Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Notes on Modernism

Color theory notes Letelier

Modern art is a general term used for most of the artistic work from the late 19th century until approximately the 1970s. (Recent art production is more often called Contemporary art or Postmodern art). Modern art refers to the new approach to art which placed emphasis on representing emotions, themes, and various abstractions. Artists experimented with new ways of seeing, with fresh ideas about the nature of materials and functions of art, often moving further toward abstraction

Roots in the 19th century
By the late 19th century, several movements which were to be influential in modern art had begun to emerge: Impressionism and post-Impressionism, as well as Symbolism.
Influences upon these movements were varied: from exposure to Eastern decorative arts, particularly Japanese printmaking, to the colouristic innovations of Turner and Delacroix, to a search for more depiction of common life, as found in the work of painters such as Jean-François Millet. At the time, the generally held belief was that art should be accurate in its depiction of objects, but that it should be aimed at expressing the ideal, or the domestic.

.In the visual arts the roots of Modernism are often traced back to painter Édouard Manet, who beginning in the 1860s broke away from inherited notions of perspective, modeling, and subject matter. The avant-garde movements that followed—including Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism, Constructivism, De Stijl, and Abstract Expressionism—are generally defined as Modernist. Over the span of these movements, artists increasingly focused on the intrinsic qualities of their media—e.g., line, form, and colour—and moved away from inherited notions of art. By the beginning of the 20th century, architects also had increasingly abandoned past styles and conventions in favour of a form of architecture based on essential functional concerns. In the period after World War I these tendencies became codified as the International style, which utilized simple, geometric shapes and unadorned facades and which abandoned any use of historical reference; the buildings of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier embodied this style. After World War II the style manifested itself in clean-lined, unadorned glass skyscrapers and mass housing projects.


Most of the color theorists since Chevreul have been abstract painters rather than representational ones. I like to thumb through Itten, Albers and Kandinsky color books once in a while but I have to admit that although they provide a backbone of sorts for what is called color theory they are not entirely useful sometimes.
They are a lot of fun, though. Here just for the heck of it, are a couple of Kandinsky color theories. Maybe they'll spur you on to make theories of your own.

According to Kandinsky certain colors (above) have an affinity for certain forms. A dull shape like a circle deserves a dull color like blue. A shape with intermediate interest like a square deserves an intermediate color like red. A dynamic, interesting shape like a triangle deserves an enegetic, luminous, psychotic color like yellow.

A hexagon is midway in interest between a square and a triangle so it gets the midway color it deserves, orange. Toilet cover seats get green.

Lines also have an affinity for certain colors. Bold, dynamic lines like diagonals get a bold color like yellow. Less drastic diagonals get a less drastic color, red. Dead lines that are nearly horizontal get a dead color like black. Slightly active lines like verticals get a dull color like blue.
Kandinsky even has a theory about coloring lines according to their centrality in the composition. Lines in the middle get yellow. Sad, unloved lines that hug the edge of the frame should get dull colors.

The same goes for angles. Drastic accute angles get drastic colors, more sedate obtuse angles get bland colors like blue.
Ditto curves. Of course a line usually has both drastic and sedate curves and angles and the color of the line changes accordingly.

Color Field painting is an abstract style that emerged in the 1950s after Abstract Expressionism and is largely characterized by abstract canvases painted primarily with large areas of solid color. An alternate but less frequently encountered term for this style is chromatic abstraction.

Color Field painting initially referred to a particular type of abstract expressionism, especially the work of Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell and Adolph Gottlieb. Art critic Clement Greenberg perceived Color Field painting as related to but different from Action painting. During the early to mid-1960s Color Field painting was the term used to describe artists like Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland, and Helen Frankenthaler, whose works were related to second generation abstract expressionism, and to younger artists like Larry Zox, and Frank Stella, - all moving in a new direction. In 1964 Clement Greenberg curated an influential exhibition that traveled the country called Post-painterly abstraction. The exhibition expanded the definition of color field painting. In the late 1960s Richard Diebenkorn began his Ocean Park series; created during the final 25 years of his career and that are important examples of color field painting. Color Field painting clearly pointed toward a new direction in American painting, away from abstract expressionism. Color Field painting is related to Post-painterly abstraction, Suprematism, Abstract Expressionism, Hard-edge painting and Lyrical Abstraction.
Color Field painting sought to rid art of superfluous rhetoric. Artists like Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, Morris Louis, Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland, Helen Frankenthaler, Larry Zox, and others often used greatly reduced references to nature, and they painted with a highly articulated and psychological use of color. In general these artists eliminated recognizable imagery. Certain artists quoted references to past or present art, but in general color field painting presents abstraction as an end in itself. In pursuing this direction of modern art, artists wanted to present each painting as one unified, cohesive, monolithic image.
In distinction to the emotional energy and gestural surface marks of Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, Color Field painting initially appeared to be cool and austere, effacing the individual mark in favor of large, flat areas of color, which these artists considered to be the essential nature of visual abstraction, along with the actual shape of the canvas, which Frank Stella in particular achieved in unusual ways with combinations of curved and straight edges. However Color Field painting has proven to be both sensual and deeply expressive albeit in a different way from gestural Abstract expressionism....

