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Art = Absurdity = Provocation = Contemplation = Wisdom = Love

Posts Tagged ‘Helen Frankenthaler

Chimpanzee or not Chimpanzee?

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Picasso’s “lyrical abstract impressionist” Congo

Here’s the question:  Who painted what? Chimp or human?

The Humane Society caretakers have judiciously prepared their apes for a competition, and the six finalists have been announced:  Jamie, Jenny, Cheetah, Brent, Ripley, and Patti. Their work is displayed along with “Picasso’s Chimp,”  Congo, whose work Picasso hung in his studio.

These seven primates shall battle seven of the finest abstract expressionists of our modern times.

The Seven:  Willem de Kooning,  Friedel Dzubas, Helen Frankenthaler, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, and Peter Upward.

But first, a few words:

1.  This has been done before!  Painter spoofs, with paintings stuck side by side with children’s art or elephant dung or paint spillage, are not original. Why do it, then? ‘Cause it’s fun.

2.  A chimpanzee can’t paint without human help.  True. A chimp cannot construct material, brushes, or dyes, not to mention guidance.

3.  Chimps don’t have to compete in the ugly world of galleries and critics. Everyone loves chimps. Yes, we’re biased, we root for chimps.

4.  Human appreciation:  The trained artist, critic, student has an advantage. They see technique apes cannot replicate with their clumsy opposing thumbs lacking human dexterity.

It should be an unfair competition, right? Click on any picture to find out who painted what.

(Artist bios taken from Wiki or Wiki-like pages.)

Willem de Kooning:  (April 24, 1904 – March 19, 1997) Dutch American abstract expressionist artist, born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. His style Abstract expressionism or Action painting, and he was part artist group known as the New York School. Others included Jackson Pollock, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Kline, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Motherwell, and Clyfford Still. In 2011 de Kooning’s work was honored with a retrospective exhibition at MoMA.

Friedel Dzubas: (April 20, 1915 – 1994) German-born American abstract painter, studied art before fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939 to New York City. In Manhattan shared a studio with Helen Frankenthaler, began exhibiting his Abstract expressionist paintings, included in the Ninth Street Show in New York City in 1951, and in group exhibitions at the Leo Castelli gallery, the Stable Gallery, and the Tibor de Nagy Gallery among others.

Franz Kline:  (May 23, 1910 – May 13, 1962) with other Abstract Expressionists, such as de Kooning and Rothko, Kline sought to maintain a stylistic development, including works from 1959 to 1961 known as the ‘wall paintings’, that echo the monumentality of later paintings by Clyfford Still or Robert Motherwell. He introduced a full range of colour, black-and-white paintings retained traces of sombre hues, Kline’s strident palette he had largely eschewed since the later 1940s. His influence on the second generation of gestural painters was substantial, and his works comprise some of the most imposing achievements of Abstract Expressionism.

Helen Frankenthaler: (December 12, 1928 – December 27, 2011) Frankenthaler began exhibiting large-scale abstract expressionist paintings in museums and galleries in the 1950s. She was included in the 1964 Post-Painterly Abstraction exhibition curated by Clement Greenberg that introduced painting that came to be known as Color Field. She was influenced by Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock and by Greenberg. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In 2001, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts. More on Frankenthaler here.

Joan Mitchell: (February 12, 1925 – October 30, 1992) a “second generation” abstract expressionist painter, printmaker and member of the American Abstract expressionist movement. Along with Lee Krasner, Grace Hartigan, and Helen Frankenthaler, she was one of her era’s few female painters to gain critical and public acclaim. Her paintings and editioned prints can be seen in major museums and collections across America and Europe.

“A passionate inner vision guided Joan’s brush. Like her peer Cy Twombly, she extended the vocabulary of her Abstract Expressionist forebears. She imbued their painterliness with a compositional and chromatic bravery that defiantly alarms us into grasping their beauty.” – Klaus Kertess wrote in the New York Times

Robert Motherwell:  (January 24, 1915 – July 16, 1991 )With the advent of Pop Art, the art public began to long for the idealism of the Abstract Expressionists. In relation to Andy Warhol’s soup cans, Motherwell’s large abstract paintings achieved a majesty in the public eye. Motherwell’s politics and spirituality were welcome reminders of a time when one could make art that did not engage the cynicism of a post-modern era. Motherwell committed himself to producing highly experimental work of emotional depth for the rest of his life. He died at the age of 76: the last of the great Abstract Expressionists. From the 1949 painting, AT FIVE IN THE AFTERNOON, until the end of his life, Motherwell continued his search for a personal and political voice in abstraction. This search produced a body of work that remains a testament to the human soul and its persistence, and to the genre of abstract painting out of which it came.

