Modern Art By Paperstore Essay Research Paper

Modern Art By Paperstore Essay, Research Paper

Modern Art

For The PaperStore – April, 1999


It’s been said that “Matisse was no more an abstract artist

than Picasso. No abstract painter can claim descent from their

work without acknowledging that fact. The worldly motif,

especially the human body, and in particular the female body, was

as basic to Matisse’s art as it had been to Delacroix’s or

Titian’s. His paintings vividly communicate a tension between

what he called ”the sign” and the reality it pointed to. He

had learned about this tension and its anxieties from Cezanne.

But there has never been a great figurative artist who did not

feel and exemplify it. It can be as poignant in Giotto or even

in Poussin as it is in Cezanne or Matisse. For Matisse it was of

prime importance, whereas in abstract art it tends to fall away,

because one end of the cord is no longer anchored in the world

and its objects. This is not an argument against abstraction,

but it helps explain why, in those abstract paintings that derive

from Matisse, one so rarely feels the urgency of their great

exemplar.(Hughes 70).

An individual’s personal relationship to art can be

dichotomized into two responses: either one is repelled or one is

drawn into the work. It can be a symbolic interaction such as

one experiences with Jasper John’s DEVISE, an emotional response

such has been reported with Cezanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen

From Bibemus Quarry and Matisse’s Blue Nude or, perhaps, it is

the literal interaction of stepping on a floor sculpture by

Andre. Whatever the individual’s relationship or response, the

reaction is not based on the piece’s similarity to anything in

the traditional art world nor it’s lack of similarity to anything

in the real world. Response to the art discussed in this paper

is based on an individual level and is specific to the piece.

Paul Cezanne

“In 1877, the critic Georges Riviere described him as “a

Greek of the great period; his canvases have the calm and heroic

serenity of the paintings and terracottas of antiquity.” And

Renoir, in 1895, compared Cezanne’s paintings to “the frescoes of

Pompeii, so crude and so admirable.” The watercolor-like

freshness of so many of Cezanne’s landscapes of the 1880s and

1890s, which feel both deliberate and spontaneous, is one of the

miracles of modern art. … Academic ideas about composition and

modeling and perspective that had already been transformed into

the gloriously mannered idiom of Ingres and then sunk into the

kitsch of Bouguereau and Meissonier turned out to be miraculously

new. Doric pediments or classical shepherds were not part of

this radical classicism, but Cezanne instinctively understood

that his birthplace and lifelong home, Aix-en-Provence, made such

allusions unnecessary” (Perl 32). If it is true that nature is

more depth than line, that color is reality and spaces and solids

are merely illusion, then Cezanne is the embodiment of the

modernist thought.

Cezanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen From The Bibemus Quarry

(1897). at: youth/dl/yard/OM/impressions/cez2.html

The first thing one notices with this painting is the

richness of the color combinations and the effect it has in

elucidating the emotional feel of the quarry. Contrasting the

green against the red-ochre-orange of the quarry with the dark

shading of the cracks and crevices of the rocks and the shading

in the trees and then using a bland, overcast looking sky, brings

the vibrancy of the yellow/orange hues to the fore. Upon closer

inspection, there is a balance of light and dark that is mediated

by a center crevasse and poles that offset the cliffs and draws

the eye to the middle. Once that is taken in, the view expands

to include the more subtle colors of the trees and, finally,

rests at the mountain and skyline. The dark of the tree trunk

frames the right side while the dark streak on the left side of

the mountain triangulates the scene. The bushes in the

foreground “ground” the picture with the use of shading and

contrast. The orange is repeated in the tree and in the mountain

while the sky is mirrored (just a tiny bit) in the sun lit spots

on the cliff tops. It looks as though it was brushed on, that

is, no palette knife or excessive texturing. The emphasis in on

the light and dark contrast of shading in the style of someone

like Vermeer, in that it is startlingly noticeable. The painting

is not realist, nor does it appear to be impressionistic or

abstract; rather, a mixture of the three, with impressionism

being the closest to the rendition. Again, it is the color and

use of color techniques that make this painting so pleasing and


Henri Matisse

“Matisse, paladin of modernism, is a long way from us now.

