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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The FIRST Abstract Painting

There is a tendency among artists and others to equate Abstract Expressionism totally with the New York School of the late 1940s and 1950s in such a manner as to suggest that Americans "invented" abstraction in the wake of WW II, Surrealism, and the gradual course of events growing out of Picasso, Braque, and Cubism during the first decade of this century. This is categorically wrong! In a scenario not unlike that of the space race, it has to be reported that the Russians invented Abstract Expressionism a good thirty years before any American artists ever slapped paint to canvas in anything approaching such an effort. And, like the space race, even when Abstract Expressionism blasted off in this country, it was largely the efforts of a number of foreign born artists who got it off the ground.

First Abstract Watercolor,
1910. Wassily Kandinsky 
Russian born artist, Wassily Kandinsky, painted what he blithely named First Abstract Watercolor in Munich, Germany, in 1910. The title is apt. Only after a deliberate struggle with your imagination can you visualize any recognizable subject matter, which is just as Kandinsky intended. There is a kind of colorful swirl of activity of reds, pail blues, blacks, and yellows suggesting some kind of maelstrom of activity in which any suggestion of external subject matter seems totally accidental. The painting had largely the same impact upon art in the eastern European art community as Picasso's (non abstract) Cubistic Les Damoiselles de Avignon did during roughly same time in Paris. Only the differences in size and media would account for any differences in the impact these two paintings had upon the art and artists of that time.

In the East, artists such as Kasimir Malevich took toward stark black on white geometric symbols to fuel his Suprematist movement while Piet Mondrian took was much more gradually "wading into" abstraction of his own design with his ongoing study of trees which ultimately ended in total abstraction but with a distinct set of "footprints" leading back to subjective painting. Like the first Sputnik, Kandinsky's efforts were like a wake-up call to the entire world that nothing less than a new threshold had been crossed after which any representational subject matter would somehow seem traditional and retrograde. It was not a moon landing, which allegorically we could say was left to the Americans of the New York school, but it was a ceremonial throwing down of the gauntlet declaring that this is the direction art will go in the twentieth century!

4 comments:

  1. Abstract art is a none real bunch of paint on something. The so called painting shows nothing. Paint is just paint. A thing painted is art. A none thing is a nothing. Nothing is nothing. The so called Abstract art is a way to give nothing something. This is like singing a song with no sound and call it a song. We should remember that Pollock wanted to go back to his first paintings was told not to by the gallery owners who sold his work. Today you can spend 20000000 dollars on a Pollock abstract painting if you can find it in a gallery. Perhaps in the near future we will buy and show art work that will be nothing. The so called artist with no results. The so called artists of abstract nothing are cold and dead. Realism is the only form of art. When we lived in caves many years ago we created the first form of art. As long as we can see real things in a painting we are looking at real art. Even if the painting is about a religious idea we are looking at forms that represent legality that represent what we can see. We can see paint in art but is the so called abstract art about real things???? Think about seen a something that represents a written story in a book but you see no words on any of the 300 clear pages in the book. This book could be called Abstract literature. But it would be as stupid as what we call abstract art. Art is art and art is a reality we know about.

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  2. Ricardo--

    Thanks for writing. Please check out tomorrow's posting 10-22-16 for my response.

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  3. "Paint is just paint" and you have it spot on. The work is the material of the painting and in these paintings it is paint.Hence the abstract image is an authentic painting irrespective of its subject matter.
    The idea that only realism is art is a flawed argument in as much that realism is an imitation of something else, it is not the real thing. An abstract painting is the real thing, it is no imitation. It is what it it is and its interpretation is down to the viewer, how he or sees or feels it. .

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  4. Allan--

    From what you've written, I can't tell if you read my full length comment on this at http://art-now-and-then.blogspot.com/2016/10/a-comment-on-comment.html but if not, please do so. I agree totally with your comment above. Thanks for writing.

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