Monday, April 18, 2011

Abstract Expressionist New York and Street Art

Exhibition: Abstract Expressionist New York
Museum of Modern Art
New York, New York
October 03, 2010 - April 25, 2011

Street Art
Lower Eastside
New York, New York

Individual Artists: Willem de Kooning
Robert Motherwell

Curator: Abstract Expressionist New York
Ann Temkin

The Abstract Expressionist New York Show at the Museum of Modern Art exhibits the museum's vast collection of nearly 100 paintings, about 60 sculptures, prints, drawings, photographs, films, and archival materials that were collected since the 1940s under the tutelage of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. He was the museum's visionary and founding director that catapulted New York as the center of the international art world in the 1950s because of the Abstract Expressionist collection. Ann Temkin, chief curator of the Department of Painting and Sculpture cleared out the fourth floor of its permanent collection, a first in the museum's history, and devoted the entire floor to this exhibition. Some of the artists' works shown are by Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner, David Smith, and Willem de Kooning.

Willem de Kooning's 'Painting 1948' intrigued me, though I didn't realized MoMA's bias against his work, and to this day, they only have four of his paintings, but of how prophetic his black-and-white paintings were, that he started in 1946. de Kooning was influenced by Pablo Picasso and Ashille Gorky, and also by the Gestural branch of the New York School, but it wasn't until he met Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline that his paintings started to sizzle, as can be seen above.

So here is the stretch, with the previous day's visit to the New Museum, exploring the Lower Eastside before our planned visit there, I noticed a storefront, 'international playground.' on Rivington Street, and noticed that the rolled security gate had graffiti on it, shown above. Of course, I knew that this was not an act of vandalism on private property, as this graffiti was more about making a statement of the type of lifestyle that this store has to offer with its cutting edge goods to the general public. As I continues to roam around this area, I came upon Freeman Alley, image shown below, and noticed the graffiti on the side of this building, (I also saw a relationship to Robert Motherwell's 'Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 108,' also at the MoMA show), which is an act of vandalism, but fits the context of this changing neighborhood. For some reason, street art is now hip and chic, adding flavor to the 'hood.'

So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? de Kooning's series of black-and-white paintings were started in 1946, and the graffiti seen in the Lower Eastside, I would say, are from the recent past, maybe a few years old. Did de Kooning influence the street artists, or is it purely coincidental? I'm pretty sure that de Kooning didn't do any street art in his time, so how did this come to be, this parallel that I see in 'Painting 1948' and the graffiti in the Lower Eastside? Both have the physical gestures and markings, and one can also say that both, in their respective time, broke the rules. These are some good questions to ponder upon, but probably, unanswerable.

Douglas Yee
April 18, 2011

Photographs by Douglas Yee

1 comment:

  1. How are we looking at the paintings of Mark Rothko these days?
    Is he old hat, replaced in America by more contemporary concerns? Looking at his minimal canvases and their enticing floating squares of subdued paint live at the MOMA recently, I had to stop to wonder whether he still communicates to a modern and younger audience.
    Wahooart, the site that sells good canvas prints to order from their database of digital images, has many Rothko prints. I ordered this one, Blue and Grey, that I have now hanging in my study. I can spend a long time looking at this elusive image that takes me to some other place not in this world.