Short Impressions on Karla’s ArtTalk on American Art in Museum Ludwig – Jackson Pollack to Jaspar Johns. July 4th 2019

First Impressions by Madalena L.S.

We started off with a short input on the holiday July 4th and how people celebrate in the States. And then we continued on upstairs to the American Abstract Expressionists. They began painting not long after the 2nd World War, in the 1950’s in NYC, USA.

I might just as well start with the very fist painting our group was introduced to – a colourful large painting by Jackson Pollock.

It is interesting to notice that I was looking all the time at this riot of colour while Karla was telling us about the artist and how this drip painting was made. These New Yorkers were a group of American complex personalities, living precarioiusly intent on starting something new in the world of art. I found this work fascinating and I noticed that I couldn‘t stop staring at the painting and so I concluded that there was something quite mesmerizing and contemplative about it …

 
All images by Anke Kellerwessel

Curiously, I remember someone in our group saying that there was something “meditative” about the swirls of color. I recall that the yellow colour was in my view standing out but with no particular system or reference.

 Besides I was impressed by a dark blue painting (B. Newmann) with a very bright blue stripe running perpendicular down the canvas. I do not stop to ask about the meaning it wants to convey.The size and the colour struck me. Impressive are also the black paintings. These big black surfaces by Frank Stella with clear geometrical patterns. 

 

Besides the series of paintings and objects in the Pop Art rooms, we have seen a very moving monument, a kind of sculpture to war. In this sense, to any war Americans have fought in, be it in Europe or for example Vietnam. The soldiers have no faces: they are everyman and any man and they are caught in the movement of raising the American flag. Edward Kienholz ‘s “Portable War Memorial” presents a strong contrast to the brash colorful Pop Art paintings and objects.

Certainly, these American artist are daring, have a new vision of what art should be. They have the courage to start something quite new and have an incredible self confidence in their purpose and carry this through.

July 5th 2019

 

 

Second Impression by Joe S.

Karla started at the first painting a piece by Jackson Pollack. She gave a very interesting background what motivated the American artists post Second World War in NY to take over the lead from the European scene to become the Avant Garde. They strove to create works which were no longer trying to create depth in the classical sense or which were necessarily dependent on the perspective they were viewed from. Or, as in the case of Pollacks painting, the all-over painting was done on the floor. In general, they were free to break through all preconceived boundaries of what art is.

 

We also looked at piece from an artist known as the black monk (Ad Reinhardt), which when we looked first, seemed to be made up of squares of various shades of black, but on looking closer we discovered that there were shades of blue and possibly red. The method of application was quite time consuming almost pedantic and the process to create the paints elaborate, but the results, the subtle differences, were fascinating.

In the same room there was a painting by an artist Frank Stella who visited the famous Gay Bar in NY called the Seven Steps. This piece of art at the time of creation created quite a stir among the Art community. As it was completely two dimensional in nature and applied using somewhat unusual tools and house paint

 

We visited a room with art work by a German woman, Eva Hesse, who after she left Hamburg to go to NY city experimented with new materials. She was renowned for stirring her baths of chemicals to create new materials to work on her art with. e.g. she would create objects which looked hard but in fact were very soft or vice versa. The object we viewed from her had about 3000 soft tubes, about 10 cm long, inserted through the walls of a rectangular plexiglass basin, which created a tactile object which invited to be touched. She died at age of 34 from a brain tumor but she managed in her short life to complete a large number of works.

 

Then we moved to a room displaying many pieces of Pop Art. e.g. Andy Warhol’s display of wooden boxes painted using a stencil to show the Brillo Pad Soap and Campbell’s Soup. These boxes were stacked on each other seemingly randomly. This type of art coincided with the surge in mass consumerism in the US. In 1960, e.g. 90 % of the households had a television. Karla asked the question, was this art and one of the participants was brave enough to say that she did not think it was. And this led to an interesting discussion why it may and may not be art.

 

We also touched on the blown-up magnified objects created by Claes Oldenburg. A good example of this is the ice cream sculpture on the Mayerische building at Neumarkt.

Is this art ?

Although we did not discuss them there was a reference to the other artists in the room e.g. Lichtenstein. After Karla’s talk on this room, it created a curiosity to go back and visit again to look at the pieces we reviewed but also the ones we did not have time for.

 

Karla showed us Jasper Johns painting “Flag on an Orange Ground” to complete our lovely tour. As the “Flag” is a painting of the American Flag, she thought this most appropriate for a tour taking place on the 4th of July. Jasper used the ancient method of applying different colored candle wax and he was asking the question is it a work of art or is it the American flag? This was typical of Jasper John’s approach to use his art to ask questions and was a renowned tutor for other artists.

I think Karla had a very going balance in her talk between giving us some information on the artists e.g. how the paint was applied, the socio-economic background at the time the art work was created. But she encouraged and asked the right questions to ensure the group were actively involved in exploring their own answers and discussing them openly.

July 10th 2019