Almost a generation older than Picasso, his counterpart, he was

born in 1869, the year the Suez Canal opened and Gustave Flaubert

published L’Education Sentimentale. Everything that looked

modern in Matisse’s environment is now ancient … The idea that

Matisse and Picasso, like Gog and Magog, are the founding

opposites of modern art has left us a partisan scheme for looking

at their work — and for thinking about it. Picasso drawings,

Matisse color; Picasso anxiety, Matisse luxury; Picasso the

restless inventor, Matisse the calm unifier; Picasso in conflict,

Matisse rhyming with peace; Picasso the bohemian Spaniard,

Matisse the detached French bourgeois. There is something to

these oppositions, but the closer you look at them the more

tenuous they get. Matisse was just as challengingly inventive in

his Fauve paintings in 1905 as Picasso became, with Cubism,

around 1912″ (Hughes 69).

Matisse’s Blue Nude (1907). at:


This is another painting that defies automatic

categorization. On first look it seems to be within the same

genre or style as Picasso, but it has more emotive value and less

chaos. The simplicity of the color scheme brings the essence of

the form to the viewer as the first consideration and then one

notices the fluidity of the background and the feel of motion it

gives the painting. It is far from realism: the body is neither

proportioned correctly or in a feasible position, however, it has

a sense of body awareness and form that has an undeniable truth

to it – as though the painter knew from the inside out what it

meant to be this person in this place and in this position.

There is absolutely no detail outside of space and non space, but

it is able to express emotive value through color and form alone.

There is an element of abstraction and part of the form (the toes

especially) bring to mind Gauguin. The name suggests a

monochrome, but in reality it is a combination of hues and light

(as in very little) shading that give depth to the form. The

lines are not necessarily ‘crisp’, as though the painter allowed

a bit of dry brushing on the edges that may be reinforced by

small brush strokes.

Jasper Johns

“Jasper Johns, … may be the most influential artist of our

time, as well as the most elusive. He seems, indeed, to be a

figure of almost infinite paradox. Johns and his work have again

and again been associated with such Apollonian virtues as

wryness, remoteness, and intellectualism. … Johns is drawn to

the concepts of duality, ambiguity, translation, transposition,

and memory. The two big new paintings, … are densely layered

compositions, full of images and abstract patterns, that appear

to be grand summations of virtually all of his themes, from the

maps and figure fragments of his early days to his most recent

punning motifs” (Liebmann 162-168).

Jasper Johns’ Device (1962). at:

Whoa! We are talking monumental. Monumental use of color,

use of symbolism, texture and, not least of all, size. This six

foot by four foot painting is difficult to take in all at once.

The first thought is the force of weight – in the paint (which

might have been put on with a six inch house painting brush,

dripping with Sherwin-Williams) and the weight of the oppression

of machinery. Color is drawn between the two large wheels,

compacted and crushed, then thrown out. Closer examination

(actually walking away from the painting for a more overall view)

shows that the lighter color splatches resemble human forms in an

all-out abstract kind of way. This adds even more meaning to

both the painting and the action within the painting. The first

thought was, “fallen angels’, then the idea of machinery clicks

and it becomes a metaphor for technology, and, finally, the word

and the technique used in painting the word, ‘DEVICE’ at the

bottom brings to mind graffiti and urban decay, violence and

mayhem. DEVICE in this context may refer to the machinations of

society that ’sucks people in’ to the class distinctions and

chaos of industrialization, only to send them through the machine

and spit them back out onto the ground. All these thoughts and

yet the painting is done in bright colors. The orange and yellow

that Cezanne used to portray rocks is now very indicative of fire

and motion. The paint is thick, even literally dripping, and it

looks like it was applied with a putty knife as opposed to a

palette knife. This is one of those paintings where every glance

brings a new meaning or a new form to the foreground of

consciousness. Meaning is both symbolic and personalized. (Did

you notice the man on a ladder between the two wheels? – or the

blood on the wheel? or the way the legs of the person/angel are

lengthened as they approach the ground?).

