|Themes > Arts > Painting > 20th-Century Painting > Neo Dada|
The Abstract Expressionists wanted to create a universal democratic art that would transcend time and place, an art that everyone could relate to without having to take an Art Appreciation or Philosophy course first. They didn't.
They had hoped that by eliminating recognizable objects and tapping into Carl Jung's Collective Unconscious for their images, they could communicate directly to the collective unconscious in all of us, in effect making us aware that we are all part of one cosmic/universal family. Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism's progeny, the Hippy Dippy 60's, can be seen as the reaction of rationality to the irrationality of War. All were involved in a search for a universal truth that might transcend political, social, ethnic and religious differences.
As we have seen, by the early '50's, Abstract Expressionism would split into two basic camps; the Action Painters who emphasized the gestural (Pollock, De Kooning and Motherwell, as examples) and Chromatic Abstraction or "color field painting" (Mark Rothko being the most famous).
Abstract Expressionism would give way to "Neo Dada", often considered a transitional phase into Pop Art, was also an attack on the whole concept of Modernism and the idea of "Hi Art" -- art that was involved on a higher plane than mundane everyday life and focused on the creation of a visual philosophy or spirituality that would lead humankind to a better future. By the mid 1950's it seemed to many of the younger artists that the Modernist dream had failed... despite all the rhetoric, they had not changed the world or created a higher "spiritual" reality.
One artist Robert
Rauschenberg is created with opening the "door" (some might say Pandora's
Box) for every artist since 1960 who has challenged the Modernist view
of painting and sculpture as a spiritual journey and instead believed
that all of life is open to art.
The Flag is a sign, it's meant to be seen quickly and understood. But Johns has carefully built up the image with encaustic (page 138) which creates a textured translucent surface that slows the eye down like High Art, which is about looking slowly, about craft, elevated subject matter. Art is supposed to take time, rise above popular culture, be "significant"...
He does it again with Target With Four Faces. As Robert Hughes points out in his Shock of the New: "The target is a test... to test what one expects a work of art to do. For a painted target automatically negates the use of a real one. Once a target is seen aesthetically, as a unified design, its use is lost. It stops being a sign and becomes an image. We do not know it so clearly. Its obviousness becomes, in some degree, speculative.
Speculative? Looks like a target to me. But then we're looking at a reproduction of reproduction traslated into pixels. If we could see the orginal the effect would probably be just what Johns was shooting for. You spot it across the room (gallery) and see a target, but it's not quite, so you walk over for a closer look. On closer inspection you can see the textural surface created by the encaustics and the fours plaster casts at the top -- seems like a lot of work just to make a target. But if its not a target what is it? Is it suppose to be art? Which is pretty much what Johns was shooting for -- your forced to think about what you mean by art? What's art suppose to do or be anyway? "Art is supposed to take time, rise above popular culture, be significant" isn't it? Pretty much the same problems that the Parisians had with Impressionism -- Neo Dada is not so "radical" after all, is it?
By the early 1960's art found itself, as it does today, overrun by the hyper-intense, synthetic experience of endless perceptual stimulation (or more simply: television, billboards, magazines, neon signs, etc.). Rauschenberg and Johns had quickly been sucked into the very "Art Market" they were suppose to be attacking -- by the sixtys they were being lauded as avant-garde visionarys, praised by critiques and academics and collected by museums. That was the sixtys back in the fifty's they were living the "Romantic" life of the artist in a loft in New York and fighting the good fight - attacking the intrenched forces of the establishment. But they had opened the way for a return to the "real world" of everyday existance.
Lynn University Art Appreciation
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