Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spontaneity: A New York State of Mind and The New York Abstract Expressionist Movement

The Art Gallery of Ontario is currently running an enriching exhibit on the New York Abstract Expressionist Movement during the 1940's onward. Each piece is on loan from The Museum of Modern Art and offers a comprehensive look at the movement and how it shaped and redefined the New York City art scene after the many tragedies suffered during The Great Depression, WWII and the hardships that people endured.

Excerpts taken from the AGO website below:

Abstract Expressionism was an American painting movement that flourished in the 1940s and ‘50s. More than sixty years have passed since the critic Robert Coates, writing in The New Yorker in 1946, first used the term “Abstract Expressionism” to describe the richly coloured canvases of Hans Hofmann. Over the years, the name has come to designate the paintings and sculpture of artists as different as Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner and David Smith.

This was a generation of artists who had just come through the Great Depression of the 1930s, and who had witnessed the Holocaust and the dropping of the atomic bomb. Instead of falling into despair, they sought to invent a new language of art, which by extension would imply a new culture, a new civilization and a new beginning for humankind in general.

It's also very interesting to see the similarities and influences this movement had and still has on the current graffiti and street arts scene today. There is always a deep rooted message evoking emotion in these works which also proves they share the common purpose of communicating ones identity, truth and rebellion in everything we do and how we live our lives.

Below: Man Looking at Woman by Adolph Gottlieb
1949 Oil on Canvas

Below: The Leaf of the Artichoke Is an Owl by Arshile Gorky
1944 Oil on Canvas

Below: Both Untitled by David Smith 
top: Ink and gouache on paper
bottom: Oil crayon on paper

Below: Fugue Number 2 by Richard Pousette-Dart
1943 Oil and sand on canvas

Below: Even the Centipede by Isamu Noguchi
1952 Kasama red stoneware, wood pole and hemp cord

Below: Stenographic Figure by Jackson Pollack
around 1942 oil on linen

My Favourite of the Collection below:

The She-Wolf by Jackson Pollock
1943 oil, gouache and plaster on canvas

I loved the rawness and almost frantic energy depicted in this one:

Below: Full Fathom Five by Jackson Pollock
1947 oil and mixed media on canvas

This one was very interesting because not only was it one of Pollock's earliest "drip" paintings, he also incorporated miscellaneous items such as cigarette butts, nails, thumbtacks, buttons, coins and a key.  If you look closely at the detailed shot below, you can see the thumbtack and a small button.

Below: Gaea by Lee Krasner
1966 Oil on Canvas

Krasner struggled many times throughout her career as an artist as she felt being a woman and also the wife of Jackson Pollock, she was under the shadow of herself. Gaea, named after the ancient Greek goddess, was an example of free form technique which was different from her earlier works. 

Below: The Voyage by Robert Motherwell
1949 Oil and tempera on paper mounted on composition board

This one artfully name The Voyage, seems to resemble a misshapen raft and someone broken and laying down in it.

Below: Paining by Philip Guston
1954 Oil on canvas

Oil painting has so much depth and imagination to it. No matter what angle you look at it from, it always takes on a different appearance and interpretation.

A cool tshirt in the gallery gift shop:

Also to accompany this exhibit was an amazing and moving one time performance from Toronto's multiple award winning and now internationally acclaimed jazz trumpter Nick "Brownman" Ali. The night was a tribute to jazz and the music of the greats such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman.
Also featured was poetry and prose by the New York School along with various performances, dance and films by Hans Namuth and Shirley Clarke.

I love jazz and I swear if I closed my eyes, the sounds playing were like a musical teleporter to a smokey and demure dark nightclub with the suffocating scent of cigarettes, sex, stale perfume and booze. Well, just the jazz part of it :)

I loved this couple below. Right before his pic was taken he said, "When you take my picture, you'll see the future." How awesome was that?!

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