Carl Andre

Andre’s sculptural work is classical in feeling, defined by

its simple geometric forms. A few of his more popular works from

the same period as Zinc Magnesium Plain (1969) include: 17 Copper

Triode (1975), a floor piece consisting of flat copper plates in

a T-square configuration; 2 x 18 Aluminum Lock (1968), another

floor piece composed of aluminum plates, its considerable length

demanding to be walked across; and Fall (1969), made of

hot-rolled steel plates bent at right angles, their surfaces

reddish-black with rust and other markings. “Together these

works demonstrated just how aware Andre is of the spatial

dialogue that occurs between not only the viewer and his

sculpture but among the works themselves; all three of the

sculptures subtly played off each other in terms of form, color,

material and scale. Two new pieces, the horizontal Sand-Lime X

Axis and the vertical Sand-Lime Y Axis, were … utterly simple

form — 18 small rectangles of grayish-green stone placed back to

back across the floor or rising toward the ceiling … Even when

Andre works small, as with these recent efforts, he always

suggests the monument and its ability to memorialize through

unembellished repetition of form” (Goodman 100-102). There is an

element of usefulness in the floor sculptures, albeit in an

abstract manner. The use of metal and the size of the pieces

also speak against use, however, the pieces have a worn look, are

open to be walked on and, in the strictest definition of the

word, are “floorcoverings”.

“Andre was one of the earliest Minimalists but, born in

1935, was decidedly younger than Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd (b.

1928) or Robert Morris (b. 1931). And, indeed, from the outset

he was essentially another sort of artist, a Romantic among

Neoclassicists. Now, the essence of Minimalism, … is its

commitment to modularity. One form this takes is an emphatically

regular geometry. Thus, a 1989 work in Cor-Ten steel by Judd,

recently shown in London, is a topless box, 100 centimeters high

and 200 long and wide, its interior bisected by a divider half

its depth rising from the bottom anti one of the halves bisected

in turn by a similar divider descending from above. But

Minimalism’s most explicit form of modularity is, of course, its

repetition of uniform units, whether by construction or

assemblage. An arrangement of bricks tells us at once that it

consists of modular components; so does an arrangement of square

metal plates set on the floor or a stack of metal shelves mounted

on a wall. Here, too, there is of course great scope for

numerical games: in Andre’s installation of eight different

configurations of 120 bricks, first set up in 1966, the

configurations give two layers of – length first – 20 bricks by

3, 3 bricks by 20, 15 by 4, 4 by 15, 12 by 5, 5 by 12, 10 by 6,

and 6 by 10. The commitment to a form of standardization is the

great link between Minimalism and Pop art” (Goodman 100-102).

Andre uses the art of repetition in almost all of his works, from

the columns of bricks to the identical interlaced pieces that

make up a number of the floor sculptures.

Much of the work done by Andre is a representation of

physical conditions. He alternates space with mass – bricks,

wood and metal – in constructions either stacked or laid on the

floor. His metal “rugs,” are made with plates of iron, zinc,

and aluminum, the neutral raw materials in standard units.

Through their participation in a repetitious pattern they

exemplify a given the minimalist concept of standardization and

simplicity. The abstract component is seen in the representation

of utilitarian use (the traditional) in a medium that disallows

the functional value.


These four works, three paintings and a sculpture are

seemingly very different. However, they represent an era of art

wherein, like the Renaissance, change and improvement are

combined in creative melding of past traditions. All of them

escape strict categorization. They may have aspects of

abstraction, impressionism, modernism and even hints of cubism

and minimalism. The value they all share is the ability to bring

the viewer into a new reality, based on the art and encompassed

by the art.

Goodman, Jonathan. “Carl Andre at Ace.” Art in America, (1998):

January, pp. 100(2).

Hughes, Robert. “Art: Matisse The Color of Genius.” Time, (1992):

September, pp. 67(4).

Liebmann, Lisa. “Jasper Johns Unplugged.” Harper’s Bazaar,

(1996): August, pp. 162(7).

Perl, Jed. “Cezanne: Landscape into Art.” The New Republic,

(1996): August, pp. 30(2).

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