Entries Tagged as 'Women and Art'

Abstract Expressionism and the Making of a Heroic Art: Outlines

October 22nd, 2007 · 4 Comments

My week 9 presentation Abstract Expressionism and the Making of a Heroic Art documents Greenberg’s assertion of the all-american machismo of Abstract Expressionist or “American-Type” painting in his 1955 article “‘American-Type’ Painting” as well as the repercussions this had on the female artists associated with the New York School, exemplified by Lee Krasner’s struggle with her engendered artistic identity as “Mrs. Jackson Pollock” in Anne M. Wagner’s “Lee Krasner as L.K.”
Mrs. Jackson Pollock?

Outline: Lee Krasner as L.K.

Outline: ‘American-Type’ Paintings

Tags: Art · ARTH460 · Women and Art

Heroes and Housewives: The Language of Kitsch

October 22nd, 2007 · 1 Comment

Jasper Johns’s subtle manifesto Painting With Two Balls (1960)

The most interesting findings of my research to date for my “Gender and Kitsch” paper have been, surprisingly, more connected to vocabulary than painting. While women were, at different times, admitted to the highest circles of Greenbergian painting, the language used to discuss those that were and those that weren’t was uniformly tied to gender. For instance, the male Abstract Expressionists are invariably depicted as archetypal struggling artists, supported by the workaday wages of their wives, while all women attempting the same effort were described as housewives or hobbyists. (Janet Sobel, a female painter from Long Island in the 1940’s served as the primary inspiration to Jackson Pollock’s distinctive mark, and yet, was disregarded as a housewife). Meanwhile, even the Abstract Expressionist women artists such as Helen Frankenthaler were labeled second generation Abstract Expressionists even when their work premiered at the same time as some “First Generation” male painters. Similarly, in a husband-and-wife painter exhibition, the women were described as “tidying up” their husbands work.

The smoking gun, however, is in Greenberg and Rosenberg’s writings, where the former defined the feminine as the tendency to employ the elements of great art for practical uses, essentially his definition of kitsch, and the latter derided the pop artists for being afraid of a “masculine” struggle.

The painter Jasper Johns, perhaps Rosenberg’s arch-nemesis, in turn retaliated with the wonderfully tongue-and-cheek Painting With Two Balls, which satarized the gender roles of Greenbergian art while committing all of the mortal sins: corrupting abstraction, including words, employing symbolism (and in a vulgar way!) and most of all, denying the messiah of painting, flatness.

Tags: Art · ARTH460 · Women and Art

Louis at the Hirshhorn, Hopper at the National Gallery, and arachnids in between

September 28th, 2007 · 1 Comment

If you’re the type that keeps on listening when I get all worked up about abstract expressionism, you’ve probably heard me say some pretty hyperbolic things about Morris Louis’s artwork, the kind I’m sure I’d never repeat when properly composed.

Morris Louis exhibition at the Hirshhorn

Morris Louis probably made the most beautiful paintings of all time.

Ok, so, I’m not properly composed. Its only been five days since I saw the Morris Louis exhibition at the Hirshhorn. I don’t plan on getting properly composed be for a long time.

This really is a magnificent exhibition, although the first paintings are undoubtedly the most spectacular, so if you have any sense of occasion, do a U-turn when you get off the escalator and visit the exhibition backwards. Most of the time I get the feeling that Morris Louis was the first painter to elevate Abstract Expressionism to something that was visually compelling even if it was divorced from all that theory that Greenberg loved to talk about. Quite an accomplishment. It doesn’t hurt that ol’ Mo was based out of D.C.

(Granted, he did steal his whole concept from Helen Frankenthaler, but, hey, that just relates this back to Women and Western Art right?)
Speaking of that fascinating topic, when Molly and I left the Hirshhorn to go catch a lecture at the National Gallery, we went through the sculpture garden, (past Jeff Koons’s war on art, which is almost as offensive to the soul as it is to the retinas¹) whereMolly and LaChaise’s bug Molly and I had a discussion about how Gaston Lachaise’s concept of an idealized woman (physically empowered, sexually dominant but still an object of male gaze) relates to the patriarchal, which is generally based on weak subserviant woman. Plus, she found something interesting right in the center of his composition:

I also got to see the Edward Hopper exhibition, which was fascinating and comprehensive and one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen. Still, woowee, Hopper’s women are certainly rigid, and voyeristically sexualized. (Heather Carey has a great paper topic.)

When I was 10, Hopper was why I wanted to become a painter, but I have to admit, standing there in that crowded gallery, surrounded by polite middle aged ladies talking about how much they like Cape Cod, this painting gave me the willies.

¹ I mean this. It’s so shiny that it’s physically paintful to look at.

