Abstract Expressionism—creating powerful effects…

The Rise of the New York School, following World War II, coincides with the emergence of the Cold War.  A window of time was developing out of the context of fear where artists secluded themselves in their studios in Greenwich Village and individually sought the refuge of abstraction.  These avant-garde artists recognized that the intersections of lines and non-objective forms had the potential to create powerful visual effects.  Jackson Pollock took this realization to a new level of significance with his drip paintings of the late 1940s to mid 1950s.  Pollock seemed to intuitively understand Wassily Kandinsky’s abstractions.  The famed Russian painter stated, in Cahiers d’art, 1932, the following:  “A round spot in a painting can be more significant than a human figure…The impact of the acute angle of a triangle on a circle produces an effect no less powerful than the finger of God touching the finger of Adam in Michelangelo.”  What are your thoughts, within the frame offered by Kandinsky, on Pollock’s unique way of approaching the canvas as a choreography of movements “dancing” above the canvas surface?

Pollock painting 2



18 thoughts on “Abstract Expressionism—creating powerful effects…

  1. In the end, it really depends on how the viewer relates to the piece. While Pollock’s work obviously doesn’t fit the traditional definition of beauty, the beauty of his work lies in its raw emotion. In many cases, Pollock usually created his works at the spur of the moment at his choosing (his work could not be forced upon him). All the lines and splatters that we see are all sporadic and chaotic. Surprisingly, though, Pollock did try to create a “rhythm” or pattern in all his paintings. This “all-over” pattern found in many of his works envelops the viewers, causing them to lose themselves in the pieces. Many of Pollock’s large canvases engage viewers just as Michelangelo’s ceiling frescos in the Sistine Chapel. Quite often, Pollock’s work is ridiculed for just being splattered paint carelessly tossed on the canvas, but many fail to realize the emotional ramifications behind many of his works. Overall, I think Kandinsky nailed it when with his quote. It simply depends on how the viewer relates to the piece and what they personally see in it.

  2. My thoughts are that every artist has different visions and has different intentions into creating their own unique works of art. I also think that each time period has their own unique style, and during the mid 1900s using intersections of lines and non-objective forms within art was very powerful because it was something new. Since Pollock took the advantage to do this style of abstraction during this time period, he approached it in his own very unique way and took it to a whole other level of having powerful meaning within his works of art. He being very influential and having a new way of creating art by putting his canvas onto the ground and working around all four sides using different materials with paint is what made his work come alive and make a statement, which made his artworks very famous. Pollock’s technique of just throwing paint onto a canvas to show different types of lines and non-objective forms was very powerful, which could bring endless thoughts and ideas to what those lines, spots of paint, and non-objective forms really meant.

  3. Kandinsky viewed abstract art as a spiritual experience both for the artist and the viewer. A point, line or plane had the same power or more than a representational image. He seemed to labor more over each composition than Pollack did with his paintings. Kandinsky seemed to have more of a method and code of color and shape to inform his images. Pollack’s choreography of movement and use of colors seems to have been more spontaneous than Kandinsky’s way of working. While Pollack and Kandinsky approached a canvas with very different methods, they both seemed to rely on the subconscious to inform what was finally added to a canvas. Pollack’s use of rhythmic movement corresponds to Kandinsky’s belief that abstract art was very close to music. The movement that he used while painting also created a rhythm on canvas that helps draw a viewer into a painting. The rhythmic patterns of the paint drippings almost become a representational object within the picture.

  4. I do really like how Pollock does seem to “dance” while he is painting a big canvas. Even though the finish piece is a little too chaotic, art mostly should be the process of how it is created from beginning to end then the finish product itself. Pollock wanted to produce to grant such a performance through his work by merely entertaining his canvas from vigorous movements to a peaceful wave onto his paintings. Kandinsky said, “”A round spot in a painting can be more significant than a human figure..” I would fully agree with at a certain extent. I would imagine that he was trying to assure that he wants the audience to pay attention to certain detail within paintings, as for the moment, Pollock himself, and not pay too close of detail onto what people normally see on a daily basis, the human figure. As he quoted that in such high regard, he is trying to guide the audience to look deeper to what the finish product wants you to see, as Kandinsky responds,” The impact of the acute angle of a triangle on a circle produces an effect no less powerful than the finger of God touching the finger of Adam in Michelangelo.”in which he acknowledges that it is up to the artist to approach canvas in their own way. It always the “impact of the acute triangle on a circle” which makes Pollock and Kandinsky so different from artist because they think of a way on how they will attack the painting with mental guidelines while people sketch it out onto a physical form. Rhythm and motion is what makes them stand out compared to the Renaissance artist who are mostly into precision and technique.