Peter Upward: (Born in Melbourne, Australia 1932 – 1983) IN the early 1960s Australia was in the grip of an art war between the abstract and figurative artists.The figurative artists formed a Melbourne-based group, the Antipodeans, strongly critical of abstraction. In the Antipodeans’ manifesto, abstraction was described as “not an art sufficient for our time . . . not an art for living men”.  The abstractionists reponded to this animosity by forming a group called Sydney 9. It included John Olsen, Peter Upward, Leonard Hessing, Clement Meadmore and Stanislaus Rapotec. Sydney 9 first exhibited in Sydney and then in Melbourne, where, in a ploy to get media attention and annoy the Antipodeans, three of the group arrived at the exhibition’s opening in a helicopter, brandishing their paintings.


Written by Caleb Powell

September 6, 2013 at 8:25 am

Sanford Wurmfeld: Shit Frozen Below Kelvin

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Wurmfeld vs. Wurmfeld

Sanford Wurmfeld? Sanford Wurmfeld (b. 1942-). Wurm…feld. Wurmfeld.

Art has a greater purpose than to exasperate or frustrate. Yes, frustration within art can have a regenerative effect, and iconoclastic messages serve to exasperate governments, societies, and religions. This often leads to transformative change. But some art has no such intent. The investigation of work of no value, ironically, has edifying fruits. It helps solidify views on what art should do and be.

A professor at Cooper Union (my mother is a CU alum), Wurmfeld is an artist with a name redolent in poetics. He produces work that only questions the acuity of those critics and benefactors who designate what art should hang in what galleries and sell for what price. For what? Enjoy the Wurmfeld. Consider. Left. Right. Below.

Conclusion:  Screen savers are now art. It’s time to ditch the eloquence and go Insane Clown Posse on Wurmfeld and his mentors, predecessors, and contemporaries: Thanks! Thanks a fucking lot, Rothko, Thank you, Warhol. Fuck off, Tracey Emin. Fuck you very much, Frankenthaler. Fuck Pollock. Thanks and fuck all those who set the stage for more shit.

Paul Doran vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell

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Brief Bio, Part I – The Boring Stuff: Beatrice Joan Wilson met David Powell at Cooper Union in the 50s. She graduated with a degree in Fine Art, and he in Civil Engineering. After graduation David Powell joined the US Navy and was sent to Guam. While living on Guam the Powells took a vacation to Japan, and while there Beatrice fell in love with Oriental art and language. After four years in Guam the Powells returned to New York City, David got a graduate degree at NYU and Beatrice went to  Columbia University to study Chinese language and Chinese art. Her painting above: New Diamond Restaurant.

Cooper Union has a credible program in the arts, its graduates include Jackson Pollock’s wife, Lee Krasner, as well as Eva Hesse and Milton Glaser. At Cooper Union Beatrice had an experimental and abstract expressionist phrase. These paintings are still on the wall of her house, as seen in the YouTube video below. This nonsense passed as she later pursued techinically difficult art over simple form. Previously, her art went head to head with abstractionists Helen Frankenthaler & Clyfford Still. This time she’s battling a different critter. Who? Paul Doran…look at his works to see where this is going. Let his works speak for themselves. Look right. Look below.

PAUL DORAN: Here’s what the critics say about Paul Doran: “PAUL DORAN’S small, gritty paintings remind one of Arthur Dove upon first view. Small and seemingly clumsy, like Dove’s early forays into abstraction, Doran seems to be channeling early modernism…blah-help-me-blah…” (I dread to imagine Arthur Dove)

Or:Paul Doran is most famous for a series of work that took a love of impasto effects to the level of extreme sport, burying the canvas in a rich heap of brashly swept oil-paint… ” (Brashly swept? Impasto effects? As they say in The Tube in London:  Shut up, you fucking cow!)

Don’t even try the “you don’t get art” defense: Okay, if you’re a Doran fan, you might be thinking,  “Ah hah, why respond to this idiot Caleb Powell. He’s dismissing before looking deeper. This ass just doesn’t understand art.” Fair enough. I’ll fire back: art’s my damned life.

When art critics champion dross the people who don’t understand art either turn off or ignore. The people who understand art are offended or sycophantic. Art becomes less important and accessible. Paul Doran’s existence is one of the many epitomes of this dynamic. Are there any Paul Doran admirers out there? Engage me, gaze at the two Dorans…I’ve given a first glance, a hard intuitive look, and a long meditation. Conclusion: Utter squeak.

