Friday, September 5, 2014

Modern Art (pt. 4)

Perhaps the culminating realization of Abstract Expressionism found itself in the artwork of Jackson Pollock.  Pollock's works center around the personally expressive effusion of the artist.  His work was about the process of creating a work of art—an element purely for the artist's experience, not relating in any way to art critics, the public, the historical tradition of art, or any other outside influence.  You might think, then, that the work of such an artist would not attract any attention in the public community; and, surprisingly, you'd be wrong.  Jackson Pollock's famous painting, No. 5, from 1948, sold at auction in 2006 for $140 million, making it the world's most expensive painting—(until 2011, when a Cézanne attracted a significantly higher amount at a private auction).
Pollock's No. 5 is an 8' x 4' canvas of paint splatters that the artist poured and threw onto the canvas.  Often flicking his dabbed paintbrush at the canvas, often pouring it directly from the can, and even occasionally stepping on top of and walking over the canvas, the artist allowed artistic aesthetics and subject matter to fly completely out the window because his art was about his own relationship to the painting through creation (and it's more interesting to do all of those things than nitpick for hours over small details).  This painting, untitled except for a numerical designation, contains no concrete subject matter, realistic imagery, or manifest theme.  In that sense, there's almost nothing to be said about a painting like this; it is a personal work of the artist and existing thematically only within the abstract expressionism of his personal emotions tied to it and physical relationship to the creative process of the work.  And yet this is the second highest selling painting in the world.  What do you think is to be so desired in a painting like this?
In a way, this is a deconstruction of art, similar to the function of Kandinsky's paintings, except for one important difference.  Kandinsky's abstraction was purely visual; Pollock, acting akin to the flow of Postmodern thought, took that concept of abstraction further to apply to art theory, theme, creation, and craft.  This painting is not initially a statement on the progression of artistic practice through history; it is, first and foremost, a product of intimate self-expressionism, like Van Gogh's asylum artworks.  It is totally abstract, removing itself away from the institutionalized ideology of art on a whole and bringing it totally within the realm of the individual's complete freedom and privacy.  Yet indirectly, Pollock's artwork affected the trend of art history on a whole because Abstract Expressionism (even the most personal form of intimate artistic creation) became, in Postmodernism, equivocal to the larger forms of art technique—and, in fact, any form of art technique.  Paint splatters on a giant canvas with no manifest attention to communicable theme, subject matter, or technical inventiveness become just as relevant as (or maybe even more relevant than) a work by Leonardo da Vinci in the Postmodern art world.

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