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A story from Modernity Modernism, flatness and form

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1 A story from Modernity Modernism, flatness and form

2 Semester 2 CCS Assessment
6 readings underpin the CCS Programme, Sem 2 In Week 8 (Paris /other city), find a cultural artefact (e.g. artwork, design object, building, commercial image etc) and critically analyse it, writing about its significance and meaning using ideas from at least one of the readings. Approx 1500 words in length. Word processed. Must include: images; quotations from readings. Must include: footnotes for all quotations; images labelled and listed, Bibliography of sources consulted

3 Readings for Seminar 1 Groups 1: 10am Group 2: 11am Wed 6 Feb
Readings for Seminar 1 Groups 1: 10am Group 2: 11am Wed 6 Feb. Groups 3: 10am Group 4: 11am Wed 13 Feb Lecture 1: Clement Greenberg. Modernist Painting Lecture 2: Le Corbusier. Towards a New Architecture (Extracts) Lecture Handout. See Bibliography for source.

4 Modernist Painting. C Greenberg Frascina F, Harrison C, editors
Modernist Painting. C Greenberg Frascina F, Harrison C, editors. Modern art and Modernism. A critical anthology. London: Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd; 1982, pp (Greenberg) Frascina F, Harris J, editors. Art in modern culture. An anthology of critical texts. London: Phaidon Press Limited; 1992, pp (Greenberg) Further reading: Wood P, Frascina F, Harris J, Harrison, C. Modernism in dispute. Art since the forties. London: Yale University Press; 1993, pp Harrison C. Modernism. London: Tate Gallery Publishing Ltd; 1997, pp.6-21 and pp Meecham P, Sheldon J. Modern art: a critical introduction. London: Routledge; 2000, pp1-15.

5 Le Corbusier. Towards a New Architecture. Marcus, G
Le Corbusier. Towards a New Architecture. Marcus, G. Functionalist Design – An Ongoing History, Prestel, 1995 Weston, C. Modernism, Phaidon, London, 2001 Wilk, C (ed). Modernism – Designing a New World , V&A Publications, London, From Here to Modernity – Open University Website detailing story of modern movement and architecture The Le Corbusier Foundation

6 Preparation for Seminar 1
Read both extracts - ie Greenberg and Le Corbusier Choose one ‘thing’ you can connect to ideas from one of the readings. This could be a work of art or a design object. Bring an image. Come prepared to discuss the connections you have made (highlight sentences and paragraphs) You can agree or disagree with ideas in the readings through the ‘thing’ you have selected.

7 When was Modernism? Mid 19th Century France to American Abstract Expressionism and Post Painterly Abstraction in the 1960’s ?? Modernism c 1850 ? c 1965 ? Post-modernism ?

8 This is ‘modernism’ Something happened to art at the turn of the century and in the decades that followed, and the world has never been the same. The excitement in the air then was intense: all Europe (and eventually America) was breathless with the new directions and the wild risks artists were taking. Painters, poets, sculptors, architects, novelists, and composers were drastically changing the look, the sound, the very meaning of art. The 19th century; two people on horseback as a train speeds past. Enormous noise, deafening rhythm, the engine gushing horizontal steam and, in a few minutes the train is gone, diminishing into the distance. ‘What was that?’ Modernism; from agriculture to industry, from peasant to mass production, from landowner to business man, the factory chimney, the churning engine, the automobile, the crowds, the city streets …..

9 Artists were no longer merely skillful delineators of the visible world, they were now the creators of, and guides to, a completely new realm. This mystical role of the artist was echoed by the Dadaist Hugo Ball in his diaries written between 1910 and 1921: "When we said Kandinsky and Picasso, we meant not painters, but priests; not craftsmen, but creators of new worlds and new paradises."‘

10 ‘Make it new’ Ezra Pound 1885-72
Ezra Pound’s definition of Modernism

11 Are such interpretations correct or incorrect
Are such interpretations correct or incorrect? Is one more correct than another? Is a later interpretation always more correct than an earlier? ARNOLD HAUSER. The Philosophy of Art History Essentially the issue is, are you dealing with fact or are you dealing with interpretation and usually argument and interpretation are the essence of art history and criticism. Hauser’s thoughts above are of particular value when dealing with writing on the issue of Modernism. If you retain the view that you are always dealing with the relative rather than the absolute, but that all may increase your understanding of the nature of art, and art within culture, then you perhaps can accept each new interpretation and each new idea, in terms of possibility and reflection and not attempt to reconcile what may be a confusing range of views..

