Comments on: Robert Motherwell: Collage http://abstractcritical.com/note/robert-motherwell-collage/ Abstract Critical is a not-for profit company aiming to establish a new critical context for all generations of artists involved with ambitious abstract art. Sun, 09 Nov 2014 17:23:33 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Sam Cornish http://abstractcritical.com/note/robert-motherwell-collage/#comment-184869 Thu, 27 Jun 2013 07:05:21 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=note&p=7085#comment-184869 More than a little harsh on the show as a whole, though suggesting that some of the works are approximate is fair: is this not a flipside of the range Motherwell was aiming at (or could you say the range + his slightly limited tools?).

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By: Ashley West http://abstractcritical.com/note/robert-motherwell-collage/#comment-184709 Wed, 26 Jun 2013 22:36:57 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=note&p=7085#comment-184709 I like what you say Patrick about improvisation as a means to revelation. I think it connects with my comment on the Mike Stubbs interview. The integrity of this kind of activity is I think easily hijacked, misrepresented or displaced, by the art market, art theory, commodification,etc. For Motherwell these collages were perhaps playful or even philosophical experiments – the sort of thing one might these days put together on ones studio wall as exercises – maybe that was significant at the time, but now, though I admire what Motherwell stands for, how can they be more than something of certain historical interest, overblown by the art market. The context is lost. I agree with what you say about success/failure too. It’s so easy to misrepresent the uncertainty of the process that goes on in the studio. I’m working on a painting at the moment, pushing it, trying to go beyond the easy, the formulaic, the tasteful. I don’t know where the hell I am with it most of the time. Attempting to be honest isn’t easy, it is revelatory – it reveals the devil in yourself, let alone the devil out there!

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By: David Sweet http://abstractcritical.com/note/robert-motherwell-collage/#comment-184541 Wed, 26 Jun 2013 15:58:17 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=note&p=7085#comment-184541 Greenberg, who credited Motherwell with producing works that were ‘among the masterpieces of abstract expressionism’, also wrote that he had, at the same time, ‘turned out some of the feeblest paintings’ by any major exponent of the style. Sadly the collages at Jacobson’s, with their low-risk compositional strategies, pleasant, nibbled-edge homemade paper, slightly scrotal shapes and imported European ephemera, do seem pretty feeble to me. Nearby however, at the Mayor Gallery, are eight small watercolours by Agnes Martin. Her work is both abstract and expressionist in that she wedded avowedly non-figurative means to emotional experience. I don’t mean she felt something and got the viewer to feel the same thing, as in Tolstoy’s theory of expression. Martin has actualised the emotional charge within the works simply by picking the brush up and putting it down in a certain way. They make the ‘feeling’ at stake in the Motherwells seem inadequate and approximate. Worth crossing the street for, I think.

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By: John Bunker http://abstractcritical.com/note/robert-motherwell-collage/#comment-184003 Tue, 25 Jun 2013 13:39:11 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=note&p=7085#comment-184003 I just saw the show and what struck me about much of this work was the clever, subtle interplay between the mark making and the collaged elements. It seems to me that Motherwell is being playful if not ironic in his placement of the quotidian parcel wrappings smack bang in the middle of many of these works. He is forcing a bit of dirty commerce and art world dandyism (via the New York postal system) into the sublime realms of gestural abstraction that would otherwise be most suited to work made on seaside retreats! Are there other historical precedents operating here, rather than just the Modernist architectonics of the heavy weights like Picasso and Matisse etc? I think so. Look at those much maligned Dadaist and Surrealist influences- Schwitters and Arp for a start! With this in mind I think we then get a much more free and upbeat reading of the work. Less of the all or nothing’ …not with a bang but a whimper…’ angst- and more of a sense of protean self renewal from what is around one, what is to hand; the ‘everyday stuff’ that gives sustenance to the mind and the body. (A welcome relief indeed from the sometimes feverish puritanical ravings of Mr Still and the likes!)

Having said all that I think it might be interesting to tease out some of the differences between Motherwell’s notion of ‘Plastic Automatism’ and the general earlier influence of the Surrealist notion of ‘Psychic Automatism’ on the artists of the New York School.

