Saturday, April 10, 2010

Abstraction versus Representation

New York Times recently reported Another Painter in O’Keeffe Territory - Susan Rothenberg. Rothenberg's work actually don't automatically call Georgia O'Keeffe into mind. “We’re completely different people,” Ms. Rothenberg recently said of herself and O’Keeffe, who died at 98 in 1986. “The energy is very different.”

The article continued:

Both O’Keeffe and Ms. Rothenberg were very much part of the New York art worlds of their eras, but both turned reclusive once they adapted to life out West: O’Keeffe at Ghost Ranch, about 65 miles north of Santa Fe; Ms. Rothenberg at the 750-acre ranch about 25 miles south of here, that she shares with Mr. Nauman. (“It’s very peaceful,” Ms. Rothenberg explained. “I know very few people in Santa Fe.”)

Certainly there are major differences between the two, including their approaches to painting. “Both made serious breakthroughs” as painters, said Michael Auping, the chief curator of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, where the show originated, who organized this show. “But they’re sort of polar opposites in many ways.”

“O’Keeffe’s use of abstraction was pretty radical” in the years before she turned to figurative work, he said, while “Susan reintroduced figuration in the early 1970s after abstract painting had been dominant for many decades.”

The work of both women straddles the divide between abstraction and representation, and both are best known for paintings that focus on single, figurative images...
Cabin Fever by Susan Rothenberg
Cabin Fever by Susan Rothenberg

Dogs Killing Rabbit by Susan Rothenberg
Dogs Killing Rabbit by Susan Rothenberg

It is very interesting that art world has gradually moved away from the absolute modernism and abstraction of 1960s and 1970s and become more representative, more lyrical and unafraid of story telling. Even grim masters like Anselm Keifer differ from Jackson Pollack in the same way, while they have very similar color palettes.

In the musical and literary worlds, the trends are similar. Classical music grew out of the tyranny of Twelve Tone doctrine (I do love Schoenberg, by the way), while literary world embraces master story tellers such as Ian McEwan, J. M. Coetzee, José Saramago, and Pat Barker.

Since I am not able to engage the pure intellectual exercise of creating profound abstract art, I am glad to be working in the period when representative art works are not sneered upon.

Below is my own oil painting - Bruges, Impression

Bruges, Impression / 布魯日,印象 / Brügge, Eindruck

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