Early 20th Century
Among the movements which flowered in the first decade of the 20th century were Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism and Futurism.
World War I brought an end to this phase, but indicated the beginning of a number of anti-art movements, such as Dada and the work of Marcel Duchamp, and of Surrealism. Also, artist groups like de Stijl and Bauhaus were seminal in the development of new ideas about the interrelation of the arts, architecture, design and art education.
Modern art was introduced to the United States with the Armory Show in 1913, and through European artists who moved to the U.S. during World War I.

After World War II
It was only after World War II, though, that the U.S. became the focal point of new artistic movements. The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of Abstract Expressionism, Color field painting, Pop art, Op art, Hard-edge painting, Minimal art, Lyrical Abstraction, Postminimalism and various other movements; in the late 1960s and the 1970s, Land art, Performance art, Conceptual art and Photorealism among other movements emerged.
Around that period, a number of artists and architects started rejecting the idea of "the modern" and created typically Postmodern works.
Starting from the post-World War II period, fewer artists used painting as their primary medium; instead, larger installations and performances became widespread. Since the 1970s, new media art has become a category in itself, with a growing number of artists experimenting with technological means such as video art.

Art movements and artist groups
(Roughly chronological with representative artists listed.)
Modern art
End of 19th century
▪ Romanticism the Romantic movement - Francisco de Goya, J. M. W. Turner, Eugène Delacroix
▪ Realism - Gustave Courbet, Camille Corot, Jean-François Millet
▪ Impressionism - Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley
▪ Post-impressionism - Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Rousseau
▪ Symbolism - Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, James Ensor
▪ Les Nabis - Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Félix Vallotton
▪ pre-Modernist Sculptors - Aristide Maillol, Auguste Rodin
Early 20th century (before WWI)
▪ Art Nouveau & variants - Jugendstil, Modern Style, Modernisme - Aubrey Beardsley, Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt,
▪ Art Nouveau Architecture & Design - Antoni Gaudí, Otto Wagner, Wiener Werkstätte, Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, Koloman Moser
▪ Fauvism - André Derain, Henri Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck
▪ Expressionism - Oskar Kokoschka, Edvard Munch, Emil Nolde
▪ Die Brücke - Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
▪ Der Blaue Reiter - Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc
▪ Cubism - Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso
▪ Orphism - Robert Delaunay, Jacques Villon
▪ Synchromism - Stanton MacDonald-Wright, Morgan Russell
▪ Pre-Surrealism - Giorgio de Chirico, Marc Chagall
▪ Futurism - Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà
▪ Vorticism - Wyndham Lewis
▪ Russian avant-garde - Kasimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov
▪ Sculpture - Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Constantin Brancusi
▪ Photography - Pictorialism, Straight photography
▪ Dada - Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Kurt Schwitters
▪ Synthetic Cubism - Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso
▪ Pittura Metafisica - Giorgio de Chirico, Carlo Carrà
▪ De Stijl - Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian
▪ Expressionism - Egon Schiele, Amedeo Modigliani, and Chaim Soutine
▪ New Objectivity - Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz
▪ Figurative painting - Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard
▪ Constructivism - Naum Gabo, László Moholy-Nagy, El Lissitzky, Kasimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin
▪ Surrealism - Jean Arp, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, René Magritte, André Masson, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall
▪ Bauhaus - Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee
▪ Sculpture - Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Gaston Lachaise, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Julio Gonzalez
▪ Scottish Colourists - Francis Cadell, Samuel Peploe, Leslie Hunter, John Duncan Fergusson

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