VIDEO:  I give a tour of my parents’ house. Lots of books & art. Pictured is my mother at Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan, 1967 (a year before she gave birth to me).

Clyfford Still vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell

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Casino Monte-Carlo & Hotel de Paris

Clyfford Still vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell:  The above blend of color, caricature, and content, “Casino Monte Carlo and Hotel de Paris,” was painted by the artist known as Cove Loon, or 魏嵦毅, or B.J.W. Powell.  In her second duel against abstract expressionists she has to battle, once again, with a yellow square reminiscent of the Frankenthaler in my previously blog: Helen Frankenthaler vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell. What artist? Read on.

“Still makes the rest of us look academic.” – Jackson Pollock

If you think Jackson Pollock is the only overrated abstract expressionist whose blobs, scribbles, and splotches attracted gawkers willing to spend millions, think again. Enter Clyfford Still. Look at the yellow rectangle. Is it a question of sophistication? No. To the untrained eye it looks like nothing special, and to the trained eye it looks like crap.

Wisdom of the over appreciated:  “To be stopped by a frame’s edge is intolerable.” – Clyfford Still

To be prattled at by a moron is much more intolerable. Clyfford, screw off. Seriously? You couldn’t have just kept on painting yellow if it weren’t for that damned frame’s edge. Are the synapses within your cerebellum and medulla not functioning?  I know you’re dead, but crimeeeeeiny, your followers may claim that $$$ validate pseudo-greatness. In November of 2011 Four of your “Clyfford Still” Paintings sold for over $114,000,000. Gadfuckingzooks! The Secret sells millions of books, BFD.

“Better than Still” Life with Shirt

Clyfford Still vs. My Daughter’s Shirt:  I do not claim the shirt on the right is more beautiful than the Still on the left. The Still actually has a certain aesthetic I find pleasing, though the shirt has more use as an article of clothing, and is almost as beautiful, I’d take the Still. Then I’d sell it to some rich liberal sycophant.

What to do? I understand why this Denver woman punched his painting, but that’s not the answer. All I can do is curse this proliferation of nonsensical visual art (for every Pollock, Doran, Hirst, Still, Frankenthaler etc. there are 1,000’s of aspirants). Grumble about those willing to spend gobs of $$$ on crap. And decry the fact that artists who have more worthy visions garner less attention. Once again, I ask, what would you prefer to look at, “Yellow” or “Au Café de la Place”?

Au Café de la Place

Helen Frankenthaler vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell

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This post has four pictures, two of them are painted by Helen Frankenthaler, an abstract expressionist who achieved no small amount of attention. She passed away on December 27, 2011. And here are two self-explanatory examples of her art, which I’ll call “Blue” & “Yellow.” Pleasant, indeed, but worthy of greatness? The paintings above and below are the work of one of her unknown contempories, Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell, aka Cove Loon, aka Mom. Frankenthaler achieved fame and attention, yet comes from a period that I simply do not get. She counts artists such as Jackson Pollock among her influences. This is problematic, Pollock is not great. Certainly, he is among the many of her contemporaries that have changed & influenced art, but I would argue that they have not advanced art. They’ve lowered the aesthetic bar, added elements that take away from pursuits of beauty and meaning and replaced them with simplicity. Often I think the art world has gone nuts, and rewarded people not on skill or talent or aesthetic but on random chance and marketing. Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Paul Doran, Arshile Gorky, Damien Hirst, Lee Krasner, Dale Malner, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Andy Warhol, et al somehow managed to replicate pop culture or fill a niche or fund bizarre projects as they spread globs of paint on canvas or as they manufactured junk into a visual display; their art is craft or promotion. Am I an unsophisticated lout who has no appreciation of art? That usually is a defense artistes wage against detractors, fair enough, but I have grown up amidst art, am familiar with the art historians, and think that for an artist to be great, one of the criteria is that they must have talent.

As far as Frankenthaler’s art, intuitively and with a further and deeper glance, I do not see why her paintings have value. Her art does not interest me, I pass it by and look for something else.

This brings me to my mother, and do not think I imply that she should be famous. Her talent is worthy of greatness, but her output, ambition, drive, complacency et al have hindered her overall body of work. She is exactly where she should be in the art world, someone who is appreciated by family and friends. Nevertheless, take a look at the art within this post. What would you rather have on your wall?