12 Clement Greenberg. Modernist Painting. 1960
‘Modernist Painting oriented itself to flatness as it did to nothing else’

13 Modernism: progress towards abstraction ?
Edouard Manet. Bar at the Folie Bergeres Courtauld Institute. Oil on Canvas. 96 x 130cm

14 Henri Matisse. The Dessert (Harmony in red) 1908. Oil on canvas
Henri Matisse. The Dessert (Harmony in red) Oil on canvas. The Hermitage cm

15 Wassily Kandinsky. Study for composition No 7. 1913

16 Gustav Klimt Elisabeth Bachofen-Echt c1914 Geneva Oil on canvas 180 x 128cm

17 Pablo Picasso. Seated Nude 1909-10. Oil on canvas. Tate Britain
Pablo Picasso. Seated Nude Oil on canvas. Tate Britain cm

18 Mondrian, Piet. Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red. 1921
Mondrian, Piet. Composition with Yellow, Blue, and Red Tate Gallery. Oil on canvas x 69 cm

19 Jackson Pollock. One: Number 31. 1950. MOMA New York
Jackson Pollock. One: Number MOMA New York. Oil and enamel on canvas.

20 Morris Louis. Number 99. 1959. Cleveland Museum of Art
Morris Louis. Number Cleveland Museum of Art. Acrylic on canvas.251 x 360cm

21 Kenneth Noland. Bloom. 1960. Dusseldorf. Acrylic on canvas. 1993
Kenneth Noland. Bloom Dusseldorf. Acrylic on canvas x 171cm.

22 Abstraction and Flatness ?
Titian. Venus of Urbino. 1538 Edouard Manet. Olympia Musee d’Orsay Paris. Oil on canvas

23 Georges Grosz The Pillars of Society 1926 Berlin Oil on canvas 200 x 108cm

24 Salvador Dali. Metamorphosis of Narcissus. 1937 Oil on canvas
Salvador Dali. Metamorphosis of Narcissus Oil on canvas. Tate Britain. 510 x 780cm

25 Marcel Duchamp L.H.O.O.Q. Rectified Ready Made. Pencil on Postcard.

26 Progress towards abstraction Alfred J Barr. 1936 (Drct. Of M. O. M. A
Progress towards abstraction Alfred J Barr (Drct. Of M.O.M.A. New York)

27 Greenberg’s ‘Modernist Painting’ is a dominant account of modernism, which builds on the formalist theories of key 19th and 20th century writers, who believed that aesthetic experience was art’s predominant aim and value, and explained the development of modern art as a progression towards an increasingly pure abstraction, characterised by a focus on form

28 Modernism’s terminology
Form Formalism Self criticism (self referential) Abstraction Aesthetic experience

29 ‘The self-criticism of Modernism’ Clement Greenberg. 1960
‘The essence of Modernism lies, as I see it, in the use of the characteristic methods of a discipline, to criticise the discipline itself’

30 “The use of the characteristic methods of a discipline , to criticise the discipline itself”
Paul Cezanne. Mont Sainte-Victoire

31 The self-criticism of Modernism
The traditional notion of dance as the enactment of a story set to a musical score; …. was purged in preference for purely functional movement Brecht, concentrated on theatre as theatre, and employed techniques to remind audiences that they were watching an illusion Meecham P, Sheldon J. Modern art: a critical introduction. P.2ff

32 This… To an early twentieth century composer, nausea is praise. A retch proved the power of the music; it declared the ability of the composer to overcome a century’s worth of stale rewrites and flaccid additions to the musical canon. The music of Arthur Schoenberg ….made his audience ill. It was dissonant.

