Monday, December 27, 2010

Vacation Week and Color Field Painting

Despite my resolution to finish UFO's during this week off,  I find myself drawn into FFFC Challenge 52 which is inspired by the Color Field Painting movement of  the 1940's and '50s.  I find the challenges which encourage us to delve deeper into art history to be irresistible.  The posts on the message board are a bit like art school discussions (just slower!)

I don't want to post a long windy manifesto there on my opinion of the essence of Color Field, expert that I am after four days of study.   :)   So I thought I'd just ramble on here for awhile instead.  From what I've gathered, the key points of any CF work are:
  • not only abstract, but nonrepresentational
  • color carries primary importance over form, shape or style
  • evokes emotion, primarily through use of color
I've chosen a few artists whose work intrigues me to research further, and hopefully base my piece on:  Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler.  I don't believe these are the "best" or most pure or iconic, I just found that their works touched me more deeply than the others.  Rothko's work Magenta Black Green on Orange, seems to be an early example of pure Color Field. A Google Image search of Rothko brings up many more examples of his interpretation. Note extremely simple, mostly horizontal forms and blurred edges.

Other painters that I found interesting and would consider as having at least a Color Field phase are Hans Hoffman, and Clifford Still.  While still using color fields in a non-representative way, these work feels more chaotic or stressful, and not something I'm inclined to attempt to emulate in fabric.  Color Field seems to have matured in the 1960's with many painters using a more geometric or hard edged form, and artists like Morris Louis,  Frank Stella.  Growing up in middle America in the 1960's and '70's I remember seeing and hearing about these types of works, all generically and frequently somewhat pejoratively referred to as "Modern Art."

Wikipedia has an interesting "stub" of an article which shows a chart with one writer's definition of different "Post-Painterly Abstraction" styles.

I think a great response to this challenge would be to simply frame a beautifully dyed piece of fabric.    Alas I don't have one.

Here is a good story by NPR  on Color Field from 2008, which includes part of an interview with Frankenthaler in the 1980's.  I think I choose her to study further in part, because I was intrigued that she is the only woman mentioned in conjunction with Color Field.  So few women artists seem to have made the history books from any period so I am always interested to look at them.  Sadly, while listening to the NPR story, I found out that she was the lover of art critic Clement Greenberg, whose writing defined Color Field and who selected artists to write about...   Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland were strongly influenced by Frankenthaler, but one wonders if they our anyone else would have ever heard of her, had she not been introduced to them by Greenberg?  hmmm.

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