Chance Aesthetics

October 9, 2009

Since my mother was diagnosed with cancer I have not have much time or energy to go out and see many art exhibitions. In addition to that, there hasn’t been much time for even working in the studio. Other than the small drawings I have done I have been sort of out of the art loop.

In saying that, Monday I was able to make it over to the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum on the campus of Washington University. I also what to state that I like going there to see contemporary art than I like going to the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. I think the exhibitions at the Kemper are more varied and I like that the museum is free and being in the situation I am in, free is great. I honestly have not been too interested in the recent exhibitions at CAMSTL.

The exhibitions I saw were Chance Aesthetics and Metabolic City. I will separate the two into separate posts. I was interested in Chance Aesthetics because in my own art I have used elements of chance to develop my work. I tend to use it as a starting point such as dumping ink or paint, using drip patterns and allowing “mistakes” to happen and worked with the unexpected things that come up when making art.

Historically, art has been a skill in which an artist demands exceptional control to achieve a great work. This means works were planned endeavors obsessive perfection. In the 20th century some artists decided to work in opposition to this. The exhibition starts with the Surrealists and Dada, which makes sense to me. What I think is so great about using chance as a basis for a work is that it becomes playful and fun instead of being an intellectual and dry assignment that a lot of art has become.

Some of the works are sloppy and dirty but some are totally obsessive, clean and systematic. The latter still retain an element of surprise and engagement.

Some notable artists and works. I like Ellsworth Kelly’s gridded, cut-up and reassembled drawings.

Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

There is Mimmo Rotella’s decollages of advertisements that you might see on the streets where posters are layered and ripped apart. Sort of like a defaced pop art.

Mimmo Rotella

Mimmo Rotella

Similar to Rotella’s is Jacques Villegle’s work. Something is very subversive and punk about these works. I like that.

Jacques Villegle

Jacques Villegle

I did love the simplicity of Duchamp’s readymade, “hatrack”, that was hanging from the ceiling. I think most people would see the spider-like look of this work and I think most would enjoy this one cause of its playfullness and it is non-confrontational.

Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp

I enjoyed William Anastasi’s subway drawings. I was doing stuff like this when I was in London. I am not saying I did it first but I feel a connection to this cause of my own personal experience with this mindless exercise. Fun and surprising to make.

William Anastasi's Subway Drawings

William Anastasi's Subway Drawings

There is the systematic digital looking Francois Morellet’s telephone directory works. By just looking at it, it looks like a non-objective minimalism. There is the white one that has the layer of varnish on some areas…white on white…so when you look at it at certain angles you see the differences. I think of Ryman’s white paintings. With the black one’s I think of Ad Reinhart’s black paintings. Those ones are definitely more quiet and subtile. Some of them use hot and sometimes competing color schemes that are more challenging. His work can seem like a combination of a Sol LeWit type of work and op-art. The grid seems to be a very important part of the structure of his work.

A telephone directory work by Francois Morellet

A telephone directory work by Francois Morellet

In addition to those works there is Arman’s work in which he collect Claes Oldenburg’s trash. Interesting in an invasion of privacy kind of way. There was a osmotic work by George Maciunas in which spills ink onto a canvas ans lets it spread a soak into the canvas. Marcel Jean and Andre Breton’s drawings were similar. There was Ray Johnson’s mail art and game-like works. There were some exquisite corpse drawings, John Cage compositions and a Nam June Paik’s blank films…well except dust scratches and whatever happened to interfere with the film. Plus there were Deiter Roth’s rotting works.

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Dada and It’s Influence

January 30, 2009

This is part two of my “history” series. It has been a little while since I last post to my blog. The snow and winter weather has been a distraction. Even though a lot of time has been spent inside, I have decided to work on some art instead of writing. Plus I have been doing some sledding and made a snowman.Well, now I am back…with a sore tailbone from sledding. Ouch, I am getting old.

So part two will be on Dada and it’s sub-movements and how they influenced visual communications/graphic design.

Dada started as a literary movement when Hugo Ball opened the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland around 1917. A huge member of this group, in addition to Hugo Ball, was Tristan Tzara, a poet. He published poetry and edited a publication called DADA. 

Example of Tristan Tzara's work

Example of Tristan Tzara's work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These literary figures were interested in sound, nonsense,  and chance poetry. This did spill out into the visual art field in the form of automatic drawing and the allowance of chance and the absurd to infiltrate too.

The Dada movement claimed to be “anti-art” and had a strong destructive and negative element. It was a rejection of tradition and the seeking of complete freedom from past traditions. This was familiar territory of the Futurists and I am sure they did have some influence. 

Also, like the Cubists, they had an interest in letter forms as concrete visual shapes. Letters were not just phonetic symbols.

The art of photo-montage was said to originate from this same movement. The most famous artist to use this was Hannah Hoch. She took found elements from printed sources and patched them together in rather random and/or absurd ways.

Example of Hannah Hoch's work

Example of Hannah Hoch's work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kurt Schwitters…not technically part of the Dada Movement.

They rejected him.

However, he did have great influence on 20th century typography. However, in the art world he is most known for his collage compositions created from printed ephemera , rubbish and other found materials. In all of his work, he combined Dada’s nonsense and chance with strong use design elements and principles. I suppose he was too structured for the Dadaists then. I suppose this is why they rejected him.

From 1923-32 he published a periodical called Merz. Typography and design were major subjects of the publication. In addition, he worked with El Lissitzky, a Russian Constructivist, and he worked with Theo Van Doesburg, a Dutch De Stijl artist who was also famous for his architectural and design/typographic work. 

Schwittters also ran a graphic design studio and the city of Hanover, Germany employed him as a typography consultant for years.

A Kurt Schwitters collage

A Kurt Schwitters collage

Example of Schwitter's work for Merz

Example of Schwitter's work for Merz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sub-movement of Dada were the Berlin Dadaists. Two of their most famous members were John Heartfield and George Grosz. They sought to raise public consciousness and promote social change through visual communications.

Grosz and Heartfield Design

Grosz and Heartfield Design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both were highly critical of Germany’s politics and society. Heartfield used the art of photo-montage as a propaganda weapon and innovated the way work was prepared for offset printing. He hated Hitler and Nazi Germany…so much he changed his name from Helmut Herzfelde as a protest against German militarism. 

"Adolf, The Superman" by Heartfield

"Adolf, The Superman" by Heartfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Grosz, mainly known as a visual artist who is known for his paintings and drawings. He attacked a “decadent and degenerate” society through satire and characature. He did work for several publications such as, Der Blutige Ernst. 

Grosz drawing

Grosz drawing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually, Dada dissolved into rival factions in 1921-22. One faction led by Andre Breton lead to the founding of Surrealism.

Surrealism will be next. I also checked out a book about woman designers so you will probably see some stuff on that soon. As a woman, I am interested in what woman have contributed to design since it seems like, historically, that men have dominated the field.