  5. When I saw the video in class, I realized I had seen those images before on a news program in the late 1950’s. I remember my parent laughing saying that they could do that. At any rate, I now have a greater appreciation for AE, especially the work of Kandinsky and Pollock. I can see the choreography in the lines and dots within the paintings. It doesn’t appear to just be a series of randomly throwing paint around. In fact, I’m going to look at “Six Degrees of Separation” again because a Kandinsky is a prominent topic within the movie.

  6. My thoughts are that every one has different styles and ideas when creating their works. The time period matters a lot when it comes to the ideas and styles that will be present in the artwork, of course, but that is expected. Pollock was able to take Abstract Expressionism to a new height with his approach of “dancing” over the canvas. His work comes alive because of this approach and almost invokes viewers to feel and see his movements. So Kandinsky was right with his quote because all that ever matters interpreting art is how it makes the viewer feel.

  7. Kandinsky is right. In the right context any symbol can mean a great deal more than a figure. This has always been true. Every line matters. That is the rule that I firmly live by when I am writing or when I am drawing. It is also what makes finishing a piece so difficult for me. I can genuinely appreciate what Pollock and Kandinsky did with their works and what level of understanding it must have taken to form images like those. While I firmly believe that every line matters and that a dot in the right context can mean more than a complicated image, I must also state that in the wrong context no amount of dots can save a work. When it is genuine, I believe that is clear, and when a person -not an artist- places a dot on a page and calls it art, that is just as apparent.

  8. I agree that abstract art can be as powerful as any masterpiece, perhaps more so because our feelings toward it and our interpretation of meaning changes over time and context. And I agree with Alexandra, as I have frequently heard people remark about abstract art that anyone can do it and anything can be art, but it is different. I can admire a paint dripping that is an accident for its pretty colors or maybe see something in the clouds, but Pollock’s work directs the eye in a deliberate way. When looking at it, I can see and feel his movement and intensity. I didn’t realize the tremendous scale of the work though, since I’ve only ever seen them on the internet. I imagine seeing one in a museum would be an interactive experience, traveling back and forth down the lines and across the canvas.

  9. The way Pollock painted was just as much about the imagined movement that the viewer can see as it was about the actual details of the paint dripped and thrown. In Kandinsky’s offered state of mind about abstract painting he states, ”A round spot in a painting can be more significant than a human figure…The impact of the acute angle of a triangle on a circle produces an effect no less powerful than the finger of God touching the finger of Adam in Michelangelo.” The way Kandinsky saw abstract painting in a spiritual way would argue that Pollock’s dancing was spiritual and the whole act of the walking and throwing of the paint and all the movement involved was an entire ritual. The result of a painting that we see hung in museums by Pollock are only a fraction of the entire thing. For Michelangelo it was the fingers touching, for Kandinsky it was the spheres and the points, and for Pollock it was the dancing and the dripping. All are powerful.

  10. As someone has stated above, it truly does depend on how the viewer relates to the work. As for me, I do think that there is a ‘dancing’ movement in Pollock’s work and that this motion can be seen from the various paint drips and strokes on the canvas of his work. Also, these paint drips can become more than mere drips based on what the viewer perceives them to be.When I viewed one of Pollock’s work online, Convergence, I saw more than just the result of the dancing paint drips. When I saw one of Pollock’s paintings online, Convergence, I thought that those paint drips were not only in motion but were forming various shapes and objects, such as buildings and cars. Of course, I am certain that my perception of this painting will change once I see it in person.

