Page 23 - Studio International - January 1966
P. 23

object or image (e.g., a comic strip, a beer can), extend
                                                                                   the concern for the immediately-felt of Abstract
                                                                                   Expressionism to the immediately-perceived. Just as a
                                                                                   Pollock might focus, as it were egotistically, on a single
                                                                                   mood and gesture, so the Pop artist might be diverted
                                                                                   by the single object he can grasp and touch. Both are
                                                                                   involved with quick gratification. Neither will draw
                                                                                   back to take the long view, psychologically on the one
                                                                                   hand, visually on the other. Op Art can be viewed, in
                                                                                   part, as growing from Pollock's drip paintings of
                                                                                   1947-50 as well as from the works of Still and Barnett
                                                                                   Newman. On the 'optical' qualities of the paintings of
                                                                                   these men the Op artists have imposed distinct form,
                                                                                   scientific devices and an obvious air of calculation.
                                                                                   Concrete Expressionists have retained the premise of
                                                                                   the arbitrary manipulation of form ; in their works one
                                                                                   sees a residuum of choice, if not of gesture.
                                                                                     But it is the elements these modes have in common
                                                                                   with each other that I want to contrast with Abstract
                                                                                   Expressionism. Where James Brooks once wanted
                                                                                     . . to get as much unknown on the canvas as I can,'
                                                                                   Ad Reinhardt's voice was now heard reminding his
                                                                                   contemporary and younger colleagues that 'in painting,
                                                                                   the idea should exist before the brush is taken up.'
                                                                                    Pop-ist James Rosenquist felt: 'I would be a stronger
                                                                                    painter if I made most of my decisions before I
                                                                                   approached the canvas.' Although of the Abstract
                                                                                    Expressionist generation but not himself an Abstract
                                                                                    Expressionist, Lorser Feitelson wanted to '... construct
                                                                                   a painting in which every step [was] deliberately and
                                                                                   critically pondered.'
         Above                   Below
         James Brooks            Richard Anuszkiewicz                                Richard Anuszkiewicz, the Op artist, indicated the
         Gant 1955               Water from the Rock 1961-63                       attitude of the artist now liberated from the straight-
         53 1/4 x 62 1/2 in.     56 x 52 in.
         Albright-Knox Art Gallery   Albright-Knox Art Gallery                     jacket of the self. 'The question no longer seems to be
         Buffalo, New York       Buffalo, New York
         Gift of Seymour H. Knox   Gift of Seymour H. Knox                         "figurative or non-figurative" but rather . . . one of
                                                                                   actual quality in whichever one of the two possible
                                                                                   means of expression the artist decides to employ.'
                                                                                   On the working level of conscious choice, Tom
                                                                                   Wesselmann said, 'the specific subject materials are
                                                                                   often determined by what is available to me.'
                                                                                    That a work of art could exist entirely apart from its
                                                                                   maker was unthinkable for the Abstract Expressionist,
                                                                                    but it became a perfectably acceptable notion to the
                                                                                   'new' avant-garde. 'To rely solely on egotistical
                                                                                   strength, to splash playfully about,' David Simpson
                                                                                   declared, 'is beside the point.' Al Held, a Concrete
                                                                                    Expressionist, said : 'What I wanted to do was to
                                                                                   formalise abstract expressionism.'
                                                                                     Whereas Abstract Expressionist paintings were defined
                                                                                    by the personal touch, the hand-made sign, Pop artist
                                                                                   Andy Warhol now thought '. . . somebody should be
                                                                                   able to do all my paintings for me. . .' While this is an
                                                                                   extreme statement of non-commitment, it reflects the
                                                                                    point of view held also by Alexander Liberman, who in
                                                                                   the early 1960's had his paintings executed by others
                                                                                   so that thought and activity would be kept separate
                                                                                   and distinct.
                                                                                     For the Abstract Expressionist the meaning of a
                                                                                    painting was implicit in the act of creating it. To the
                                                                                   various hard edge artists paintings suggested a host of
                                                                                    other things, least of all meanings forged in the process
                                                                                    of creation itself. According to Roy Lichtenstein, 'I
                                                                                   think the meaning of my work is that it's industrial.. .
                                                                                    From the beginning, I felt that the comic strip painting
                                                                                    had to be depersonalised. It had to express great
                                                                                   emotions—passion, fear, violence—in an impersonal,
                                                                                    removed, and mechanical manner.' Granted, the desire
                                                                                   to cloak intimate involvement is a Pop characteristic;
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