by T. Hodler
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Let’s see if we can put that theory to rest.
But first, a quotation:
In the course of the last fifty years the painters who freed themselves from the necessity of representation discovered wholly new fields of form-construction and expression (including new forms of imaginative representation) which entailed a new attitude to art itself. The artist came to believe that what was essential in art—given the diversity of themes or motifs—were two universal requirements: that every work of art has an individual order or coherence, a quality of unity and necessity in its structure regardless of the the kind of forms used; and, second, that the forms and colors chosen have a decided expressive physiognomy, that they speak to us as a feeling-charged whole, through the intrinsic power of colors and lines, rather than through the imaging of facial expressions, gestures and bodily movements, although these are not necessarily excluded—for they are also forms.
That view made possible the appreciation of many kinds of old art, and of the arts of distant peoples—primitive, historic, colonial, Asiatic and African, as well as European—arts which had not been accessible in spirit because it was thought that true art had to show a degree of conformity to nature and a mastery of representation which had developed for the most part in the West. The change in art dethroned not only representation as a necessary requirement but also a particular standard of decorum or restraint in expression which had excluded certain domains and intensities of feeling. The notion of the humanity of art was immensely widened. Many kinds of drawing, painting, sculpture and architecture, formerly ignored or judged inartistic, were seen as existing on the same plane of human creativeness and expression as “civilized” Western art. That would not have happened, I believe, without the revolution in modern painting. [Italics mine.]
That can be found in Meyer Schapiro’s 1957 essay, “Recent Abstract Painting”, collected in his Modern Art: 19th and 20th Centuries.
It’s a common tactic of comics apologists to refer to comic strips as inherently “modernist,” but while that’s usually good for provoking solemn nods of satisfied agreement from fellow travelers, I’ve never really understood just what is meant by the claim. It strikes me that Schapiro may here point to a possible answer (or at least the kernel of one), and that, say, Picasso’s fondness for Rudolph Dirks’s Katzenjammer Kids might spring from the same source that led to his appreciation of African sculpture. (more…)