  11. In Kandinsky’s quote he relates a sort of legend, as in a map, for observing and interpreting abstract art. It belies also, that he was ahead of his time and tried to communicate that innate understanding about the personal artistic experience in his writings. Kandinsky reminds me of those rare individuals who can “see” a color when a musical note is played or ascribe a feeling to a color. To me, Pollock’s method of painting and his approach in expressing himself does not seem so outlandish or over-simplified as it may have been to his contemporaries. I appreciate how he seems to lose himself in the act of painting and surrenders to the moment. Watching Pollock paint allows the viewer to observe the artist emptied of himself and engaging in a most unique pas de deux .

  12. I can certainly see Kandinsky’s reasoning on Pollock’s “dancing” paint in his artwork. I will Pollock’s artwork is like a deconstruction of what successful art has been doing for centuries; using design elements to captivate the viewer. Pollock’s use of line and movement that create such a dance on the eyes that really awe me. These layers of lines and splatters are from an innate raw energy that can clearly be seen in Pollock’s painting. I don’t think I really appreciated Pollock’s painting style and artwork until seeing him actually in his painting process of creating. The quick sweeping movements and the way that he seems to tiptoe between creating and “losing” his painting is really fascinating to me, like he sees his art as a living being that he is in a tango with.

  13. To me, abstract art can be extremely powerful. My own work is highly indebted to Pollock and Kandinsky. The energy of these artists’ work really resonates with me. In my own art making practice, I quite often feel like I am dancing or composing when I am painting. I have seen some of Pollock’s paintings in person and they are very commanding. This type of work effects me in a way that is totally different from representational art. It has the power to really move me deeply, like a Brahms concerto or one of Chopin’s preludes. I would have to say that both Kandinsky’s and Pollock’s paintings have the power to transform and elevate the conciousness. It’s a special kind of magic.

  14. Art is subjective. Sometimes it isn’t about what is seen on the canvas but rather the meaning behind the image. There is something very raw and impassioned with the work done by those like Pollock. It is that undiluted emotion that gives the power to the work. On the other hand, the pieces do seem like they are just eye candy, images that please the optical senses. They are not about making social or political statements, they are about the pursuit of the divine.

  15. As a result both World War, humanity had had its eyes open to the untold devastation the humanity was capable of inflicting on itself . That fact change how we thought and how we preserved everything suddenly the world was full of infinite possibility. this fact paved the way for our minds to finally be able to embrace abstraction on a new level, suddenly shapes no longer held a finite meaning the narrative capable of being told by a single line no long had limits. A splash of color or a noneuclid piece of geometry can now transcend all that is know and suddenly lift us metaphysically to new unconcerned heights.

  16. Kandinsky’s abstractions were a way for him to express his spiritual beliefs (formed by his interest in theosophy) and a reality removed from the physical/tangible world. He expressed his innermost feelings by orchestrating color, form, line and space. Pollack explored intuitive movement with paint at the end of a stick, brush or bucket and subsequently created canvases as evidence of his participation in the movement. Creating powerful visual effects is subjective to the individual viewer and the audience as a whole. Some viewers engage and some don’t. The difference may have to do with the viewers beliefs in both or either of the physical and non-tangible world. Pollack had a way of engaging both; using the intuitive (non-tangible but nonetheless real) and the physical (his choreographed movements) to create abstract works.

  17. Wassily Kandinsky is certainly correct. An abstract work can be just as powerful, if not more so, than a traditional piece. There are times when symbols have the ability to convey a message far more convincingly than objective representations. Although Pollock’s approach to painting may seem simple to some, I don’t think anyone could produce a drip painting quite like his. Pollock’s paintings aren’t just about drizzling paint on a canvas. Every movement he made had feeling behind it. He truly lost himself in his work and it shows. When one looks at a Pollock drip painting, one is met with raw, intense emotion. The colorful lines and splatters Pollock created as he danced above the canvas have, as Kandinsky phrased it, “an effect no less powerful than the finger of God touching the finger of Adam in Michelangelo.”

  18. I do not agree with the statement. I do not see Pollock as being as significant as Michelangelo. Maybe Pollock dances as he makes his drip paintings, but I believe he does it with no more conscious thought than that of a child who also drips paint onto a canvas on the floor.

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