Blackpaint 229


Art and Propaganda

Wrote about this some time back (see Blackpaint 26, Jan 2010), but I really only mentioned Spanish Republican posters (Miro) and Socialist Realism (workers living in and loving an idealised Soviet Union).  I also mentioned Nazi art, statuary and paintings and posters, which are strikingly similar to Socialist Realism and demonstrate the convergence of approach under totalitarian regimes.

Abstract Expressionism

I didn’t discuss the way the US government used the AbExes to publicise the cause of free enterprise and democracy.  Ironically, since Ab Ex was widely regarded as nonsensical in the West, abstract art was championed as evidence of individualistic freedom by the Congress for Cultural Freedom (a CIA front organisation).  It put on a series of exhibitions in West Germany, starting in 1945, and taking place every few years, under the title “Documenta”.  I’m not sure how much  the individual painters, initially Motherwell, Pollock, Calder and the critic Greenburg, were aware of the way they were being used; will look into that.

The huge irony is that the Socialist Realist style would probably chime much more with the tastes of the “masses” in the capitalist world than the efforts of the abstractionists, which they rejected and ridiculed in large part as incomprehensible.  Indeed, there is a strong Socialist – Realist resemblance in the work of Norman Rockwell, the popular American painter – tables weighed down by big Thanksgiving turkeys, shining-faced, healthy kids, kindly shopkeepers, postmen, policemen, etc.,etc.

Shigeko Kubota

I wonder what the American public would have made of the above Fluxus artist, who in 1965 attached a brush to her crotch and ,crouched above a sheet of paper, swung it about loaded with red paint, to create her “Vagina Painting”, thereby “dismantling the seemingly never-ending mythology of Pollock’s virile painting performances with a single, scandalous gesture” (chapter on Fluxus, “Art since 1900”, Thames and Hudson 2004).

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t show the painting, only an interesting photo of Kubota producing it.  However, I doubt that she achieved the beautiful results that Pollock did.  He argued, reasonably, that his drip method allowed for the intervention of an element of chance in his otherwise rather controlled,  or at least guided works.  Apart from the rather misguided statement “I am Nature” – maybe he was joking; don’t know the context –  I’ve found his remarks on his work really straightforward, sensible and informative.  Rather like Francis Bacon (although Bacon often twisted the truth somewhat) and unlike, say, Rothko. 

And his nickname – Jack the Dripper – though meant unkindly, has to be the best painter’s nickname.  Better, even, than Blackpaint.

Quiz

Which playwright did Sutherland paint, seated in front of a yellow wall ( playwright, not Sutherland(?

Blackpaint

10.12.10

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