Word

“The fact that a work of art has a politically radical content therefore does not assure its revolutionary value. Nor does a non-political content necessarily imply its irrelevance to revolutionary action. It is in the larger context of the social movement and its positive historical results that the practical significance of partisan art has to be judged.”Meyer Shapiro

“Paradoxically, it is their aura of destructiveness and catastrophe — unrelenting violence — that makes the paintings innovative and gives them staying power. Ironically, Pollock’s art, which gave him a temporary sense of identity — Arloie noted that after a binge, and after enduring another bout of depression, he was able to paint and draw with remarkable concentration and intensity, at least until the cycle of binge and depression recurred — demonstrates his otherwise complete lack of identity, or at least his deep insecurity and annihilative anxiety. It was as though Pollock had been dismembered — or had never come together — in the remote prehistory of his childhood, and that, however much he attempted to put himself together (create himself, as it were), by the creative act of making art, he could only futilely re-enact and ritualistically repeat, in artistic terms, his dismemberment.” -Donald Kuspit

Rothko’s words — that informs and sustains the best Abstract Expressionist art. Its aura of “human incommunicability,” as Rothko called it, had to be intolerable to a busily communicating society. Abstract Expressionism has been dipped in a sea of ordinary language, as though that could purge it of its ineffability, and make us forget its mystery. But until the incommunicability of what it struggles to communicate is recognized, Abstract Expressionism’s extraordinary character cannot be truly grasped. “

There is something anti social in this work, too. And yet, it is closer to anti materialist, anti capitalist, anti conformist. The personal trauma is made into a reflection of social trauma. Post WW2, post holocaust, post Hiroshima finally, eventually. All of these men were born in the first decade or two of the 20th century. They were the witnesses to mass industrial slaughter, of organized efficient killing. Warhol’s electric chair turns execution into a shiny commodity. The work of Pollock, Gorky, Motherwell, Kline, and the rest was an ‘expression’ of what that electric chair actually means. The social place for capital punishment, for Imperialism, for war can be read in the titles of their work: “Elegy to the Spanish Republic”, “Agony”, “Conflict”, “Stations of the Cross”, “Cataclysm”, “Memoria in Aeterna”, etc.

“In today’s fashionable left leaning critics, this is seen as self conscious. Such observations betray more these critics own white bourgeois pretensions when faced with the actual working class. The work was not meant for polite society and it became an enduring irony that Ab Ex painters became so famous, and shown in the most exclusive circles, and today a Clyfford Still would cost you about 7 million dollars. Rothko and Pollock even more. But the actual vision was not elite, it was not a pose, it was the last genuine avant garde moment in western art.”

“I fear the onslaught of electronic corporate media has desenitized the viewer. The loss of education in the arts has erased a heritage of learning, which had become emdedded on a personal level in communities, but those communities are gone. And all that is left is an ever more atomized and isolated and reified collective. One used to and anticipating more banality.”

“Art can not  be written about anymore as the experience of art, the engagement with it. It is always a strategy. Analyse the message and repackage the message as criticism.”

“The real political import, and certainly the spiritual, has to do with the awe, the emotions, the awakening of something resistant to domination, that is the product of engagement. It is the exercise of a refusal to authority, to conformity, and to repression and control. Art doesnt create revolution. But it affects the individuals who make revolutions.”

 -John Steppling