33 ‘By dispensing with established musical structures and replacing them with an impenetrable assortment of dissonance, atonality, and finally twelve-tone theory, Schoenberg uprooted classical music’

34 “ Away! Let us break out since we cannot much longer restrain our desire to create finally a new musical reality, with a generous distribution of resonant slaps in the face, discarding violins, pianos, double basses and plaintive organs. Let us break out ” Luigi Russolo The Art of Noises 1913

35 What is formalism ? Formalism is a particular method of analysis
It refers to an approach that a writer might take “an abstract painting is perhaps the most impressive manifestation of pure form” (Panofsky, 1940) Formalism dates back to the 19th century and would be now be viewed as part of the classic foundations of the discipline of art history. The question is – should art be purely about form. Panofsky is asserting that abstract painting was essentially about pure form. Others might argue differently. However, Greenberg claimed that painting should be primarily about form – about things that were peculiar to the medium of painting itself.

36 What is Form in painting ?
Is not content Is the artist’s visual language: line, shape, colour, tone, shade (light and dark) Is the source of a Kantian aesthetic response

37 Form in painting? Colour Line Space Tone Shade Depth Paint Frame
Canvas Surface plane (the flat surface)

38 Aesthetic pleasure ‘Ever so many factors thought to be essential to the making of art have been shown to be so by the fact that Modernist art has been able to dispense with them and yet continue to provide the experience of art in all its essentials’

39 ‘The experience of art in all its essentials’
Immanuel Kant Beauty … a feeling of delight…what simply pleases ‘Flowers, free patterns, lines aimlessly intertwining technically termed foliage have no signification, depend upon no definite concept, and yet please’ Kant. The Critique of Judgement Section 1. Book 1. SS4.

40 So what should painting be?
Realistic, illusionist art had dissembled the medium, using art to conceal art. Modernism used art to call attention to art. The limitations that constitute the medium of painting – the flat surface, the shape of the support, the properties of pigment – were treated by the Old Masters as negative factors that could be acknowledged only implicitly or indirectly. Modernist painting has come to regard these same limitations as positive factors that are to be acknowledged openly.

41 Clement Greenberg “What had to be exhibited and made explicit was that which was unique and irreducible not only in art in general, but also in each particular art. Each art had to determine through the operations peculiar to itself, the effects peculiar and exclusive to itself Modernist Painting. 1960 This, in essence, means that painting should acknowledge itself as painting and should purify itself of any element which was not essential to painting. Painting should be about surface, canvas, paint, brushstrokes and not about illusion or information, in the first instance.

42 What distinguishes painting from sculpture, photography….?
Colour Line Space Tone Shade Depth Paint ? Frame Canvas Surface plane (the flat surface)

43 “….Flatness, two dimensionality was the only condition painting shared with no other art” Greenberg 1960

44 Morris Louis Number Kenneth Noland Bloom. 1960

45 A tradition of art criticism
Immanuel Kant Philosopher. Wrote The Critique of Judgement A founder of modern aesthetics Roger E. Fry Art critic, aesthetic philosopher and painter. A.Clive H. Bell Critic; English literature and art. Clement Greenberg American art critic.

46 Roger Fry Let us see how the artist passes from the stage of merely gratifying our demand for sensuous order and variety to that where he arouses our emotions.....rhythm of and shade.....colour...the inclination to the eye of a plane An Essay in Aesthetics

47 Clive Bell “The starting point for all systems of aesthetics must be the personal experience of a peculiar emotion. The objects that provoke this emotion, we call works of art” The Aesthetic Hypothesis. 1914

48 “Formalist” criticism
Emphasises “form” Emphasises the “aesthetic response” to the visual as the core value in art Renders “content” subordinate to all of the above. Is arguing for and supporting, a particular kind of painting (and sculpture) specifically that which involves a focus on form; abstraction

49 Greenberg’s ‘Modernism’
Is valid in that a clear focus on form during the period known as Modernism is characteristic of many paintings Expresses valid insights – e.g. the self critical tendencies of modernist painting Is limited in that the work of the period is vastly diverse and formalism as a method of analysis, is not universally appropriate Conveniently ignores different and distinct concerns in paintings to foreground his own theoretical imperatives Imposes a characteristically historical ‘progression’ on the art of the period Privileges painting and particularly French painting, in a summary history of Modernism Is limited in its clear set of personal preferences for a particular kind of contemporary American painting

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