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By: Patrick Jones http://abstractcritical.com/note/robert-motherwell-collage/#comment-183582 Mon, 24 Jun 2013 20:48:31 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=note&p=7085#comment-183582 Thanks Bob,The fine line between success and failure,and all the shades in between ,are Modernism’s most important contribution to this debate.Im sure Motherwell suffered from your description of the intellectual francophile writer,and yet now his work looks more and more urgent and his artistic,qualatative suffering very relevent.

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By: Robert Linsley http://abstractcritical.com/note/robert-motherwell-collage/#comment-182423 Sat, 22 Jun 2013 18:44:03 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=note&p=7085#comment-182423 How about an improvised act aimed at the revelation of art, not self revelation. Or aimed at the unknown.

I think you are saying that Motherwell failed in a sense, and that failure is inevitable. And succeeded in another sense, but success might be too easy. And that maybe success and failure are very closely linked.

In my opinion failure is inevitable if self revelation is the goal.

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By: Patrick Jones http://abstractcritical.com/note/robert-motherwell-collage/#comment-182391 Sat, 22 Jun 2013 16:42:29 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=note&p=7085#comment-182391 To continue.Abstract Painting to me ,since Pollock ,has been an improvised act aimed at self revelation.Motherwell wanted into that.That Matisse had his windows[open and closed],his Moroccons comes from an earlier european model .Motherwell also wanted that hence his Elegies and Open series.These give a form for the painter to improvise around,not unlike Jazz musicians using standards.ITo move to the present money and success orientated art world its quite clear that most contemporary abstract artists,who we could expect more of, never leave their comfort zone .Sean Scully ,whose career as an Abstract artist hasnt been sufficiently discussed here,makes a virtue out of continual repetition.Ian Davenport looks interesting then repeats himself ad infinitum[,and laughs all the way to the Bank Paribas!]I would have loved to have seen and saved the many hundreds of canvasses Morris Louis is reported to have thrown away.That act of searching for the ideal form is essential to the development of a new ambitious Abstract Art.My point is varying degrees of success are inevitable, and almost a guarantee of Modernism,,if anything new and different is to be acheived.I havent seen the show but Motherwell reeks of this problem,his sensibility.The collages cant fail if he keeps close to the Cubism[and Picasso] they are derived from.

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By: Patrick Jones http://abstractcritical.com/note/robert-motherwell-collage/#comment-182227 Sat, 22 Jun 2013 09:45:38 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=note&p=7085#comment-182227 Sam,The worst aspect of this modernist practise is its difficulty.Its just not possible to go into the studio everyday and paint beautifull uplifting pictures.Frankenthaler tried and Motherwell knew it wasnt enough.At least he tried to make meaningfull paintings about complex subjects like civil war.Any decent artist worth their salt will have a huge range of quality within their activety.Painting is a pleasure,making judgements about its success/failure is really hard.I respect Robins need for a new art,but learning and expanding the lanquage is endless graft and failure,with occasional flashes of success.
I wonder if young artists will take the time when alternatives like film offer instant beauty,narrative,human meaning and social commentary.

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By: Sam http://abstractcritical.com/note/robert-motherwell-collage/#comment-182179 Sat, 22 Jun 2013 07:38:58 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=note&p=7085#comment-182179 Can you expand on what you think are the best and the worst aspects of modernist practice?

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By: Patrick Jones http://abstractcritical.com/note/robert-motherwell-collage/#comment-181323 Thu, 20 Jun 2013 12:57:00 +0000 http://abstractcritical.com/?post_type=note&p=7085#comment-181323 Sam,Thats a great essay.I just spent 8 weeks at Ballinglen holed up with a huge Motherwell monograph.He is a really curious artist,capable of the best [the spanish and irish elergies]and the worst[the open series is just vacuous to me.His vulnerabilty was real,nurtured and cultivated to draw feeling from his work.I have long thought from my own experience that what I call the Modernist experience of making Abstract Painting,brings out the best and worst in its practitioners.I think he would have liked that idea,even th
ough he was addicted to quality.

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