Wrong Direction: U-Turn Required

Two Paintings by Mark Rothko (1903-1970)

I feel that with abstract expressionism, American art took the wrong direction. Instead of the painting becoming something for the viewing public, it became something produced because the painter had to work out something not quite communicable in his or her own mind.

It was during my college years during the mid-1960s that I first developed my dislike of what had become the dominant movement in American painting. (Fortunately, it no longer is.) In fact, it was Mark Rothko who first came to my attention—and I didn’t like him from the first.

It was Anais Nin who wrote in Volume 1 of her Diary: “I am essentially human, not intellectual. I do not understand abstract art. Only art born of love, passion, pain.”

Jackson Pollock’s “Convergence”(1952)

There are many abstract expressionist painters I do not like, so I am highlighting the three who particularly came to my attention: Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning. If I somehow came into possession of one of their works, I would not under any circumstances put it on display. Instead, I would find some fool to pay hard cash for it. It would be ideal for a corporate head office, and not at all for the residence or office of a person who has chosen not be be schooled to appreciate such work.

Willem de Kooning’s “Untitled” (19 Something or Other)

I have come under fire from some of my friends over my attitude on modern art. I don’t dislike all modern art, just art that is divorced from reality as I know and understand it. I do not care a fig for whatever reality is in the mind of the artist if it does not in some way intersect with my reality.

Very interesting rectangles, Mark. I’ll let you know if I’m in the market for any. Oh, Jackson, I hope you’re not doing any graffiti in my neighborhood. And Willem, you built yourself quite a career with your multicolor daubs of an indiscriminate nature.

There really is not anything else I have to say. I’m not the artist, and certainly not the artist’s psychoanalyst.

Ocean Park

In His Case, I’ll Make an Exception

In His Case, I’ll Make an Exception

It was my friend Lynette who opened my eyes to the “Ocean Park” series of abstract paintings by Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993). Ordinarily, I dislike nonrepresentational art; but in Diebenkorn’s case, I’ll make an exception. He moved in Los Angeles around the same time I did, and I found his choice of colors reminded me of the Santa Monica neighborhood after which this series is named.

Usually, colors alone do not mean much to me. In the case of Mark Rothko, for example, they mean less than nothing. In “Ocean Park #40” above, I could probably find something like that particular pattern somewhere along Ocean Park Boulevard.


Ocean Park #105

Ocean Park #105

The same goes for “Ocean Park #105” above.

I wonder, if the color scheme of an abstract painting suggests something to me, can it really be said to be abstract at all?

Art Without a Human Context

Not a Fan of Non-Representational Art

I’m Not a Fan of Non-Representational Art

There are people who like abstract art, and then there are people like me. I could go through a large museum of modern art in a quarter of an hour or less, stopping only for a handful of paintings that catch my eye. Admittedly, one finds masses of brilliant colors, bold designs, but nothing that relates to human experience. I have always been amazed that so many works of abstract art are so large, involving so many square feet of canvas and paint, yet  elicit so little response from me. How often does one find works of non-representational art that are small? Their very hugeness is part of their impact. I could spend half an hour looking at a small Renoir or Cézanne, yet pass by a room full of gigantic daubs with barely a shrug.

Some of my friends think there is something wrong with my taste in art. They urge me to visit Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), but I hesitate to devote my time and money to something that does not engage my intellect.

I have looked through some of my earlier posts about art, particularly those relating to Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. One is about Vermeer’s “A View of Delft”; another takes as its subject Pieter de Hooch’s “The Mother”; and yet another, Sandro Botticelli’s “The Trials of Moses.” Marcel Proust and I have this in common: paintings that send one on a tangent are infinitely preferred to those which only inspire a grunt accompanied by the exclamation “Meh!”

It is no surprise that banks and corporate headquarters tend to like large works of abstract art. They want people to think they are forward looking, at the leading edge. One looks at them as adjuncts of power rather than as works that can inspire even a modicum of thought. But, perhaps, power without thoughtfulness is what they are aiming at.