Carolee Schneemann (1939 – 2019) moved to New York in 1961 and soon became associated with the Living Theatre and the Judson Dance Theater, producing experimental works that explored bodily sensations. Although Schneemann is best known for these performance-based works, which she referred to as “kinetic theater,” her artistic practice was rooted in painting. Continue reading Modern Art Monday Presents: Carolee Schneemann, Butterworth Box II
American Totem (1960) is one of a series of black-and-white paintings that Norman Lewis made which explore the emotional and psychic impact of the civil rights movement. Lewis, one of the few Black artists associated with Abstract Expressionism, created a form that evokes the infamous hooded Klansman, but the monolith is composed of a multitude of smaller forms resembling apparitions, skulls and masks.
Lewis’s work suggest that terror is both representable and abstract, conscious an unconscious, visible and hidden. The painting was made more than decade after Lewis’s first solo show at the Willard Gallery in New York in 1949, which had earned him considerable renown but neither the financial rewards nor exhibition opportunities if his peers.
Photographed in The Whitney Museum in NYC.
Originally trained as an architect, Roberto Matta settled in France in 1933, where he worked with Le Corbusier. During a visit to Spain in 1934, he befriended the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was assassinated two years later by agents of the Fascist leader, Francisco Franco. In a tribute to his friend, Matta composed a screenplay called The Earth Is A Man, and the text’s apocalyptic imagery, rapidly shifting perspectives, and emotional language became the principal source of his artistic work over the next five years.
This large canvas is the culmination of Matta’s project. Exhibited shorty after its completion (in 1942) in New York City, where the artist had immigrated at the onset on World War II, the painting’s abstract and visionary qualities influenced a new generation of artists, who would later become known as the Abstract Expressionists.
Photographed in the Art Institute, Chicago.
After 1952, dripping and pouring paint were no longer the primary means of expression for Jackson Pollack.The totemic forms at the left and right in Easter and The Totem (1953) reflect his renewed interest in using a brush to paint quasi-figurative images. The bright colors and expansive spaces anchored by large swaths of black suggest the influence of Henri Matisse, who was the subject of a large retrospective that Pollack would have seen at MoMA the previous year. The push and pull between abstraction and figuration is a thread that weaves through Pollack’s entire career. As he said in the last year of his life, “I am very representational some of the time and a little al of the time.”
Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
A powerful rendering by the artist in her twenties, this picture was made with a practical purpose; it was painted as a reception piece for admission to the life-drawing course at the National Academy of Design. While Lee Krasner (1908 – 1984) is best known for the personal style that she developed within the movement of Abstract Expressionism in the 19540s, this self portrait (c. 1930) is a rare example of her early work, using the thick brushwork and high color of the Impressionists and Realists of the previous generation. Strikingly, Krasner depicts herself at work in nature. She eyes the viewer, who stands on the spot where, presumably, a mirror hangs on a tree. Her expression and strong handling of light and shade evoke the resolve of a young woman rising to the challenge of her artistic vocation.
Photographed in the Jewish Museum in NYC.