following piece by Pollock is an example of the primitivism movement of expressionist art. This moment utilizes archetypes, symbols from mythology, as well as images from Freud and Jung. It has a cave painting type of feel. It speaks to something ancient, primitive, and timeless.

Pollock, Jackson. Pasiphae, 1943 Oil on canvas 561 / x 96 in.; 142.6 x 243.8 cm Purchase, Rogers, Fletcher and Harris Brisbane Dick Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1982 (1982.20) Accessed 27 March 2012 from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art

This piece by Pollock uses colors that could be found in nature. It echoes the colors of blood, stone, and earth. A few subtle hints of familiar symbols and shapes can be found in its forms. At first appears as a jumble with no recognizable patterns. However, as one stares at the painting, they begin to see shapes emerge such as primitive human figures and animals. As the brain tries to unscramble complex lines and swirls, it begins to put them together into a painting of its own. It is safe to theorize that every person will have a different experience and see different shapes begin to emerge from the painting. A person's own emotions and life experiences will have an influence on how they experience the painting. This is an example of how paintings of the expressionist movement are experienced. Everyone has their own individual experience with the painting. It would be difficult to devise a formal interpretation of the painting that describes it in general terms, as one would with a realist paintings. This can certainly be said for the paintings of Rothko and Pollock.

Kooning is another important American expressionist painter. The following piece is one of his works that was created nearly years of the moment. He used high contrast colors to create tension. Like the works of Rothko and Pollock, the swirling shapes promote individual interpretation and individual expression of the viewer as they absorb it. In this painting, Kooning wanted to demonstrate that black and white could be as expressive as color.

Kooning, William. Black Untitled, 1948 Oil and enamel on paper mounted on wood 297 x 401 in.; 75.9 x 102.2 cm From the Collection of Thomas B. Hess, jointly owned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the heirs of Thomas B. Hess, 1984 (1984.613.7)

An important step in this research process is to understand the differences and distinguishing characteristics that set the American expressionist movement apart from other art movements of the time or those that it came before it. The purpose of this research is to examine the impact of American expressionism as an artistic movement and its impact on society. It is this impact that allowed it to be used as propaganda to promote American ideals. The first up in this research is to define the ideals that it represents.

The paintings by Rothko and Pollock are some of the best examples of expressionist art in the ideals that it represents. The first ideal that one finds common to both of these paintings is that they are meant to provide individual, rather than collective experiences. Individualism and individual rights are important concepts to a democratic society. An art form that emphasizes individualism rather than symmetry and collectivism is a statement against socialist ideals and a direct promotion of the American spirit that emphasizes the power of each individual to create their own destiny. Through the experience evoked by the large scale paintings of Rothko and Pollock, the individual is exercising their right to free speech and have their own ideas and thoughts, rather than having to conform to those of an institution. This is a common principle that is found in many expressionist paintings. Each viewer has the right to determine their own destiny and to express their own ideas about what the painting represents to them. This is the cornerstone of American ideology of the Cold War period.

The paintings of Rothko and Pollock have a primitive nature that appears to be out of place in a rapidly advancing technological society. Many of Rothko's most famous works consist only of one or two very large mono-color shapes on a simple single color background. This contrasts significantly to painting of the past 400 years that grew increasingly complex in an attempt to convey a sense of reality and to portray the material world. In this sense, Rothko's work represents a sort of spiritual revival and the need to consider something beyond themselves and material reality.

When one examines this concept on a deeper level, this is a direct statement about America's new found wealth and power. When one considers this from the standpoint of wealth, those that have sufficient material means to provide for their basic necessities of life have the leisure time to explore topics beyond food and clothing. Artwork that represents the sublime is a direct statement that the American public is wealthy enough to have the time for leisure arts and to explore higher level topics than their simple subsistence. In this way the American expressionist movement represents the ideology that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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