Tag Archives: Franz Kline

Clip on Xu Beihong Plus Thoughts on Calligraphy, the Beats, and the Abstract Expressionists

19 Feb

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Burnside published my art post “A Time to Plant and a Time to Uproot” today.

It only occurred to me as I was posting this clip how interesting it is that Xu Beihong’s painting is from 1951. Doesn’t the seemingly traditional shuimohua painting seem much older? Xu is actually known for his Western sensibilities and is considered a forerunner in modern Chinese art.

Xu studied calligraphy with his father before attending the famous École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts — you know, that Parisian school where Degas, Matisse, Monet, and Renoir studied at. In 1917, Xu Beihong went to Japan to study art. During World War II, he sold his paintings in exhibitions throughout Asia, giving the proceeds to the Chinese whose lives had been upturned because of the war. As a teacher and artist, Xu’s policies greatly influenced the way both colleges and the government respond to art in Communist China. He died in 1953.

Meanwhile, over in Oregon at Reed College in the early 1950s, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen (who served Stateside during World War II), and Lew Welch–who are associated with the Beat Generation–were studying with calligrapher Lloyd Reynolds. Snyder and Whalen later spent time in Japan, where they studied zen. The US State Department initially denied Snyder a passport, alleging he was a Communist.

Asian influences can also be seen in the art of the time period, most notably the abstract expressionist art of Franz Kline, Adolph Gottlieb, and Theodoros Stamos. Note this opening paragraph from the Guggenheim’s article “Abstract Art, Calligraphy, and Metaphysics“:

Following World War II New York City became the center of the avant-garde art world. Artists were working in new ways, and some were exploring the energy of the gesture with loose brushwork that reflected the impact of the artist’s bold movements. The calligraphic brushstroke was an approach to abstract painting that focused on the spontaneous gesture of the artist’s hand and was informed by the East Asian art of calligraphy and popular writings on Zen and its principles of direct action.

The article goes on to say:

In Chinese and Japanese calligraphy the brush becomes an extension of the writer’s arm, indeed, his or her entire body. The artist’s stroke not only suggests the movement of the body, but also inner qualities. Abstract as it appears, calligraphy also conveys something about the essence of the individual artist. It is therefore not surprising that 20th-century American Abstract Expressionists who sought to convey emotion through paint were drawn to it.

Because so many soldiers were stationed in the East during World War II, both the West and the East were influenced by each other.

What I personally find fascinating with calligraphy is the collision of art and literature, the visual and the literal, words becoming art, and art becoming words.

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Holiday Gift Guide for Art Lovers

3 Dec

 

Well, I suppose it’s that time again.  Time to start thinking about what to give everyone for Christmas.  That’s what every commercial and store window is not at all subtly hinting at anyway.

Burnside published my gift guide for art lovers.  The guide shows how you can support independent artists through your purchases.

Here are a few additional ideas:

  • a beautiful coffee-table art book
  • a subscription to an arts magazine, such as Juxtapoz, Art in America, The Thing, or ArtForum
  • a membership pass to their favorite local art museum
  • a biography of an interesting art figure or a nonfiction account of artists’ lives. For example, Martin Gayford’s The Yellow House tells the story of Gaugin’s and van Gogh’s time sharing a house in France and Sue Roe’s The Private Lives of the Impressionists explores the lives of artists who were ridiculed at the time but whose works now hang in museums around the world.
  • if the art lover is also an artist, consider notebooks, portfolios for their work, classes, studio space, and art supplies

If money were no object, what piece of art would you like to own?  I’d love to own work by Ray Caesar, Robert Frank, Franz Kline, and Adam Wallacavage.

Abstract Expressionist New York @ MoMA

8 Apr

As I mentioned, I recently went to the MoMA thanks to the generosity of a friend of mine.  One of the reasons I’d been wanting to go was to see the Abstract Expressionist New York exhibit that’s running through April 25.  The writers of the Beat Generation used to hang out in bars with the abstract-expressionist painters, so I’ve been fascinated by how the literature and visual arts of the 1950s have influenced each other and have done some writing on the subject.

I like this line that was posted on one of the placards in the museum:

With a grave intensity and sense of responsibility the Americans who would later become known as the Abstract Expressionists set out to make art that would reassert the highest ideals of humankind.

It reminds me of how Jack Kerouac said that “beat” stemmed from the biblical beatitudes.