Master This

For the next 3 or four weeks we are going to turn to the modern masters of painting for advice and inspiration.  Whether or not their work appeals to your aesthetic, and even if it turns you off, I guarantee if you look hard enough you will be taught by what they discovered.

We’re going to begin with Robert Motherwell, a native son to the Northwest.  He was born in Aberdeen Washington in 1915. (I like to think Northwest sensibilities have far-reaching influences. Marc Rothko, a painting god, spent his youth in Portland.) An absolutely brilliant guy, Motherwell remains one of the great eye-openers for me.

As a philosophy major he studied at Stanford, Columbia and Harvard which led him to an intense curiosity about the concept of abstraction—“… the process of peeling away the inessential and presenting the necessary.”*

In New York he joined with the likes of Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Marc Rothko and others who “sought to create essential images that revealed emotional truth and authenticity of feeling”.*  Along with dramatic and
energetic brushstrokes that were a passionate response to the imagery and ideas  of the post-world-war, modern world, experimentation in a range of media was also part of the freedom and connection to the subconscious that Abstract Expression came to symbolize. Whatever it took to express major human themes in the picture plane was fair game. Although it was mostly juicy paint and its plasticity that captivated them.

Motherwell, however, found desired manipulability in printmaking and collage as well as paint. What he could convey in a dazzling composition of a cigarette wrapper and a single loaded brush is legend.

We’ll look at some Motherwell work and bat around ideas of how it might influence your own expression.

For more on Robert Motherwell: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-motherwell-robert.htm

*Quotes are from PBS American Experience.

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