Sophistication and the Shadows of Branches/ Painting of the Day: Check out new post on my Foundation Drawing Course page!

5 Feb



Buttress. by Franz Kline (1910-1962). Oil on canvas, 1956. 

Notes from

American Abstract Expressionist Franz Kline is best known for large black and white paintings bearing abstract motifs set down with strident confidence. He started out as a realist with a fluent style that he perfected during an academic training that encouraged him to admire Old Masters such as Rembrandt. But after settling in New York and meeting Willem de Kooning, he began to evolve his signature abstract approach. By the end of his life he had achieved immense international recognition, and his unusual approach to gestural abstraction was beginning to influence the ideas of many Minimalists.

Franz Kline is most famous for his black and white abstractions, which have been likened variously to New York’s cityscape, the landscape of his childhood home in rural Pennsylvania, and Japanese calligraphy.
The poet and curator Frank O’Hara saw Kline as the quintessential ‘action painter’, and Kline’s black and white paintings certainly helped establish gestural abstraction as an important tendency within Abstract Expressionism. Yet Kline saw his method less as a means to express himself than as a way to create a physical engagement with the viewer.
The powerful forms of his motifs, and their impression of velocity, were intended to translate into an experience of structure and presence which the viewer could almost palpably feel.
Kline’s reluctance to attribute hidden meanings to his pictures was important in recommending his work to a later generation of Minimalist sculptors such as Donald Judd and Richard Serra.
Although Kline’s death received much attention in the press, his fame declined in subsequent years and his work was not seriously revisited until the art market boom of the late 1980s. However, a new generation of Minimalists found much of interest in his work. They rejected the heroics of his gestures, and their aura of lofty nobility, but they were attracted by the way the viewer could feel energized by the architectonic forms of his motifs. What to some critics seemed like references to architecture then became almost real built surfaces in the work of artists like Donald Judd and Richard Serra.
My comments:
As I said in my newest post on my Foundation Drawing Course page that you see at the top of the blog, my drawing for our most recent assignment reminded me of Franz Kline’s abstract expressionist paintings. 
I think I actually like Kline’s work more than that of Jackson Pollock, even though they are very similar artists. I think that Pollock’s work tends to become too patterned over the whole surface of the canvas which he entirely fills up, to the point where it looks more like a carpet than a work of art because it’s too balanced and symmetrical. There is more motion in Kline’s work than in Pollock’s, which to me evokes stasis, because in Kline’s work the line has somewhere to go since it hasn’t already covered up the whole canvas. It looks completely finished and perfect in terms of achieving the artist’s goals, but somehow it also looks unfinished in a good way, like a cliffhanger or a mesmerizing character that we never get tired of reading about what they do next. 
We tend to associate the quality of artworks with how much time they take. I still remember how irked I was when someone in my Art History seminar last semester looked at a Raphael painting adjacent to a Soutine painting and said something to the effect of, “Why would Soutine paint the way he did if he had the skill to paint like Raphael? I mean Raphael’s work is so good, it must have taken him a really long time.” It probably did take Raphael a long time, but this isn’t what makes his painting great. Just like every writer has different goals in mind, artists do too, and so what they produce will take different amounts of time and come out differently. Just because a poem by Robert Frost didn’t take as much time to write as Ayn Rand’s 1,000+ paged Atlas Shrugged doesn’t mean Rand’s book is better or reveals more writing skill than Frost’s poem. They are simply completely different. 
So Kline’s work probably took only a few hours, if that even–probably less time than Pollock’s. But Kline’s work, in my opinion, is better, because it communicates more and feels more alive and relevant than Pollock’s paintings.

One Response to “Sophistication and the Shadows of Branches/ Painting of the Day: Check out new post on my Foundation Drawing Course page!”

  1. tara February 5, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    Are you going to link your blog to the facebook page of your art history professor and have a reciprocal link? So readers could go from his facebook page to your blog and vis versa?

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