Thursday, September 22, 2011

palimpsest of images

As it turned out, the book I just began reading, James Rosenquist's Painting Below Zero, starts out chronologically right after the time that de Kooning was getting into his thing (the subject of my last post). In the late '50s, when Rosenquist was in NYC painting billboards while figuring out what his own creative vision would be, de Kooning and the rest of those Ab Ex painters had been rocking the art world with their action brushstrokes, their splatters and "schmears". What came next, partly as a response to this emotion and spontaneity, eventually became known as the Pop Art movement, though many of the artists who are identified with Pop actually differed greatly in their intentions and approaches. They were interrelated to the extent that art began to be about ideas and images again. But images were subverted to mean different things, or to mean nothing.
Rosenquist's first ideas involved the attempt to use identifiable imagery, which for him was culled from the colorful, exciting advertisements of the period, in an abstract way. His aesthetic certainly came from his experience as a sign painter, scaling pictures to a towering size till they didn't look like much up close. You back up and it coalesces into something recognizable, but still banal. In his canvases he placed unrelated images next to each other ('juxtaposing', if you will, though that's a word I've perversely tried to avoid, in my feeling that it's overused), attempting to deconstruct those meanings and create new ones.
Maybe it's because I was recently thinking about abstract art, but I immediately made the connection between these ideas and what I wrote about the earlier "catching a glimpse of something", the ability of a painting to throw you off balance. But the subject matter was evolving to reflect what was all around, the blast of advertising and color and activity, colliding with memory and association.
In my notes and posts I hope to do more than merely reiterate what's already been well-considered and written about. My art education has been underway for around fourteen years, both within school and independently, but as with a lot of things, the perspective of those years spent living, absorbing, and of course making my own work, creates deeper understanding. Also, sure, deeper disillusionment, maybe frustration and the anachronistic feeling I tend to get while reading about the past (did I miss my time? did I miss New York at its most creatively conducive, when artists could actually afford to live and work there?). Still, I like learning more all the time, and it would be intolerably dull to go on about my own work in an isolated context. There will be plenty of opportunities for that, and in the end I have many reasons to be happy enough I'm here now.

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