Unreal Nature

June 30, 2018

Present Means

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… when an artist pays the closest possible attention to the work as it goes along, it does not escape his attention that the accident may have a place.

This is from the essay ‘Contemporary Styles’ (1959) found in Art in Its Own Terms:Selected Criticism 1935-1975 by Fairfield Porter (1979):

… The new American painting expresses the habit of thinking that what one does is what one is; that a past origin is no more real than its present derivative, and that the significance of future ends is contained in present means. From this it follows that art does not stand for something outside itself.

[line break added] This notion contains the difference between typically American non-objective painting and the European abstraction that preceded it, and also between American non-objective painting and the contemporary European painting that resembles it. Non-objective European painting still either stands for something outside itself or if not, then the painter being used to making symbolic art does not pay close enough attention to the painting before him.

… Except for Burri, the Italians have a common sense of humor that prevents them from taking their art seriously enough. They are like wise clowns inhibited by a knowledge of the vanity of all human effort. The Germans are still under the influence of the Bauhaus idea, and they believe in the supreme importance of the communication of ideas, as if art existed for education’s sake, as a guide to the good life. As ideas in German have a concreteness that they lack in any other language, so in abstract German painting the details embody general ideas and the painting as a whole is something that can be taught rather than experienced.

… when an artist pays the closest possible attention to the work as it goes along, it does not escape his attention that the accident may have a place. (When Japanese painters copy this characteristic look in American painting, the effect is that of putting artificial worm holes in new furniture.) The organic use of accident, that is, the attentive use of it from following the painting as Shaw said a playwright must follow the characters, makes painting as art relate in a new way to painting as labor and to its function as a protection against the weather. American non-objective painting is playful about work.

-Julie

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