Abstract Art

The rapid development of mankind by the beginning of the 20th century gave rise to a new kind of art. Its evolution over a hundred years is clearly presented in this article.

At the beginning of the 20th century, long before dystopias, cyberpunk and any other "Matrix", abstract artists became the founders of the "brave new world". It was they who defragmented reality, decomposed it into components, and then completely deprived us of the usual image of the world around us.

How did it happen? Abstract art theorist Wilhelm Worringer wrote: "The desire for abstraction is a consequence of the great inner anxiety of the human personality." And, perhaps, he was right. In the same period, fashionable then (and now) Sigmund Freud and his followers explained the nature of man as unsteady and chaotic, unstable, attached special importance to the sensual and the unconscious, as a natural entity.


Thus, reality itself seemed doubtful and painful, one wanted to escape from it. Take the "blue pill" like in the movie "The Matrix" and find yourself in a blissful illusion. Or push the boundaries of the existing reality, display and visualize light, movement, sound, endowing them with a kind of subjectivity. This is what the abstract artists did.

Pioneers and trailblazers were Kazimir Malevich, Arthur Dove, Francis Picabia, Frantisek Kupka and others. The leading theorist of abstractionism was the Russian artist Vasily Vasilyevich Kandinsky. In his book On the Spiritual in Art, he argued that there was no need to deify the form, believed that the source, content and essence of art is the spirit, which can be described as abstract. Thus, he immediately elevated abstraction, designating it as more intellectual and spiritual than figurative art.

It was for Kandinsky's painting that the American art historian and first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Alfred Hamilton Barr, first coined and introduced the term "abstract expressionism". The importance of Kandinsky in art cannot be overestimated. He became a subverter of foundations, one of the theorists and practitioners of non-objectivity.

The artist was cramped within the framework of the academic tradition and therefore he follows the path of innovation and experimentation. Experimenting with color, light and form, he sought to add something of his own, exclusive to human culture and even to physical space. He tried to represent to the viewer not only the laws of nature, but also something more ephemeral, going beyond their boundaries. By an act of creativity, according to Kandinsky, the artist became like the Creator.

Being not only an artist, but also a theoretician, he reflected on the syncretism of art, offered his own philosophical and theoretical analysis of the processes in culture. Everything that for subsequent generations of artists has become an axiom, a dogma and almost a religion - all this is the "handiwork" and intellect of Wassily Kandinsky.

Separately, it is worth mentioning the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, who developed abstract painting absolutely independently of Wassily Kandinsky. On his canvases, vertical and horizontal lines and the space between them, painted over in red, blue and yellow, symbolized the balance of forces in the harmony of the universe. Thus, Mondrian was decades ahead of the modern idea of the world as a kind of matrix cells.

In addition, the formation and development of abstractionism as a full-fledged artistic movement was influenced by the ideas of Andre Breton, his "automatic writing". Abstract surrealism arose, which eventually degenerated into the same abstract impressionism and expressionism

It is logical and natural that all the currents and trends of abstract art that existed at that time eventually obeyed the general laws: a psychoanalytic approach, automatism, a spontaneous manner of writing, free improvisations on canvas.

In general, the conceptual framework of abstract art and, in particular, abstract expressionism (which has become dominant) is the emergence of a person beyond the limits of everyday life, and the very process of creation is put at the forefront.

It was this approach to art that prevailed in the work of the Abstract Expressionists, who lived and created their work in post-war New York. The New York "combat cell" of artists (Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline and others) managed to represent to the world the meaning, beauty and innovation of abstraction as a genre. All this "American" flowering of expressionism became possible thanks to the federal program, state money and the concentration of cultural and financial flows in the city of the "Big Apple".

The most famous abstract expressionist was Jackson Pollock. The active and rebellious nature of the artist was reflected not only in his painting, but also in the manner of its creation. "Action painting" - this is how critics called Pollock's creations. The main artistic method of Jackson Pollock was dripping (spraying paint).

For the artist, it was not important what and how to create his art. There is a stick - use it, there is a culinary syringe - use it! Hardened brush - no problem! The main thing for him was not the result, but the action itself, which became a form of reflection of a free, spontaneous and personal emotional experience.

If the creative act is more important than the picture that turns out "at the end", then improvisation itself becomes a subject of art. That is why Pollock arranged original performances, attracted viewers to create the canvas. The observer "participated" in the process of creativity, joining the emotions and feelings of the painter. Deep personal experiences and the sacredness of the action were combined in an amazing way with a public performance. Until recently, no one could surpass Jackson Pollock in the syncretism of an intimate act of creativity with provocative publicity.

As a result, unity, fusion and harmony of the feelings and sensations of the audience with the emotions of the artist was achieved, the very “feeling” that the art theorist Wilhelm Worringer wrote about. The collective unconscious was actively involved in the perception of the art object. Modern actionists only in the twenty-first century were able to repeat and continue to develop this method, successfully used by the classic of American abstract expressionism.

Despite the extreme provocativeness of painting and the method of Jackson Pollock, his work, without a doubt, is the unsurpassed pinnacle of abstract expressionism. This bewitching interweaving of colored lines, this depth and shimmering transparency have been the object of attention of the audience for decades, the subject of research by art historians and a role model for followers.

In addition, the classic invented the very "expressive line", which is both an object, a means and a color, freeing the drawing from figurativeness. He put this "instrument" into the hands of his followers.