Tags: Art · Art Exhibitions · Women and Art

Self Portrait of the Artist as a Creepy Man

September 27th, 2007 · 2 Comments

This post comes in response to the self portrait question on the ARTH 460 blog.

Last year I painted my “Self Portrait of the Artist As a Creepy Man” for my Painting I class, and, disappointed with the results that came from my classmates’ efforts to photograph themselves in alluring, idealized or profound poses, I decided to work from a mirror, making the same vapid expression I make when I paint. When I realized how creepy and uncomfortable the painting was, I decided to emphasize the smaller flaws in my face: crazy-man hair, zits,nosehairs, stubble, a uni-brow. I painted myself in my everyday work clothing, what I am most comfortable in: my favorite plaid shirt, undershirt and corduroy jacket. The background, which I am least happy with, was the actual setting of the painting studio.

The result was a creepy frontal stare from a crazy-looking mountain man, not an altogether incorrect portrayal, but perhaps an ironic exageration of my more controversial (but just as real) features.

Portrait of the Artist as a Creepy Man

The audience question, though, is an interesting one: for painters today, audience theoretically isn’t supposed to change the work. Therefore, I decided I would stand behind my painting for any audience, which worked until my grandparents came to look at the painting. Pappy looked at it closely for a while, then turned to Gramma and said “Remember, its not how we see him, its how he sees himself.” It was the only time I have been uncomfortable presenting myself as my self portrait. Which brings this post back to the topic at hand: much more so than today, baroque and rococo self-portraiture, especially for women, was governed by a need to present oneself at his or her very best. Artists were forced to choose the elements that they wanted to emphasize in their own character, which for women was very much defined by their own appearance. Luckily, in today’s art world, I can comfortably present myself in an uncomfortable way without risking dismissal as an artist.

I’m going to do another self portrait this year for my Caravaggio series. We’ll see how it changes.

Tags: Art · ARTH460 · Women and Art

Gender and Kitsch: Paper Proposal

September 12th, 2007 · Comments Off on Gender and Kitsch: Paper Proposal

Pollock, Greenberg, Frankenthaler and Krasner at the beach

In my term paper, I have chosen to examine the relationships between gender and “kitsch” in middle-twentieth century American painting, specifically as they relate to the Greenberg School and all movements related to or reacting against it (Abstract Expressionism, Post-Painterly Abstraction, Pop-Art, Minimalism, Feminist Art).

Gender and Kitsch Paper Proposal

Annotated Bibliography

Tags: Art · ARTH460 · Women and Art

“Women Only!: In Their Studios”

August 28th, 2007 · 2 Comments

Elizabeth MurrayGiven that much of my blog will concern the topic of Women and Art, and that I had an opportunity to visit the Women Only! exhibition at the Clay Center in downtown Charleston, West Virginia earlier this month, it seems to be a logical topic for a brief exhibition review:

The collection of artists in this exhibition was particularly remarkable, as it included Elizabeth Murray, Jennifer Bartlett, Barbara Kruger and Pat Steir, among many other notables. The two aspects of this grouping I found most intriguing were:

1. Most of these artists (with the exception of maybe Kruger) are typically presented as Important Artists of the Twentieth Century rather than important “Women-Artists,” and are arguably the first generation to be able to do so. In each case they are typically celebrated for their individual contribution to the art world. As a result, this exhibition felt more like a celebration of achievement than the pushing of an agenda.

2. Most of these artists are best known for work dating to the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, so it was an interesting glimpse of work made by artists that have passed out of the spotlight. The exhibition even includes some interesting photos of the artists at work in their studios at an advanced age. In many cases, it was the first time I had ever seen what the artists actually looked like–which, on the bright side, might be an indication of increasing gender equality in the arts, as portraits and self-portraits are so often used as qualifiers in the enshrinement of art. At any rate, that is undeniably the case of this particular exhibition, although it handles that distinction very well; make no mistake, the exhibition is first and foremost about women artists, but it makes sure to show great women artists.

I was particularly interested in the ways in which Bartlett incorporated her iconic grid structure in to increasingly gestural work, (but alas I can’t find any images online from the exhibition.) Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer’s works on display were primarily variations on their notable word art, although I was dissapointed to see how much magic Holzer’s “truisms” lose when printed on paper and stuck on a gallery wall. (…and yet, they gained so much when used as grow lights in the VMFA’s Artificial Light exhibition last year).

On the whole, I wasn’t altogether floored by the quality of the individual works, but otherwise it was a great exhibition contextually and thematically, especially if, you know, you’re lost somewhere in the Kanawha valley looking for an art fix.¹


¹Admittedly, if you’re lost in the Kanawha valley, you probably have some bigger concerns than art.

Tags: Art · Art Exhibitions · Women and Art