The artist's painting "Number 1 (Lavender Mist)", written in 1950, received worldwide fame.

If Pollock created his masterpieces in the manner of "action painting", then another, no less famous and famous abstract expressionist, Mark Rothko, completely abandoned the form and created "color field painting". The artist attached particular importance to strokes and the structure of paint, recognized color as the most powerful communicative tool.

Exhibiting his works, Rothko built a separate huge but closed space in which the observer, falling into a contemplative state, explored his own mood and feelings. Rothko's paintings, like the works of other abstract expressionists, are truly gigantic in size. The periods and the state of the spirit of the creator are clearly traced. From monochrome, but light and cheerful canvases, the artist gradually moves to shades of gray, brown and black.

An example of Mark Rothko's chromatic abstraction is the 1958 painting "Red, Brown and Black".

A friend and colleague of Mark Rothko was another, no less extravagant representative of non-figurative art. Arshile Gorky. His fate was tragic, and his talent is great. Gorka's works are colorful and deliberately mysterious. He went a long way from figurative art to abstraction. Gradually, on his canvases, objects of the real world are replaced by unsteady forms, which, standing out sharply against a colored background, resemble a convulsively pulsating organism. For the current generation of artists and connoisseurs of beauty, Arshile Gorka's painting is an example of bright color, expression and liveliness.

One of the most famous paintings of the master is called "Liver like a cockscomb". The artist himself, reluctantly commented on it something like this: a healthy liver is filled with blood and therefore red. Like a cock's comb.

Somewhat apart in this series is the name of Franz Klein. His works, which combine black lines on a white background, refer the viewer to the art of Japanese calligraphy. The artist's paintings can be viewed as enlarged hieroglyphic fragments. Kline anticipated the use of this technique in the work of modern digital abstractionists.

All these artists lived bright, fruitful, but, unfortunately, short lives. Alcoholism and suicide brought them to the grave. Everyone except Willem de Koonning. He had to pick up the "banner" of abstract expressionism and carry it almost alone until the end of the twentieth century.

However, de Koonning is famous not because he lived longer than others and wrote more works. And the fact that it was he who demonstrated to the whole world that abstraction can be simultaneously mocking, lyrical and harsh. Frankly sexy. His work is distinguished by a light pastel palette, mesh compositions, and color is given the role of a tool for creating multidimensionality. The artist easily changed the style, manner, themes of writing, interspersed figurative fragments in the canvas of abstraction. It is his paintings that will be imitated, his style will be parodied by representatives of pop art.

In addition to the undoubted genius of artists, abstract expressionism was developed thanks to money, technology and PR. State support, the emergence of new colors and the favor of art critics are the components of this success.

Being real anarchists and rebels, denying conservative values and asserting new art, the abstract expressionists offered the viewer a new reality, devoid of figurativeness, the usual composition, form, anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism.

Abstract expressionists allowed themselves to break the post-Renaissance unity of time and space. They contrasted the variability and movement of life with statics and classical pictorial composition.

Moving away from the literal, the abstract expressionists were nevertheless able to display human experiences and emotions on their canvases and turn painting into an existential drama.

As the most radical and experimental movement, Abstract Expressionism has spawned such art movements as Neo-Expressionism, Post-Minimalism, Pop Art, Conceptual Art, Performance Art, Fluxus, NeoDaDa, Video Art, Computer Animation and Digital Art.

For example, the international community of artists, composers and designers Fluxus, like the expressionists, valued the process of creating a work above the artistic product itself.

NeoDaDa, in all its literary, musical and sound manifestations, has become the purest reaction to the personal emotionality of abstract expressionism

Video art, thanks to the abstract expressionists, had the opportunity not to have a plot, to rely only on the image, the use of interactivity and non-linearity. Animation, looking back at abstractionists, has learned to achieve a variety of new effects, appeal to an aesthetic sense and evoke certain psychological states in the viewer. So, for example, back in 1959, the American artist Ed Emshwiller created four animated films: "Chromatic Dance", "Transformations", "Life Lines", "Articulated Segments", which are animated abstract paintings.

The famous director Alan Parker in his cult film "The Wall" achieved the desired psychedelic effect not only with the music of Pink Floyd, but also with animation, which was three-quarters abstract

Abstract painting would have continued to dissolve in various newest artistic directions, movements and currents, from time to time growing with lonely geniuses. (Gerhardt Richter, Sergey Bashkirov, Jack Coulter). But the NFT boom happened.

Money, technology and PR. History repeated itself. And not even as a farce. As once in post-war New York. Now it sounds like this: crypto, blockchain and good old PR. Abstract painting, like no other art form, was ready to be passed through the blockchain. And the presence of blockchain platforms has allowed abstract artists to create entire worlds that are no longer connected to reality.

Digital technologies, as if relying on the precepts of Wassily Kandinsky, offered us the transformation and dematerialization of art.

Most things dear to a person are intangible.

Beauty is not a flower. Not a stool. Not a picture on the wall. It is not necessary to physically possess a painting in order to receive aesthetic pleasure.

Art, in fact, is just our sense of beauty. Having undergone changes in the human mind, in the space of dreams, having passed through the crucible of technology, art changes reality, and in the future reality itself will completely merge with virtuality.

Dematerializing, the beautiful returns us to the original state - to the realm of the spirit. Brings us closer to the divine. To pure thought and pure perception. There will be something that all religions have been striving for, but have not been able to achieve completely. And when a person steps over the "material", he will merge with the ether.


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